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Psalms 50:1-23. Title. Hezekiah . . . commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of " David, and of Asaph the seer." (2 Chronicles 29:30.) Hence it appears that Asaph was a prophet, and wrote some Psalms, and probably this among the rest. Some expositors, however, are of opinion, that " Asaph the seer " was a different person from Asaph the Levite, who was one of the chief singers in the days of David ; (Marg. Ref. ) that he lived t it a later period ; and that it is not unlikely he was contemporary with Hezekiah, and referred in this Psalm to the hypocrisy of the Jews in general, even during Hezekiah’s reformation. But, at whatever time the Psalm was composed, the instructions contained in it are of general importance and utility. It is a most sublime poem ; and is generally supposed to predict the coming of Christ, the abolition of the Mosaic dispensation, and the introduction of Christianity ; with the condemnation of the Jews, especially of the Scribes and Pharisees, for rejecting it. But the judgment executed upon Jerusalem prefigured the awful proceedings and consequences of the general judgment: and the Scribes and Pharisees may be considered as the parents of a numerous progeny of superstitious, formal, and hypocritical professors and teachers of Christianity, who will be condemned at that solemn day.
V. 1, 2. In the preceding Psalm all the inhabitants of the world were addressed in the name of God : (Note, Psalms 49:1-4:) but here the mighty God (or " the God of gods," Note, Joshua 22:21-29,) JEHOVAH himself, is introduced with inexpressible solemnity ; and all the inhabitants of the earth, as well as his people Israel, are summoned to attend. His august tribunal, however, is not placed on mount Sinai, whence he delivered his fiery law but on mount Zion, where his glory was manifested above the mercy-seat and the ark of the covenant, which prefigured his gracious gospel. Accordingly, Zion is here called "the " perfection of beauty : " as reflecting the uncreated glory and excellency of JEHOVAH, who thence shines forth in the perfect harmony of all his divine attributes. Indeed, the words " perfection of beauty" may be referred to God himself; who appears in the gospel, at once infinitely glorious and infinitely lovely.
(Notes, Psalms 27:4-6. Psalms 90:13-17 - Song of Solomon 5:10-16. Zechariah 9:17. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
V. 3. (Note, 16 21.) God is said to " keep silence," when he exercises long-suffering, and does not immediately punish men for their sins.
(Notes, Isaiah 42:13-17
(Notes, Mai. Psalms 3:1-6. Psalms 4:1. Matthew 3:7-12.) But his second coming to judge the world, to perfect the salvation of his people, and to punish the wicked, will be attended with still more tremendous displays of his power and justice, especially against such as neglect, oppose, or pervert and corrupt his gospel. The Jewish ’ rabbies affirm the subject of this Psalm to be, that
judgment which will be executed in the days of Messiah ignorant, alas ! that they themselves, and their people, are now become the unhappy objects of that judgment. BP. Home.
V. 4- 6. All the inhabitants of heaven, as well as of earth, shall be summoned to witness the proceedings of their omnipotent Sovereign ; and they will all concur in declaring, that his decisions are perfectly wise and righteous. The whole human race indeed must appear in judgment yet the professed worshippers of God, who have his oracles and ordinances among them, are chiefly spoken of, in all the descriptions given us in Scripture of that solemn season ; because these descriptions were especially given for their instruction, warning, or encouragement.
(Notes, Matthew 25:31-46. Romans 2:16. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5. 2 Corinthians 5:9-12. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10. Revelation 20:11-15.) The saints may mean those who are really such, and who are interested in the new covenant, through the sacrifice of the great Redeemer. These were separated from among the unbelieving Jews, before vengeance was executed on the nation : and they will be gathered together by the holy angels, previously to the condemnation of the wicked at the last judgment. (Marg. Ref. o, p.) But some think that professed saints are meant, many of whom trusted to the national covenant with Israel, through the appointed sacrifices, and would at length be convicted of substituting a form, instead of the power of godliness. As the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment " to the Son; " it must be sufficiently manifest, who it is, of whom it is said, " For God is judge himself," even Emmanuel, the second person in the sacred Trinity, " God manifest in the flesh." (Notes,Psalms 51:16, . Psalms 96:11-13. John 5:20-27.)
V. 7-15. The Israelites in general confided, and gloried, in their relation to JEHOVAH as their God. And indeed they were peculiarly favoured by him, and were bound by every tie to worship and serve him only, and to expect their whole happiness from him. But this external profession, when insincere, could not secure them from his wrath nay, " God, even their God," would speak and testify against them. They were also prone to place their chief dependence on legal sacrifices, without attending to their typical import, or offering them in a proper frame of mind : thus they mistook the shadow for the substance, and at length were condemned for that perverse mistake, when they persisted in rejecting the Messiah: for these sacrifices, when thus offered in unbelief, pride, and hypocrisy, were abominable to God. (Notes, Proverbs 15:8-9. Isaiah 1:10-15
part.) To lead their minds therefore to an attention to the more inward and essential parts of religion, and to prepare them for a more spiritual dispensation ; they were here instructed, that the Lord’s controversy with them would not be about the omission of sacrifices, except as that arose from perverseness and rebellion. The time was approaching, when he would take no bullock or he-goat from them, requiring none but spiritual sacrifices. They could not surely be so gross as to suppose, that he wanted their cattle, seeing he was the sole Proprietor of all things : or imagine that he would " eat the flesh of bulls, " or drink the blood of goats ! Such sacrifices therefore could not be acceptable to him, except as expressions of repentance, faith, and love. On the other hand a humble, thankful heart, disposed to worship and praise God, (to sacrifice unto God thanksgiving," Note, Hebrews 13:15-16 ;) and to fulfil the engagements implied in the profession of being his people, as well as the vows made in the days of distress ; and to confide in him and seek help from him in trouble, by earnest prayer, were sacrifices suited to his holy nature. This spiritual worship, springing from a penitent believing heart, and connected with humble submission and obedience, was the grand substance of true religion, even under the Mosaic dispensation ; and would be the substance of that which was about to succeed : and worshippers of this character would be accepted and delivered, and would render glory and praise to God for temporal mercies, and eternal salvation. (Marg. Ref. ) This passage was evidently intended as an intimation, that the ceremonial law would be abrogated at the coming of the Messiah ; as well as an encouragement to prayer and praise.
V. 16- 21. Multitudes of the strictest professors and teachers of the Jewish church were, not only superstitious and formal, (and so either blind guides or blindly led,) but even atrociously wicked ; and yet they cloked their crimes with apparent zeal.
(Notes, Matthew 23:14-33.) Thus in all ages many love the credit of being called Christians, and the dignity of instructors, who " hate instruction ; and many discourse on the word of God with their lips, who pour contempt upon it in their lives. While they zealously plead for some parts of divine truth, they secretly, nay, perhaps openly, indulge themselves in lewdness, dishonesty, and in wicked and deceitful conversation, and the basest slander and calumny; especially against those who are strictly conscientious, and such pious persons as, being near to then: put them to shame by their example. Indeed, in this manner they often excuse their crimes, and even think they have compensated for them, by their earnestness in promoting what they suppose to be the cause of God. But the righteous Judge disdains such hypocrites, and abhors their religious profession and preaching, even more than their theft, adultery, and lies ; because they tend more to disgrace the gospel, and to prejudice or deceive the souls of men. " What have they to do to declare " his statutes, or to take his covenant in their mouths ? "
His cause needs not such helpers he never sent nor employed them ; and they must expect his vengeance as their recompence. Such were the scribes and chief priests, who were scrupulously zealous about externals, while they were full of rapine and covetousness ; and were seeking to murder the holy Jesus, by bearing false witness against him before Pilate, in the most atrocious manner. The whole of this strange delusion arises from a perverse construction, put upon the long-suffering of God : (Notes, Ecclesiastes 8:11-13. Romans 2:4-6:) and a willful mistake of his character and the intention of his gospel : as if the methods of his grace, the doctrines of his word, or the ordinances of his worship, were substituted in the stead of a holy life, and afforded men the licence to indulge their lusts with impunity ! But the Jews of old were reproved, convicted, condemned, and punished with the most dreadful severity, on these accounts : and so will all the superstitious, formal, hypocritical, enthusiastick, or antinomian abusers of the gospel ; when the day of judgment shall come, and the secrets of men shall be judged by Jesus Christ. Consentedst, (18) Or, " Hadst pleasure in him."
(Note, Romans 1:28-32, conclusion.) Kept silence. (21) Note, 3.
V. 22, 23. The Psalmist in conclusion warns all of every description, “who forget God," (which is the cause of every fatal error and daring crime,) to consider the ac- count which they must give, and to " flee from the wrath " to come ; " for when the Almighty should appear as their enemy, no deliverer could possibly be found. He also encourages the upright to offer their humble tribute of grateful praise ; with which God will be glorified, through the promised Redeemer, notwithstanding their deficiencies: (Notes, Colossians 3:16-17. 1 Peter 2:4-6, concision ;) and in a circumspect and conscientious conversation, to wait for a fuller discovery and experience of God’s salvation ; or, as the last clause may be understood, to look for the coming of their promised Saviour. (Notes, 15. Psalms 24:3-6.) According to the concluding words of these verses, no man ordereth his conversation," or conduct, " aright," who trusts in his own works, and does not seek " the salvation " of God; " none seeks that salvation properly, who is not conscientious in his whole conduct; and none, who unites the two, fails of salvation. The Latin version of Beza is very striking : Him, who disposes,’ or regulates, ’ his conduct, 1 will cause to enjoy the salvation of God.’ The preventing grace of God leads a man, like Cornelius, to regulate his conduct piously and uprightly, and to wait for God’s salvation in this way ; and the promise ensures to such a person the enjoyment of that salvation. (Notes, Acts 10:1-8
The almighty and eternal JEHOVAH has spoken to men from mount Sinai as a Lawgiver, and from mount Zion as a Saviour : and ere long he will speak to the whole human race from his righteous tribunal. This solemn season will be to sinners " the day of wrath, and revelation of the " righteous judgment of God," while heaven and earth will approve the sentence denounced against them. But those who have been favoured with the blessed gospel, in which the beauty and glory of all the divine perfections shine forth in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have neglected or abused it, will hear the most tremendous doom. Happy are they, who are saints indeed! who have acceded to the covenant of grace by faith in the Redeemer’s atoning sacrifice, and who have shewn the sincerity of their love by the fruits of righteousness ! These shall first be severed from among the wicked, and announced heirs of eternal life. But let us beware of resting in any form : even divine truths and institutions may be held and attended on in unrighteousness ; and God will testify against his own professed people, who trust to their outward privileges, and frequent his sacraments in pride, superstition, or self-righteousness. He demands the heart, and will not be put off with an unmeaning external observance : how then can human inventions please him, when repentance, faith, and holiness are neglected ? We cannot offer unto God any thing, which he has not bestowed upon us, nor any thing which can profit him : so that the notion of meriting from him is replete with ignorance, as well as arrogance. (Note and P. O. 1 Chronicles 29:9-10.) As the Jews and their costly oblations were abhorred, when they rejected him, of whom Moses and their prophets had written ; so will attendance on the ordinances of Christianity be rejected, and even moral obedience itself, if substituted in his place : and no spiritual services can be performed, except by faith in him, and by the supply of his Spirit. To be sensible of our own indigence, dependence, and unworthiness ; to seek every thing from the all-suffi-cient God by faith and prayer ; to render him the tribute of a thankful heart ; to perform the vows implied in baptism and the Lord’s supper; (Note, Ivi. 12. P. O. end;) and to call upon him in every time of trouble, as our only Refuge and Friend ; are reasonable sacrifices, and suited to him, who " is a Spirit, and seeketh such to worship him, as " worship him in spirit and truth." (Note, John 4:21-24.) Those, who thus worship, " glorify God : " and every answer to prayer, received with gratitude, forms an earnest of their eternal salvation.
If ignorant formalists, though not grossly immoral or profane, are under a dangerous delusion, what will be the doom of those, who understand, profess, and preach the truths of God ; attend on, and even administer, his ordinances, and speak of his everlasting covenant ; while they hate instruction, despise his commandments, and are com panions with thieves, adulterers, liars, slanderers, and false swearers ? Yet how many such professors and teachers of Christianity disgrace the present age ! How many such scandals are found even among those, who are zealous for the doctrines of grace ! nay even among popular and admired preachers. And how strangely are they connived at, and enabled to keep up their confidence, as if the Judge of the world were altogether such a one as themselves ! Indeed their present impunity emboldens them to expect, that they shall always escape. But the Judge will come, and will strip off their masks, and reprove, convict, and condemn them. He will " set in order " before them, and publish to the world, what they have done ; he will say to each of them, ’ See what thou hast wrought ! ’ while the pages which record their crimes shall be read to their confusion ; and they will be speechless, when sentenced to " depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and " his angels." Let us then judge ourselves, and beware of hypocrisy : let ministers see to it, that they preach first to themselves, and love and practice their own instructions : let every one enquire, whether he be indeed " allowed of God " to be put in trust with the gospel ; " or whether he run without being sent. It is evident beyond all doubt, that God abhorreth and will never allow of those, who presume to declare his truths, while they are living in the love and habitual practice of gross sin, and take pleasure in those who do ; and then slander and revile their more pious brethran, because not of their party, and because their example puts them to shame. If any have hitherto been thus forgetful of God, or given up to wickedness, let them consider their urgent danger: for if the Judge appear against them, who then can rescue them from his almighty indignation ? He now warns, that he may not punish : let us then thankfully embrace his gospel, and praise him for his mercy ; and, endeavouring to glorify him in word and deed, wait for his complete and eternal salvation.
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Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 50". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20