“Sacrifice to God thanksgiving.” This powerful word picture expresses that God has no need of animal sacrifices, but wants to have love and thanksgiving from His people. God made it clear in Psalm 50 that He does not need bulls or goats (Ps. 50:8, 9, 10, 13). In fact, God owns the cattle on 1,000 hills (Ps. 50:10). What God desires is thanksgiving. If we want to “sacrifice” something to God, let us sacrifice thanksgiving. When animal sacrifices were burned on the altar, the smoke went up to God as a sweet-smelling aroma, and so too, when we offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, it goes up to God as a sweet smell that is very precious to Him.
The idea of sacrificing “thanksgiving” to God is an unusual one, and so some English versions avoid it, saying things like, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (ESV), but that waters down the powerful word picture in the verse. There are a number of English versions that communicate the meaning of the verse very accurately, and some very clearly, for example, “Offer thanksgiving as your sacrifice to God” (CJB), or, “Let thanksgiving be your sacrifice to God” (NJB).
Psalm 50:14 is timeless. There is no time when thanksgiving to God is not an appropriate sacrifice to give Him. And just as animal sacrifices cost people time and money, being thankful can cost us time and energy. When life gets difficult and it seems like there is little to be thankful for, taking the time and energy to get quiet and reflect on the goodness of God, and then give genuine thanks to God—and there are always things to be thankful for—is a very appropriate sacrifice to make. God has purchased everlasting life for us at the cost of His only Son, so He certainly deserves our thankfulness. God tells us, “The one who sacrifices thanksgiving honors me” (Ps. 50:23).