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Psalms 50-51 connect to Psalms 42-49. In these two psalms we find the conclusion of the previous chapters. In Psalm 50 we find what God has to say through the trouble of the (great) tribulation. In Psalm 51 we find the result of the tribulations and what God has to say with them in the hearts of the believing remnant. That result is a repentant heart, a heart that is broken and contrite and full of acknowledgment of their sins (Psa 51:17).
In Psalm 50, God speaks to man; in Psalm 51, man speaks to God. Psalm 50 is about sin against God, Psalm 51 is about sin against the neighbor. These two sins are the cause of the two lawsuits God has with His people. In Psalm 50, God talks about not wanting animal sacrifices, but offerings of thanksgiving from the heart.
The sacrificial service in the then rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, where the believing remnant temporarily sacrifices to the LORD along with the unbelieving mass of the people, is rejected. The LORD wants to be served in sincerity and truth. In Psalm 51, the man who acknowledges his sins speaks. That man brings as sacrifices “a broken spirit” and “a broken and contrite heart” (Psa 51:17). Such sacrifices are according to God’s pleasure.
In many psalms the people of God are called to gather to honor and praise God and to rejoice in Him. This is not so in Psalm 50. This psalm describes a trial that God has with His people. He is both the Judge and the Accuser. As a result, the tone is serious.
A division of the psalm:
Psa 50:1-6 Call to come to the LORD.
Psa 50:7-15 The true sacrifice is not just bulls or goats, but thanksgiving and faithfulness.
Psa 50:16-21 Rejection of a wicked life of the lip confessors.
Psa 50:22-23 Summary.
God Comes as Judge
This is the first “psalm” of the twelve psalms that we have “of Asaph” in Psalms (Psa 50:1a). This psalm is about sacrificing to God in a way that is pleasing to Him. Asaph is the appropriate person for that. He is the head of the Levites who are servants to give thanks to and worship God (1Chr 16:4-5; 7). He is also a prophet and a seer (1Chr 25:2; 2Chr 29:30).
The name Asaph means “he who gathers”. Here we find God Himself gathering the remnant, His godly ones (Psa 50:5), to exhort them, and then gathering the wicked (Psa 50:16), the unbelieving multitude, to warn them.
God begins by introducing Himself as “the Mighty One, God, the LORD” (Psa 50:1b). He is the Chief Judge in the universe. We address an earthly judge as “your honor”, but the supreme heavenly Judge is “the Mighty One, God, the LORD”. When an earthly judge enters the courtroom, everyone stands. When the LORD enters the courtroom, all of creation stands.
This Chief Judge is the LORD, the God of the covenant with His people. In the second book of psalms, the name LORD is replaced with the name God as much as possible. But here the name LORD, the covenant name of God, is still used, to emphasize that this is about the covenant. The LORD is the God of gods, or the most high God, and therefore all people are called to listen to the most high God. Also, the heavens and the earth are called to testify at the LORD’s trial against His people.
He, God, is speaking, not a man. Therefore, everyone must listen. To this end He calls the earth from east to west, from one end to the other (cf. Mal 1:11; Psa 113:3). All the inhabitants about the round of the earth are called as witnesses in the trial He has with His people.
Next, God shines forth (Psa 50:2). He does not come out of heaven to Sinai, but “out of Zion” to the earth. Zion is His dwelling place and is here called “the perfection of beauty” (cf. Psa 48:2). This is the beauty He has given her, for she must correspond to Him. He “has shone forth”. This is evident in His appearance (cf. Deu 33:2). He is absolutely pure. Where He appears, He radiates shining light. Here it is connected with His judgment on those who draw near to Him.
Asaph is involved in appearance of God to His people. He speaks of the coming of “our God” (Psa 50:3). It concerns His coming to judge. From the New Testament we know that the coming of God for judgment happens in the coming of the Son of God as the Son of Man (Mt 25:31; Acts 17:31).
Our God is coming, Asaph says, and how. He will no longer be silent. He has been silent for a long time, but now He is going to judge. When He is going to speak, it means that He is going to act (cf. Rev 19:15). His speaking is identical with His acting. When God created the heavens and the earth, He did so not so much with His hands as with His word.
His coming is accompanied by a consuming fire (2Thes 1:7; Heb 10:26-27). It reminds one of His appearance on Sinai to give the law (Exo 19:18). This also applies to the tremendous storm around Him causing everything to tremble and shake (Exo 19:16). His majestic, impressive appearance here suits the justice He is going to apply to the people according to the law of the covenant.
In the trial He has with His people, the heavens above and the earth below must take their seats in the witness box (Psa 50:4). Heaven and earth were witnesses when the covenant was made (Deu 30:19; Deu 31:28; Deu 32:1). When the covenant was broken, they were called again as witnesses (Isa 1:2). And in the future, which is the subject of this psalm, they will again be called as witnesses.
He is going “to judge His people” and He wants them to be there as witnesses. This is not to judge whether He is acting righteously, but to observe that everything is done by Him in a perfectly righteous way. It is not, as it were, a trial behind closed doors, but a public trial, open to all and verifiable by all.
God calls His people to gather before Him (Psa 50:5). The first to be summoned are God’s “godly ones”. The Hebrew word is chasidim, which are those who are loyal to the covenant, and therefore are in God’s favor. They are the true people of God. At the same time, this reminds the people that they have a great responsibility to live in accordance with it as well. And they too have lacked this, as will be seen from the accusation, which is read out in the following verses.
God’s godly ones have renewed the covenant on the basis of the blood of the new covenant. They are once again in a covenant relationship with Him. The period of “Lo-Ammi”, not My people (Hos 1:9), has ended. They are again God’s people. In doing so, they have committed themselves to offer sacrifices to Him. The LORD is now teaching that it is not a matter of duty, but a matter of the heart.
They are told that it is not a matter of their judgment, but of the judgment of heaven, or God’s judgment (Psa 50:6). “For God Himself is judge.” The judgment is not with men, with creatures who do not know their own hearts, but with Him, Who knows man’s heart perfectly (Jer 17:9-10). In order to form a righteous judgment and execute a just sentence, that knowledge is necessary. God has perfect knowledge of all the actions of all men and of the motives behind them.
There is no higher proof of a right judgment and of a right execution than the fact that God has judged and executed. He is “the Judge of all the earth” and He deals “justly” (Gen 18:25b). If He has done it, we would do well not to comment on it, but to agree with it wholeheartedly.
The God-Fearing Indicted
God is now introduced speaking. He calls His people – “My people” – to hear, for He is going to speak (Psa 50:7). The attitude of hearing is the basic attitude that becomes every person and especially God’s people toward Him. Next, God addresses His people as “Israel”, which is the people in the position He has given them. Israel means ‘prince of God’.
God says He will testify among them, for He has a trial with them. It is a special trial: the Judge Himself is the Witness. Emphatically, He introduces Himself to them: “I am God.” He, and no one else. He, God, the Creator of the universe, the Ruler of the universe, addresses them. That almighty God stands in a special relationship with them. He says: “I am … Your God.”
This brings Him very near. He takes note of everything they do, especially their sacrifices with which they come to Him. What weighs heavily on His mind in this regard is that they serve Him formally, but their hearts are not involved. This is what He is going to speak to them about, because they have wrong ideas about how God sees their sacrifices.
Formally, they are doing well. They are not withholding from God their sacrifices, but bringing them (Psa 50:8), as He has also ordained for them. Therefore, He will not punish them for that. Their “burnt offerings are continually before” Him (cf. Exo 29:42). He sees what sacrifices they come up with.
God speaks of a “young bull out of your house” and of “goats out of your folds” (Psa 50:9). Therein lies the idea that they come to God with their sacrificial animal as a great gift that they pay for out of their own pockets anyway. In this way, they want to oblige God, as it were, for a return. One good turn deserves another. They give something away and surely God will appreciate and repay them in the form of a special blessing. They have forgotten that they have received everything from God and give it to Him out of His hand (cf. 1Chr 29:14b).
What they are blind to is that He needs nothing from the people. All the beasts, the wild beasts “of the forest” and “the cattle on a thousand hills “, belong to Him (Psa 50:10). As a result, He has a right to them and can dispose of them whenever and wherever He wants. Therefore, He is in no way dependent on their sacrifices. Whatever man possesses, he possesses because God has given it to him. God has never given man absolute dominion over anything. Man is merely His steward and, as such, accountable to God for all that he has.
God also ‘knows’ “every bird of the mountains” (Psa 50:11; cf. Pro 12:10a). He knows their number, knows where they abide, and cares for them. He has disposal of them. When His people offer Him a bird, they need not think He needs it. He also says that “everything that moves in the field” is His. They are never out of His presence. As soon as He would need one, He can take one. It also implies confidentiality and care.
No one can give Him anything that He does not possess. God instituted the sacrificial service not because He needs those animals, but because the people urgently need them. Sacrifices are not there because God would need food or something, as it is with the idols, but because man needs them in order to draw near to God. God is “the blessed God” (1Tim 1:11), Who has everything He needs in Himself. He has all satisfaction in Himself. No one can give Him anything that He does not possess and would need.
Suppose, says God, that I was hungry, I would not say it to you, I would not let you know (Psa 50:12). If I wanted to eat something, I could go for it in all the world I have created, because the world and all that it contains belongs to Me. It can give Me anything I want. God says this to show how absurd it is to suppose that He would in any way depend on or be obliged to man.
With indignation, God poses the question that must penetrate deep into their consciences as to whether He would really eat the flesh of bulls and drink the blood of male goats (Psa 50:13). By this He makes clear to His people what foolish thoughts they have about the sacrifices they bring to Him. What primitive thoughts God’s people can have about serving Him. This happens because of the influence that the nations around them have, by opening themselves up to their way of serving their gods. The idol priests eat what has been sacrificed to the idols, suggesting that the idols are eating it. They have forgotten that God is a Spirit.
What He wants is for them to offer Him their thanks (Psa 50:14). It is not He Who should thank them for their sacrifices, but they should thank Him for Who He is and what He has done for them. They have promised to give Him those sacrifices (cf. Lev 7:11-21; Deu 23:21-23). Well then, let them do so and do so in the right attitude and mind.
He is “the Most High” and knows what they have promised. He reminds them of it. They cannot play games with Him. The bringing of a vow offering is not to provide for God’s ‘sustenance’, but to thereby indicate that His people have noticed that He has provided for rescue. These are the sacrifices He values.
Nor does it require great effort, but a heart that is aware of God’s wonderful goodness that He demonstrates time and time again. God is not concerned with great sacrifices made many times over. That is what man wants, because then he can do some work. God does not ask for our effort, the products of our work, but He asks our heart (cf. Mic 6:6-8). At the same time, it is a lot that God asks, yes, He asks everything: He asks our whole heart (Pro 4:23), which is our whole life.
In His great mercy He invites them to call upon Him “in the day of trouble” (Psa 50:15). God does not want a people who only pray to Him when they need Him, but He wants a relationship with His people, with a people who honor Him (Psa 50:14). From that relationship He invites them to call on Him when they are in need.
When they cry out to Him from that relationship when they need Him, He is available to them. This is prophetically about their calling in the time of the great tribulation. If the relationship is there, and they cry out to Him in their trouble, He will help them out of the trouble and thereby give them cause to honor Him for it. To honor is to offer praise, but it’s broader than that: to obey everything He says. Honoring is what suits them and what God likes to see from them. God does not need them, but they need Him. He does not come into trouble, but they come into it.
The Wicked Indicted
In this section, God addresses “the wicked” (Psa 50:16). This is a member of a different company than the “godly ones” to whom He speaks in the previous verses. The wicked has forgotten the true meaning of the sacrifices. The wicked is indeed a member of God’s people, but he is one who does not reckon with God, whereas he speaks of doing His will. Prophetically we see here the unbelieving mass of the Jews following the antichrist and offering sacrifices in the temple rebuilt in unbelief in Jerusalem.
God holds up to him his boldness to tell of His statutes, while he himself does not live by them. The wicked even has the audacity to take God’s covenant into his mouth, to boast that he is a member of God’s people, while he has no consideration for God at all. He has a form of godliness, but no new life. He talks nicely, but sin lives in his heart.
He talks about God’s “statutes”, but his life is blatantly contrary to them. In our time, it is the people who are straight in doctrine, orthodox, who hold the principles, while their practice shows the opposite. The statutes of God are the rules He has given to His people concerning their lives in general, but they will here especially relate to His rules concerning sacrifices.
God makes clear to the wicked the sins he commits. In sharp words He denounces his attitude toward Him (Psa 50:17). He knows his heart and knows that he hates the admonition, even though it is meant to correct him and then bless him. The word “you” is given emphasis. It means that the very one who knows so well and boasts of it, acts so wickedly (cf. Rom 2:17-23). By casting away His words behind him he shows his disgust for God. He is a hypocrite of the highest order.
The phrase “My words” brings to mind “the Ten Commandments” literally “the Ten Words” (Deu 4:13) God gave His people. In the following verses, God presents the wicked with some examples showing that he treats His commandments with contempt by grossly violating them (cf. Jer 7:8-10).
When he sees a thief, meets him or gets to know him, he walks with him (Psa 50:18). He does not condemn the thief, but either condones his actions or even praises him. Thus he heartlessly violates the commandment “you shall not steal” (Exo 20:15). The sin lies in not condemning it, on the contrary justifying it and thus agreeing to it. His behavior shows where his heart is. He stands in the path of sinners (cf. Psa 1:1).
He who does not honor another's property also does not refrain from committing adultery with his neighbor's wife. This also applies to their supposed relation to God. They are adulterously running after the antichrist and robbing God of the honor due Him. In this way the commandment “you shall not commit adultery” (Exo 20:14) is also blatantly violated by the wicked. God says to him that he associates with adulterers. He does the same thing that adulterers do, which is having sexual intercourse with a wife who does not belong to him.
His mouth he uses to speak evil, to slander and to deceive (Psa 50:19). His tongue is so deceitful that one lie after another is uttered by him. His tongue is a forge of mere deceit, it is a tool of the lie. His brother, his closest relation, his family, has to suffer and becomes a target of his slander (Psa 50:20). As he “sits” – this may indicate a court sitting where justice is to be done fairly – he speaks evil. He accuses his brother, “your own mother’s son”, and casts a blot on him, that is, he puts him in a bad light.
These are the sinful works of the wicked (Psa 50:21). Yet God does not intervene (yet) and remains silent. From this the wicked draws the wrong conclusion by thinking that God is just like him. To explain the patience God has with evil as His condoning of it is foolish (cf. Ecc 8:11; Mal 2:17; 2Pet 3:3-5). Those who do so are judging God by their own low standards. But God is God and not man. God’s silence does not mean that He approves of evil. He who thinks this way despises His kindness (Rom 2:4).
Because the wicked draws wrong conclusions from God’s silence, God will break His silence and reprove him. In doing so, He will display or “state [the case]” of his sins in order before his eyes against him. He will confront him with the fact that he has despicably thrown away His words as well as all his transgressions that prove it. They will not be able to close their eyes to it, so clearly will He demonstrate their sins. He will bring that up in the trial as evidence for their condemnation. The punishment He executes will be in accordance with it.
Warning and Promise
Psa 50:22 is a summary of Psa 50:16-21 and also a conclusion. The word is addressed to the wicked, that is someone who is religious, but has no relationship with God, for he has forgotten Him. If he understands that it is about a relationship, salvation is still possible for him. Then he will come to repentance and acknowledge that he has forgotten God. Forgetting God is not stupidity, but a guilty forgetting by eliminating Him from his thinking.
If he does not understand this call, God will tear him in pieces, as a lion tears its prey in pieces (cf. Hos 5:14). Then there will be no more deliverance. If he rejects the only possibility of deliverance, there is no one who will be able to deliver him.
Then finally, as a summary of Psa 50:7-15, there is a word for the God-fearing (Psa 50:23). Not he who offers many sacrifices without involving his heart, not he who can list God’s precepts and in the meantime cast away God’s words as if they were unclean, but he who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving, he honors God. God is pleased with this.
It is also connected to the fact that he is going his way aright, which is the way of God. God is with him on this way. He will lead him there and show him His salvation. The right way ends in the full salvation of the realm of peace. That is God’s salvation. God stands at the end of that way. Being with Him is the great joy for everyone who is on the way with Him and lives with and for Him.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 50". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27