The Righteous Judge: Psalm Wednesday

I have never went before a judge for a criminal offense, so I do not know what it is like to have someone else deciding your fate. But, I imagine it does not feel good at all. In this week’s psalm, Psalm 50, God judges the sincerity of people’s worship, and He finds many people guilty of insincere worship. What is interesting in this psalm is that the psalmist seems to suggest that often people get so caught up in the rituals of worship that their behaviors become rote and do not indicate true praise or honor for Almighty God. What occurs is religion, but not true relationships with the Lord God.

The author is Asaph, a singer and musician during the reign of King David. This psalm, in addition to helping us understand what God requires of us, gives praise to God and reveals the Almighty in all of his glory, grace, and majesty as Sovereign and Lord. There are two trials, one to judge those who think they are righteous because they follow the rituals of worship, and the second against the wicked who profess to be righteous but their lives don’t demonstrate the truth of their witness.

Psalm 50:1-6 The Mighty One, God the Lord, has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him,
and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” Let the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge. Selah

Although, according to the author, God was calling His people, Israel, to be judged, God still judges those who are called by his name, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that the psalm is not contemporary and relevant today. Asaph’s description of God is amazing, for he reminds us that God Almighty comes in all of His glory, and that He is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29). God acts as judge, with heaven above and the earth below as witnesses for the prosecution against those who have made a covenant with God, but failed to uphold their part of the contract.

Psalm 50:7-15 “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God! I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are continually before Me. I will not take a bull from your house, nor goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine.If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.

God is not just the judge, but also the prosecutor, which usually are not the same person, but God can do whatever He wants. He lets the people know that he is not rebuking their sacrifices and offerings, for they are presenting both as they should. But the problem was that they were not offering to Him true, heart-felt and loving personal relationships. Their worship had become so ritualistic that people simply went through the motions required, without changing their hearts or offering thanksgiving for His mercy and grace towards them in times of trouble.

He reminded them that because He owned everything He created in the world, their sacrifices were not for His upkeep, but that they were presented for their sake, such as for the atonement of their sins. Psalm 24:1 asserts, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.The world and all its people belong to him.” So, we cannot really give God anything that He does not already have, but we can honor Him through our obedience and love.

Indeed, in 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel says to King Saul,” “What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” It is still a message for folks today.

It seems that some people show up each worship day simply because it is expected or it is what they have always done, but their behaviors and the way they treat others stay the same. That means that they come out of habit, not because of a desire to worship God in truth and spirit.

Before Communion, or the Eucharist, is served, I like to remind people to really imagine the bread as Jesus’s broken body and the wine as His blood shed for us. I want them to never forget the tremendous cost in pain, suffering, shame, and humiliation that Jesus paid for the forgiveness of our sins. I don’t want the event to become just another ritual to be observed, but one that help us “enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).

Psalm 50:16-21 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.

Now, God addresses a different defendant, the wicked, who dislikes being told what to do or being disciplined for doing wrong. They are people who are not interested in allowing God’s words to do a work on their hearts and minds, and who tolerate the evil actions of others without speaking against them, even when their actions hurt others.

Their spoken and written words are prejudicial and discriminatory against the stranger or foreigner, the widow, and the orphans, three groups that God calls us to grant protection and provision. So God rebukes and criticizes them, letting them know that He sees all and is not happy at all.

Psalm 50: 22-23 “Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver: Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.”

The psalmist closes with a warning against forgetting what God requires of every one of His people: to praise and glorify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as well as circumcising our hearts, and living lives pleasing to God, including obeying His commands. For me, it comes down to doing what David advocates in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

Jesus stated in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” Be alert and be ready, for the Judgment Day could be right around the corner. 

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