Psalms 1 - 50by Mike Raiter
At the Bible college where I once served as its principal, there were ″staff performance reviews″ at the end of each year. This is common in many organisations; such reviews provide an opportunity to commend and encourage those who have worked well, and to reprimand those whose work has been unsatisfactory.
Psalm 50 is a fitting conclusion to our journey through the first part of Psalms. The scene is like a courtroom. The Lord has summoned all heaven and earth to sit in the gallery and watch the proceedings (v. 1). The judge is God (v. 4), and He is terrifying. He is not sitting silently in His robes-in fact, tempest and fire rage around Him (v. 3). Before Him is Israel, the people He has set apart for himself (v. 5).
First, God speaks a general word to all His people (vv. 7-15). As part of the covenant, the people were required to make sacrifices (see Leviticus 1:1-6:7). While necessary, the sacrifices were always intended to be an outward expression of an inner spiritual reality. Like some of our Christian activities such as Holy Communion, the important thing was the state of the heart, not the outward action. The people had followed carefully the instructions for making sacrifices-but had forgotten to give to the Lord the better sacrifice of a thankful and trusting heart (Psalm 50:14). God doesn't need our sacrifices, but we need Him. Above all, He wants us to depend on Him, to ″call on me in the day of trouble″ (v. 15).
In verses 16 to 22, God speaks directly to the wicked within Israel. He exposes their hypocrisy. They recite God's laws with their lips (v. 16), but then go on to break the commandments which forbid theft, adultery, and bearing false witness (vv. 18-20; see Exodus 20:14-16). They now stand condemned in God's courtroom. There is still time, though, to change. They need to ″consider this″ before judgment comes (Psalm 50:22).
Appropriately, the psalm-and this book-ends with a summary of what God desires of His people. He wants the sacrifice-not of a bull or sheep, but of a thankful heart. How much more can we today be thankful to our God who, as we saw in Psalm 49, has ransomed us by the gift of His Son! A thankful heart finds expression in a blameless life. God, our Judge, will not condemn us. Instead, we have His promise in Psalm 50:23: ″I will show my salvation.″
Can you think of Christian practices that can easily become religious rituals whose true meaning and purpose we have forgotten?
On two occasions God speaks of His delight in our giving thanks (Psalm 50:14, 23). As we conclude our journey through the first part of Psalms, spend some time offering your thanks and praises to God, our Redeemer, King, and Judge.