We have all seen, either on TV or in person, the entrance of a judge into a courtroom. "All rise. The Court of ... is now in session, the Honorable Judge ... presiding." Now move your minds eye from a human court to the judgment seat of God Himself as He calls the world to stand before Him. What is His judgment? What would God say?
Psalm 50 gives us a glimpse of God, the Judge, as He rebukes the faithful and warns the wicked. Listen in as God speaks ...
Psalm 50 is divided into three sections. In each section both God and a prophetic voice speak. The primary speaker in the first section is the prophet. The second and third section are primarily the voice of God.
Section 1 sets the stage as God, the Judge enters the scene. In section 2 God rebukes His own people and in section 3 God warns the wicked.
The Entrance of the Judge
The Mighty One, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting. Psalm 50:1
The beginning of the psalm paints a picture of the entrance of our Great Judge. His name stands out immediately: "El, Elohim, YHWH" which in English is normally translated as "The Mighty One, God, the Lord". This same name is used in Joshua 22:22 when the tribes on the east side of the Jordan call God as their judge that they were not building a pagan altar. The title is a mixture of the generic name for deity, El, the majestic plural name for deity, Elohim, and God's covenant name, YHWH. Literally it means "God, Gods, Yahweh." The plural probably refers to greatness although it might hint to the Trinity. So in essence the the title of our Judge is "God, the Greatest (or true) God who is three in one, the Great I Am who made a covenant with Israel."
The last part of the name is very important because it connects the Judge to the original audience for this psalm, Israel. It reminds the reader that they have made a covenant with this Judge and He has every right to call them to account.
Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
before him is a devouring fire,
around him a mighty tempest. Psalm 50:3
This is one awesome Judge!
He then calls heaven and earth as witnesses and summons His people before Him. Once again this reminds Israel of their covenant because in Deuteronomy heaven and earth are also called to witness the covenant.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live Deuteronomy 33:19
The heavens respond by declaring the Judge righteous or perfect in justice for the Judge is God Himself!
God Rebukes His People
So what will the Judge say? His speech is divided into two sections. The first is directed towards His people. Each of these sections rebukes the readers for their false worship and then invites them to true worship.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me. Psalm 50:8
They have the rituals down. They are faithfully following the letter of the law when it comes to the prescribed sacrifices.
I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds. Psalm 50:9
So why isn't God pleased? Why won't He accept their sacrifices?
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats? Psalm 50:13
God wasn't interested in their sacrificial rituals. He had no need of animal sacrifices. These sacrifices were only a ritual to help the worshiper understand their sin debt to God. What God really wanted was their hearts.
What are your rituals of worship? What is the heart behind the ritual?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. Psalm 50:14-15
Much more important to God than their animal sacrifices were the spiritual sacrifices of thanksgiving, service, honest prayer, dependence and praise. These are true acts of worship.
Is my worship one of ritual or spiritual sacrifices?
God Warns the Wicked
Now the Judge turns to the wicked.
But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you. Psalm 50:16-17
These are the ones who show up to make an outward appearance but inwardly they have no interest in God or His teachings. God is amazed that they should dare take part in His worship when they do not mean any of the words that they say. During the week they live as they please but on the holy days they show up and make a facade of worship. God, the Judge, gives His verdict:
Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! Psalm 50:22
Is my worship real or is it just a facade? Do I live out my worship during the week?
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God! Psalm 50:23
What God wants is a heart that is thankful. When we recognize God's kindness and love, especially as demonstrated in Christ's sacrifice for us, we open the way for the salvation of God.
Do I have a heart of gratitude to God for His love and salvation?
Learn to be thankful to God and you will open up your heart to true worship.
Psalm 51 will continue the theme of a pleasing sacrifice.