Read Psalm 50
A psalm of Asaph.
1 The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
2 From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes
and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
and around him a tempest rages.
4 He summons the heavens above,
and the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me this consecrated people,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for he is a God of justice. 7 “Listen, my people, and I will speak;
I will testify against you, Israel:
I am God, your God.
8 I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
9 I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields are mine.
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
16 But to the wicked person, God says:“What right have you to recite my laws
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 You hate my instruction
and cast my words behind you.
18 When you see a thief, you join with him;
you throw in your lot with adulterers.
19 You use your mouth for evil
and harness your tongue to deceit.
20 You sit and testify against your brother
and slander your own mother’s son.
21 When you did these things and I kept silent,
you thought I was exactly like you.
But I now arraign you
and set my accusations before you.
or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you:
23 Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me,
and to the blameless I will show my salvation.”
In Psalm 50, we see a picture of the coming judgment day. The psalmist first sets the scene by highlighting the fierce and awesome glory of the Lord as He calls all of heaven and earth before Him to experience His righteous judgment. If we are not intimidated and fearful of this coming reality, we are missing what the psalmist and other writers have tried to communicate about the holy, righteous, and awesome God. We are reminded again that on that day, there are only two categories of individuals: those made holy by sacrifice and those who are not.
What distinguishes the two groups? It appears that both groups recite God’s laws and, at least, give lip service to being in covenant with Him. However, those in the first group have been accepted by God because they have entered into a covenant with Him through sacrifice, not simply saying the right things. Nevertheless, the psalmist reminds us that even the sacrificial offerings by the Israelites are not needed by God. He has everything at His disposal already and has no need for anything they can do or give Him.
What did they sacrifice that the Lord hadn’t already given them? Is it really a sacrifice on their part if it all belongs to the Lord already? As we come to grips with the fact that we have an opportunity to be in covenant with the almighty, righteous Creator of heaven and earth by “sacrificing” what is already His, we should be left with an overwhelming attitude of thankfulness. As Jim Elliot, the well known missionary, once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Of course, because of the gospel we now have the ability to be in a covenant relationship with the Lord due to another kind of sacrifice. But, just like the Israelites, we are beneficiaries of the covenant without it costing us anything. Further, if the Lord accepted the Israelites’ sacrifices of burn offerings as sufficient, how much more confidence can we have knowing that our covenant is based upon the sacrifice of the Holy Lamb of God? Our only right response is one of trying to honor our King with thanksgiving and a desire to walk blamelessly.
- If God already owns everything, who benefits from the transaction when we give to the Lord?
- Why is God worthy of our obedience and thanksgiving?
- How might we be able to grow in giving the Lord our whole heart with joy and thanksgiving?
Did You Know?
This is the first of 12 psalms that reference Asaph, more than likely meaning that they were written by Asaph. Asaph was a Levite appointed to minister before the ark of the Lord and to sing the songs of thanksgiving to the Lord. He served several decades and kings, starting with King David. Think about all the things, good and bad, that he must have witnessed.