Psalm 50 -

Godís Message to Earth

A psalm of Asaph.

1The Mighty One, God, the Lord,

speaks and summons the earth

From the rising of the sun

to the place where it sets.

2From Zion, perfect in beauty,

God shines forth.

3Our God comes and will not be silent;

a fire devours before Him,

and around Him a tempest rages.

4He summons the heavens above,

and the earth, that He may judge His people:

5"Gather to me my consecrated ones,

who made a covenant with me by sacrifice."

6And the heavens proclaim His righteousness,

for God Himself is judge. Selah

7"Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel,

and I will testify against you:

I am God, your God.

8I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices

or your burnt offerings,

which are ever before me.

9I have no need of a bull from your stall

or of goats from your pens,

10For every animal of the forest is mine,

and the cattle on a thousand hills.

11I know every bird in the mountains,

and the creatures of the field are mine.

12If I were hungry I would not tell you,

for the world is mine, and all that is in it.

13Do I eat the flesh of bulls

or drink the blood of goats?

14Sacrifice thank offerings to God,

fulfill your vows to the Most High,

15And call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you will honor me."

16But to the wicked, God says:

"What right have you to recite my laws

or take my covenant on your lips?

17You hate my instruction

and cast my words behind you.

18When you see a thief, you join with him;

you throw in your lot with adulterers.

19You use your mouth for evil

and harness your tongue to deceit.

20You speak continually against your brother

and slander your own motherís son.

21These things you have done and I kept silent;

you thought I was altogether like you.

But I will rebuke you

and accuse you to your face.

22"Consider this, you who forget God,

or I will tear you to pieces,

with none to rescue:

23He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,

and he prepares the way

So that I may show him

the salvation of God."

 

In this psalm, God summons all the people on earth to give them a message. The summons serves as an introduction to the psalm (vss. 1-6). Then God rebukes His people for their inadequate worship of Him (vss. 7-15). Next, God rebukes those who are not His people for their sins against each other (vss. 16-21). God concludes the psalm with a message of warning to those who are not His people, telling them, in essence, that they had better get right with Him.

This is the first of the psalms of Asaph. Asaph was a Levitical musician (see I Chron. 15:17,19; I Chron. 25:2), probably the chief musician (see I Chron. 16:7), during the days of David. He distinguished himself as a prophet, as well as a psalmist (see II Chron. 29:30). His gift of prophecy is evident in this psalm, as most of the words in the psalm are the direct words of God Himself.

The psalm begins with God summoning the people of the earth, in order to give them a message: "The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth" (vss. 1-2). The psalm begins with three names of God: "The Mighty One, God, the Lord" or literally, "El, Elohim, Jehovah". These three names denote three different aspects of God. The first, "El", denotes God the Almighty (as translated here, "the Mighty One"); the second, "Elohim", denotes God as Creator and, as such, the only proper object of worship; the third, "Jehovah", is the name of God as given to the children of Israel, and so denotes the personal God of His people.

God summons everyone on earth, "from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets." We would do well to heed to the summons. "A message from God claims prompt, solemn and universal attention. Nothing can be more dangerous than to despise it" [Plumer, 551]. Of course, we would do well to listen and heed all of Godís Words, as given to us in the Bible.

The message that God has to give in this psalm is weighty, as testified by the entrance God makes: "Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before Him, and around Him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that He may judge His people" (vss. 3-4). His message is a message of judgment.

God first summons His own people: "Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrificeÖ Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God" (vss. 5, 7). He rebukes them, not for the actual sacrifices, but for their attitudes in giving the sacrifices: "I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?" (vss. 8-13). Apparently, the children of Israel were offering sacrifices with the attitude that they were doing God a favor, as if God needed the sacrifices they were offering. And with this attitude, they no doubt felt that God would be indebted to them for the sacrifices they were offering.

Of course, as God points out to them, such an attitude is ridiculous. What could mere man give to the Creator of the Universe, that God could not create for Himself? The sacrifices that the children of Israel were offering were not for Godís benefit, but for their own. They were sacrifices of atonement, for the covering of their sins, as prescribed by the Law, that they might have a right relationship with God.

Now, we also should heed this rebuke of God. Just as God didnít need their sacrifices, so also does He not need our service. We should never serve Him as if we are doing Him a favor, as if we are indispensable to Him. He could, at any time, raise up rocks and stones to take our place. "We show our scorn of Godís sufficiency, by secret thoughts of meriting from Him by any religious act, as though God could be indebted to us, and obliged by us" [Spurgeon, 395]. We should rather realize what a privilege it is that we may be chosen for service by the Creator of the Universe.

Our attitude should be one of thankfulness to Him. God commands His people to show their thankfulness and express their need for Him: "Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me" (vss. 14-15). This command to us is also a blessing. What a blessing that we have a God who welcomes us to "call upon Him in the day of trouble."

Next, God addresses those who are not His people: "But to the wicked, God says: ĎWhat right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind youí" (vss. 16-17). God addresses the "wicked", those who "hate His instruction and cast His words behind them." There are many who think that God is greatly imposing on mankind by giving him rules and commandments. For some reason, they do not think that the Creator of the Universe has a right to make the rules that His creation must follow. They think that they set themselves free by casting the Lordís words behind them, but they are merely switching masters. They change from servants of God to slaves of sin. "The man who casteth Godís word behind him, cannot choose but serve a worse master, and be made slave to his lusts, and be led away to every sin, as temptation leadeth him" [Dickson, 299]. With no moral foundation, they are led by temptation into every sin that presents itself to them: "When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own motherís son" (vss. 18-20).

After entering into a life of sin by putting Godís words behind them, the wicked then, because they are not immediately punished by God, think that God approves of their activity: "These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you" (vs. 21). But they will be surprised when they meet God face to face: "But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face" (vs. 21).

But God is gracious. He puts off that face-to-face meeting with Him, and gives us time to repent, and turn to Him. Moreover, He encourages us to repent, and shows us the way to salvation: "Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation to God" (vss. 22-23).

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