Psalm 50

‘The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: ‘Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!’ The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! “Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.’
Psalm 50:1-11 ESV

In this psalm, the author doesn’t only show how God is to be worshiped, but also with what motives He is to be worshiped. He starts by pointing us to who God is – the Mighty One, God the Lord – He is almighty; He is fully God; He is the great I AM (Yahweh); He created all things and has authority over all things (speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting). He calls to the heavens above and to the earth who has been witness to His immense power and great works throughout the ages.

God then rebukes Israel for their attitude in worship and sacrifice – I will not accept a bull from your house. The Israelites’ worship of God had become a mere brainless and heartless tradition and ritual – such as brushing our teeth would be, in modern times. Our teeth need constant cleaning since it gets dirty, but God doesn’t need anything. He is self-sufficient; He has perfect relationship within his Trinitarian nature, and everything belongs to Him – “…for the world and its fullness are mine.” (Ps. 50:12)

The apostle, Paul, similarly says in Romans 11:33-36,

‘Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.’

This also shows that God cannot be bribed or won over through any human efforts – He is not a human that He should change His mind (see Numbers 23:19). The sacrificial system that God set in place for the Israelites to be in relationship with Him, was simply a shadow and pointed forward to Jesus’ complete and perfect sacrifice on the cross. This is the ultimate sacrifice with which God’s new covenant was made, and through which the “faithful ones” are gathered to Him, in Jesus Christ. This happens through justification – Jesus’ righteousness gets imputed to guilty sinners.

The psalmist thus says: “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.” (Ps. 50:14-15) The true and acceptable worship of God is in relationship, with an attitude of humility and thanksgiving, understanding that we need God, and not the other way around.  We worship God “in spirit and in truth” (see John 4:24) with the knowledge of who God is, what He has done and, subsequently, of who we are and what we cannot do.

Reflect over the last couple of weeks… Is your worship of God (Bible reading, prayer, Bible Studies, ministry) like a ritual sometimes? What do you think are the reasons behind it? Do you know who God is and what He has done? Do you know what you are? Have you realised that you need God?

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