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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 50

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verse 1

Asaph pictured God as the cosmic Judge summoning all people to stand before Him. The titles Mighty One, God, and Yahweh, present the Lord as the greatest of all judges. His ability to command all of humanity also shows His greatness.

Verses 1-6

1. The heavenly Judge 50:1-6

Verses 1-23

Psalms 50

This psalm pictures God seated in His heavenly throne room. He has two indictments against His people Israel. The wicked among them were hypocritical in their worship, a violation of the first part of the Decalogue, and in their interpersonal relationships, a violation of the second part. They needed to return to Him wholeheartedly. This is a didactic psalm written to teach God’s people an important lesson.

"This psalm is the speech of God, who addresses his covenant partner concerning matters of violated covenant. After the narrative introduction of Psalms 50:1-6, it is all one extended speech in the form of a decree with no room for negotiation." [Note: Breuggemann, p. 89.]

The Levitical musician, Asaph, evidently wrote this psalm, as well as Psalms 73-83 (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:4-5).

Verses 2-3

God came out of His holy habitation on Mt. Zion to judge. Fire and storms frequently accompanied God in theophanies, and they symbolize irresistible judgment and awesome power.

"His appearance (theophany) is attended by phenomena designed to inspire ’fear’ in man: fire and a tempest. God is like ’a consuming fire’ (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; Isaiah 66:16; Hebrews 12:29) when he comes in judgment. In his anger he may storm like a ’tempest’ (cf. Isaiah 66:15)." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 374.]

Verses 4-6

Asaph described God summoning those living in heaven, the angels, and on earth, mortals, to serve as witnesses in the trial. Israel is the defendant. The covenant in view is the Mosaic Covenant, under which the nation had obligations to God. The writer called on the angels to declare the Judge righteous, a way of affirming that He is just.

Verse 7

God spoke to His people as their God and as their Judge. They had sinned against Him.

Verses 7-15

2. Charge 1: formalistic worship 50:7-15

Verses 8-13

He was not charging them with failure to offer the sacrifices He had prescribed. They had done that. They erred in thinking that offering sacrifices was all He expected. He reminded them that He did not need their offerings. He already owned everything they presented to Him. The pagans believed they maintained their gods by offering them food, but Yahweh reminded His people that He did not need their sacrifices.

"There is a note of sarcasm in the use of the pronoun ’your’ in ’your stall’ and in ’your pens’ (Psalms 50:9). It is as if God has heard them proudly say, ’This is my bull/goat from my stall/pen!’ To this boastful claim God responds solemnly with an emphatic ’mine’ (Psalms 50:10 . . .) and concludes his claim with a restatement of his ownership that would linger in the hearts of the hearers: ’mine’ (Psalms 50:11). His rule extends to all creation." [Note: Ibid., p. 375.]

Verses 14-15

God wanted His people to give Him what giving their animals and produce represented, namely, their gratitude. Thank offerings expressed gratitude for something God had done for the offerer. Votive offerings were also expressions of thanks. God wanted His people to look to Him for their needs, and when He provided, He wanted them to honor Him with gratitude. In other words, He wanted them to enjoy a vital relationship with Himself, not just a formal one in which He was their God and they were His people.

Verses 16-17

The Lord also charged the wicked in Israel with professing allegiance to Him while disobeying Him.

Verses 16-21

3. Charge 2: hypocritical living 50:16-21

Verses 18-20

These verses contain specific instances of the Israelites’ hypocrisy. They loved what God hated. Furthermore, they did not allow God’s will to govern their speech (cf. James 3:1-12).

"In the present verse [18] there may be an implication, too, of the hypocrisy of enjoying sin at second-hand while keeping out of trouble oneself; and this would be in character with the deviousness portrayed in 19 and 20." [Note: Kidner, p. 188.]

Verse 21

The people evidently concluded that because God did not judge them for their sinful ways, their sins did not matter to Him. Such was not the case. Their sins did not matter to them. Judgment was coming. They would have to account for their actions.

Verses 22-23

4. A final warning 50:22-23

God let His people off with a warning. However, they should remember Him and the fact that He would judge them eventually. Heartfelt gratitude and obedience would honor God and bring His deliverance. Simply going through the motions of worshipping and giving a misleading appearance of godliness would incur His wrath.

This psalm is a sober warning to God’s people of all time. We may deceive ourselves into thinking external conformity and pious words please God. However, only reality in our relationships with Him and our fellow human beings wins His approval. We should remember that one day we really shall stand before the righteous Judge and give an account of our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10). We should live now with that reality in mind.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 50". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-50.html. 2012.
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