Observe God addresses His covenant people from all nations (from the rising of the sun to where it sets (1)) who offer lawful animal sacrifices. But while they are acceptable, He doesn’t need them. Reminding them that He owns all of Creation (9-12), His real desire is for His people to worship Him with thanksgiving and sincere, trusting prayer: Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. (14b,15) His promise of deliverance moves His true people to worship and obedience.
He rebukes the wicked for their hypocrisy (16-20). They are far too willing to ally themselves with thieves and adulterers, and slander their own families. But God’s silence isn’t acquiescence or acquittal. His justice for hypocrites is swift, while those who honour Him will enjoy His salvation. (23).
Interpret This is the first of twelve Psalms attributed to Asaph (whose name means ‘gather’), the great singer and musician during David and Solomon’s reigns. (1 and 2 Chronicles).
God calls everyone on earth to witness His judgment. His justice (fire) and power (storm) (v. 3) begin with His people. He rebukes, not their sacrifices (which He commands), but empty ritual replaces real relationship.
Does He judge the wicked outside Israel? No; He rebukes the wicked among His own people, who in their disregard for His word seem to think He is altogether like them (11) that is, unholy. Misinterpreted as agreement, His silence is of no more concern to them than His holiness. But His silence is a patient waiting until they come round.
For those who abandon hypocrisy, who repent and return to Him in sacrificial praise, God in His love saves them.
Apply This Psalm carries tough words and tough love. Maybe it’s time to reorder minds and hearts towards what God asks of us -- a desire to know Him, a committed, humble heart, a thankful spirit. Going to church (aka, being ‘religious’), and committing ourselves to Jesus as first in our lives, are polar opposites in His sight.
After all, He gave His life for ours; that alone is reason for determined worship on Sunday and beyond. Worshipping Jesus worthily requires intentional obedience, repentance and faith. And He will not be silent; He will answer us as we call to Him in our need and praise Him for His goodness.
Is this reminding getting a bit repetitious? But we forget, easily and often. Look at Jesus’ disciples!
So we ask and ask again for His Spirit, His grace, His mercy, to turn again to true and sincere worship. Let’s remember we walk the narrow and not-easy path in companionship with Him and our faith family. Real relationship replaces empty ritual.
Ask Lord, would You show me those shadowy hypocrises that hide in my heart and invade my life? How can I truly worship and avoid mere ‘churchgoing’?
Pray Lord, I turn from things that sadden you -- what I have done or failed to do or say or think. I ask Your mercy and forgiveness, seventy times seven, and again take up my cross to follow You, by grace.
Sing Psalm 50 To the Upright - Songs in His Presence
Psalm 50 (NIV) read by David Suchet
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.