Today’s Scripture Lesson: Psalms 50
As always, I encourage you to open your Bible and read the passage on your own.
In our last study, we talked about how the Psalms are a mirror for the soul. The mirror is dull, but through His psalmists, God reveals the souls of His people – not only the salt and light He desires in us, but also the darkness He desires to remove.
To receive the light, we must have the Light truly revealed. And so, through the Psalms, not only does God reveal His people, He reveals Himself.
Thus, when I encourage you to read on your own, I humbly do so with the hope and knowledge that God’s Word will minister to you on a level upon which I will always be incapable.
A Psalm of Instruction and Warning
The 50th Psalm is attributed to a man named Asaph. This is the first of twelve psalms attributed to him. We first learn about Asaph in the book of 1 Chronicles 6:39, and we learn of his duties in the 16th chapter of the same book.
1 Chronicles 16:4-5 tells us Asaph was a Levite appointed by David to be the chief minister before the ark of the Lord. He was instructed to celebrate, offer thanks, and praise the Lord God of Israel. Furthermore, in verse 37 of that chapter, we learn Asaph and his relatives were to minister before the ark continually, as every day’s work required. You need only to read the first six chapters of Leviticus to see that the work of Asaph, and any priest, before the ark was incredibly laborious work indeed.
In other words, Asaph wasn’t simply the equivalent of a worship pastor at your local church.
As I look at this Psalm, my mind breaks it into 3 sections, so let’s approach it section by section.
Section 1: Honor the Creator
The first section is comprised of the first 6 verses. As you read these verses ask yourself, “What is Asaph, the psalmist, doing here?”
Scripture highlight: Psalms 50:1-6
In 5 of these 6 verses, Asaph is praising his Creator. It is interesting to look at the language and the word pictures being painted here. “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth.” It must be remembered that the temple in Jerusalem (Zion), which Solomon built, had not been constructed at the writing of this psalm.
This isn’t about the spectacular physical temple. This is about God’s glory. Look at verse 1. This isn’t just colorful language, this is a statement of what God had already revealed about Himself in Scripture. “…the Lord…. summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.”
Verse 3 states, “fire devours before Him” and it may be tempting to write it off as more colorful language, but we know from the book of Leviticus that this is exactly what happened to Aaron’s sons who offered strange fire in the holy of holies (Leviticus 10). As stated earlier, God reveals Himself through the Psalms.
When the Holy Spirit breathes the Word into the writers of Scripture, He speaks truth, and the truth always reveals God’s glory.
In the 5th verse, Asaph writes down a command, which is the spoken Word of God. The command paired with the words of verses 4 and 6 reveal God’s sovereignty as not only mighty but as a judge.
Section 2: Listen to the Father’s Words
The next two sections bring to light the reason God summoned His people in verse 5. God speaks to His covenant people – first to those who are godly and then to those who are wicked. Section 2 is directed to the godly.
Scripture highlight: Psalms 50:7-15
Isn’t it interesting to compare God’s role in verse 6 with verse 7? Not only is He judge in verse 6, He’s a witness giving testimony in verse 7.
Do you wonder what God’s testimony would be in regards to you?
He tells His godly ones, “I will testify”…how? “Against you.” If that isn’t an eye-opening, ear-turning, earth-shaking call to repentance, I don’t know what one is!
Then, God enters His testimony, and He does so in the most loving way. “I do not reprove (reprimand) you for your sacrifices and your burnt offerings are continually before Me.” His godly ones were focused on the obligation of sacrifice and offering. In other words, they were focused on appeasement.
They were sacrificing and offering because they were operating with a serious misunderstanding. They thought God needed their bulls and goats. God essentially says, “No, no, no. I am everything I need. I am complete. Everything you see is Mine. I want for nothing. I don’t go to you for food. Everything flows from Me. And you’re mistaken to view this any other way.”
Was there anyone better to receive this revelation than Asaph? As the chief minister before the ark, he dealt with all of these animals being delivered to the tabernacle for sacrifice and offering. He heard the people as they brought in their sacrifices and offerings. He heard their grumblings as they left their best animals in the hands of the priests. Asaph heard their ungrateful words, but more importantly, God could see and hear the unspoken grumblings of their ungrateful hearts.
While God offers reproof, He also communicates His expectations to His people. In verses 14 and 15 God instructs them:
- Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving (be grateful)
- Pay your vows to the Most High
- Call upon Me
The last half of 15 tells us why they should do this. Notice, God doesn’t use the word “then”. He doesn’t say, “then I shall rescue you.” God says, “I shall rescue you.” His rescue isn’t contingent on their sacrifice. Instead, His rescue is a promise of His lovingkindness. Their thanksgiving, their vows, and their call to the Lord simply serve to honor Him.
Section 3: Turn from Wicked Ways
Then God addresses the wicked in the final section.
Scripture highlight: Psalms 50:16-23
I can only infer that these are covenant people who have forsaken not only the possibility of relationship, but the obligations of the law entirely. These people weren’t bothering to sacrifice or bring a burnt offering. Instead, they lived in doubt, rejecting God’s sovereignty in their hearts, but also with their mouths.
God questions them, “What right have you to tell of My statutes and take My covenant in your mouth?” (v. 16) This reminds me of God speaking to Job, “…I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:3-4)
Going forward, God lays out the main points of His case against the wicked:
- You hate discipline
- You cast My words behind you
- You are pleased by thieves
- You associate with adulterers
- You’re deceitful
- You slander your brother
As a quick side note: I submit there is a difference between associating with adulterers and ministering to adulterers. In association, we become indistinguishable from that with which we are associated. We take on the same character and behaviors. Jesus certainly didn’t avoid adulterers or sinners of any sort. They were His field of ministry and He gave them the Words of life.
After God testifies His case, He says something that rings true not only for the wicked, but the godly ones as well:
“You thought that I
was just like you.”
God is more or less stating in these verses to the godly and wicked alike, “I’m not like you. I don’t need what you need. My mercy and compassion are not to be equated with my approval. And, you’re not going to like what happens if you continue to test Me.”
As God continues speaking, He echoes to the wicked the offer He gave to the godly, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me, and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.” The call to repentance is always accompanied by the promise of salvation.
So, What’s the Play Call?
You might have noticed that I used the word “doubt” when talking about the wicked. We often equate questioning with doubt. These are not the same. Doubt is a much darker state and it leads you away from God. Questions are different. Questions are asked in faith and with the purpose of desiring to go deeper into relationship with the Father.
Ask God some questions. And don’t be afraid to ask Him the big questions in reverence. Ask Him to reveal the areas in your life where you are living out of obligation instead of gratefulness and thanksgiving. Ask Him to reveal any areas of doubt which are leading you away from Him. Spend time in His Word and allow it to work in you, transforming your heart, mind, and soul.