Psalm 50 - Our Advance Warning
Most of us have most likely seen various court-room dramas like Perry Mason or Matlock. These are popular television series that have been on for many years now through broadcast and rerun. Many other series have followed their general format as well. For that reason, I suspect that at least this television version of a court-room scene is very familiar to us all.
One thing that never rings true for me when I watch these series is how Perry Mason or Matlock can be so brilliant and so convicting in their presentation of the facts that they inevitably trap the guilty party on the stand and end up with a confession of guilt that ultimately wraps up the trial. It never seems to fail. Often it is someone else entirely who is on trial and the truly guilty person is only called as a witness. But the star knows that this is the really guilty person so he leads that person down a chain of questions until he ultimately is able to make the accusation, “You committed the crime, didn’t you?” And, of course, because he has been so good with his questions or because he is so surprising with the accusation, the truly guilty person always breaks down and confesses, that yes, he or she really is the one who committed the crime.
Now, I have only sat on one jury myself, so I admit that my real-life courtroom experience is rather limited. I can assure you though that in that case, the guilty person never did admit to his guilt, even though the evidence presented was overwhelming. He denied his guilt all the way through the trial. I really must suspect, that is much more the real-life norm. I expect that most of the time the guilty person refuses to admit his or her guilt when on the stand before the judge.
This morning our psalm is going to take us into a courtroom, and we will see a scene play out before the Judge. Unlike the TV series, though, in which the courtroom scenes are factious, this courtroom scene will happen. It has not occurred yet, but it will…and you and I will find ourselves on the stand.
The psalm that we are looking at this morning is the first of several psalms in the psalter attributed to Asaph. Asaph was a man who served as the director of music at the central sanctuary of worship in Israel under King David. His whole life was spent observing the worship of Israel. God used a man with this kind of a background to write this psalm that focuses in on the topic of worship.
This is a psalm written to the people of God—those who are in a covenant relationship with Him. People who know who God is and who engage in worship activities directed toward Him. In the OT, these were the people of Israel. In our NT church age, as I’m sure we all recognize, God’s covenant relationship is formed through faith in Jesus Christ and His covenant people at this time is with those who make up the church. Asaph wrote this psalm, under the inspiration of God, to warn the people of Israel that God would judge them for their worship. Because of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, this psalm serves the same purpose for us. It really is a psalm, that as I have expressed in the title, serves as “Our Advance Warning. The warning is that Our worship will be judged.
Our worship will be judged. We are being warned of that today. A courtroom is coming. In fact, in this psalm we will see two areas in which our worship will be judged; two potential charges that could be lodged against us when we are on the stand. Not only do we see the charges, though, we are given a second chance today by being told what we must do if we are currently guilty of the pending charge.
Transition from introduction to body:
Our worship will be judged. The first six verses serve to set up the courtroom scene. In these verses we are presented with the fact that…
I. God will judge His people in absolute righteousness.
Let’s read vv. 1–6…<read Psa 50:1–6>.
I won’t spend a lot of time on these verses, but I do want to point out a few things. First, these verses begin in the most amazing way with the first three words all being Hebrew words for God, El Elohim Yahweh. The first two, El Elohim emphasize the Mighty Creator God who is rightfully Judge over all the earth. The third term, Yahweh, of course is the covenant name by which Israel knew God as their covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. The combination of all three of these terms indicate that God is coming with full sovereign majesty. This is further emphasized by the phenomena that accompany His appearance in verse 3, phenomena reminiscent of God’s appearance at Mount Sinai when He gave His Law to Israel.
Secondly, notice that God “has spoken.” What God says happens. Remember, God spoke, and the world came into being. In this case He speaks and summons the heavens and earth to come and serve as witnesses. In other words, He is summoning those who have seen all and can testify fully. This is a poetic way of expressing that His judgment will be based in complete fact, full knowledge.
Thirdly, He is speaking from Zion, the place from which He manifested Himself in a special way, forming a link between His throne in heaven and His creation on earth. This was to be the center point of true worship.
Fourthly, God is coming to judge those with whom he has a covenant relationship…verse 5. These are the people that He calls “godly ones,” the people who are expected to be righteous.
Lastly, God is going to personally serve as the Judge when the courtroom assembles. Because God is righteous, His judgments will be displays of absolute righteousness.
I mentioned that I had served on one jury. I have also been selected for potential jury duty several other times and been in the selection pool for two other cases. In each situation, I remember authority that the judge’s presence held over those courtrooms. Still, those judges are nothing in comparison to the authority and majesty that God will have when He holds court.
We, those of us in a covenant relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, will be called to appear before this awesome Judge. There are other passages that discuss what will happen to those who do not have a relationship with Christ, who have not accepted Jesus as Savior. You too will be called into a courtroom and in your case the sentence is predetermined because you have rejected the only One who could save you—you will spend eternity in hell for your rebellion against God. If you fear you may be in that spot this morning, I encourage you to contact me through email, I would love to share with you how you can have Jesus save you from your sin.
This psalm, though, is directed to those are have a relationship with God—those of us who are believes. We will be called to appear before God and God will judge us in absolute righteousness.
God will judge His people in absolute righteousness.
Of course, because of our faith in Jesus, our eternal destiny is not at risk, so what are we potentially going to be judged for. The rest of this psalm focuses on our worship. Our worship will be judged.
In verses 7–15 we discover that…
II. The motivation of our worship will be judged.
Let’s read these verses…<read Psa 50:7–15>.
Verse 7 makes it clear that God is leveling a charge against the nation. He has a legitimate right to do so because He is their God, He is in a relationship with them.
Furthermore, verse 8 makes it clear that the charge will be in the area of worship. God recognizes that the people are bringing proper sacrifices to Him. This is not a case of having to rebuke the people because they were not giving; they had given, and they had given the proper sacrifices. In other words, they had been engaged in worship, conforming to the letter of the Law.
No, their problem lies with what motivation was underlying their worship. That is where the problem was at.
I would think that this should be a real concern to us today. We are here engaging in worship this morning. I won’t take the time to demonstrate the point now, I have conducted other series on worship, but we can show from Scripture that the elements of our service this morning: singing and praying and reading Scripture and preaching…these are all elements that God has revealed are proper components of NT worship. Much like the Israelites, we have done that the right things. But could there still be a problem? Could we potentially face the same charge that they faced in these verses?
A. The charge lodged: Worship is undertaken to manipulate God.
We sometimes sing the hymn that begins “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” That hymn expresses the truth conveyed in verse 10. The point that God makes in these verses is that as the Creator-God, He rightfully owns everything. He does not need anything. He certainly didn’t need the sacrifices that they were bringing to the temple to feed Him for the day. It is not like God would go hungry without their sacrifices.
Apparently, though, some of the Israelites brought their sacrifices with those kinds of ideas. In that pagan world, it was common for people to believe that sacrifices to idols fed the gods that the idols represented. It is possible that some of the Israelites may have had similar thoughts, but by and large the issue probably wasn’t that crass. It is more likely that they simply thought that somehow their sacrifices gave God something that He was lacking. That their sacrifices added something to God’s life; gave Him something that He needed from His worshippers.
The problem with such thinking is that it ultimately implies that by bringing sacrifices to God that God then in turned would owed them something. The reason that they were bringing their sacrifices was so that they could get something in return from God. Rather than real worship, it was a negotiation, a tit-for-tat arrangement. They gave God what He needed and He in turn would have to give them what they needed. It was undertaking worship in order to manipulate God.
This philosophy was flat-out wrong. God is clearly displeased by it. It will bring condemnation down upon them when they stand before Him in judgment.
Well, clearly we don’t have to worry about this, right? We don’t bring sacrifices so there is no way that we can think we are feeding God and make this mistake. True. We are not going to be confused by our blood sacrifices, but I think we run just as much of a risk of being confused in our motivations for worship. Why do we gather for worship on Sunday mornings? Could our motivation possibly because we do not want God to be angry at us for something we did during the week? Could it be because we want to be on God’s good side this week in case something comes up and we need God to do us a favor? Could our motivation for worship in any way be an attempt to manipulate God? I am confident that it can be.
The Roman Catholic church has worked out a whole system of grace transactions through their interpretation of the sacraments. We reject that system, but we can be just as guilty of thinking that we can earn favor with God by our acts of worship, that we can, in essence, put God in our debt so that He owes us something. We need to examine our hearts, examine the thinking that underlies our motivation for worship.
Worship can be undertaken to motivate God. We do not want to face this charge from our God. I am sure that if God levels it against us…because He is a perfect righteous Judge…we will immediately crack on the stand and confess our guilt, because the charge will be true.
Remember, though, God is giving us advance warning in this psalm. We have not yet been called to the stand. There remains an opportunity to change. In verses 14 and 15, we find…
B. The second chance offered: We must humbly express our need of God at all times.
What a gracious and merciful God we have. Rather than allow His people to continue to pile guilt up through wrong worship, He states the actions that are required to change before it is too late.
The correction is fairly simple: continuing offering worship to God with the mindset that God is worshipped at all times because we need Him, not because He needs us. He tells Israel to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving. In other words, express gratitude for what God has given. Pay vows to the Most High which means to express dedication to Him. In times of need, humbly call upon Him knowing that He alone is able to rescue them because He is a gracious, loving God; not because He has been bribed to do a favor.
And in this regard, nothing really has changed for us in the NT. God still requires worship that humbly express our need of Him at all time. We thank Him for who He is and what He has done. We dedicate ourselves to Him because of who He is and what He had done. We go to Him in times of need, looking for help, because of who He is and what He has done, anticipating that He will graciously do the same again. Hearts and minds focused on our need of God honor Him, not hearts and minds that thinks He needs us.
Our worship will be judged. The motivation of our worship will be judged. We cannot attempt to manipulate God with our worship. Rather, we must express our need of God through our worship.
In verses 16–23 we see a second issue that comes up that we need to be concerned about as we gather for worship, knowing that Our worship will be judged; that is that…
III. The consistency of our lives will be judged.
It such wrong thinking to believe that God separates His assessment of our lives in what we do when we formally gather for worship from what we do with the rest of our lives.
Let’s read the rest of our psalm, beginning in v. 16…<read Psa 50:16–23>.
Once again we can see a charge lodge by God against the people worshipping Him. The charge is that….
A. The charge lodged: Worship is independent from the rest of life
The anger behind God’s charge comes through clearly in verse 16, “What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth?” God was angry that at people who were repeating His words, quoting His precepts, claiming to be under His covenant, but were clearly not His people as revealed by the rest of their lives. Sure, when they came to worship at the temple they looked like good, proper worshippers; but when they left the temple they did not obey the very precepts they quoted with their lives. This was revealed by all evidence that God presented in verses 17–20.
Now, I am not planning on diving into the issues that have been plaguing our country over the past couple of weeks. My simple comment will be that as believers we must stand against sinful actions and injustice regardless of who commits them: people in positions of authority or people in positions of weakness, people of white skin or people of black skin. It doesn’t matter. What I will observe though is that too many Christians are looking for reasons to excuse and justify the riots that have been occurring. Look at the things that God charges in these verses, people He clearly disapproves of who use His name. People who hate discipline—we cannot support those who want to abolish the police forces that bring discipline to a civilized society. God lays charges against those who observe a thief in action and are pleased with him. We clearly cannot support those who engage in looting, but we also cannot support those who justify looting activity as a means to accomplish any other end. God charges those whose mouth is “loose in evil.” We cannot condone any words of hate or bigotry…and we certainly cannot engage in such words ourselves, even through social media posts.
Really, though, while this psalm gives us insight into how we are to respond to the issues of our country, the real application is much closer to home. We need to recognize that we are wasting our time when we come here on Sundays for worship if we are not striving to live devoted lives the rest of the week. God does not compartmentalize our lives between religious time and other time…all time is religious time because He is always God; some of that religious time is spent in worship.
One of the worst things that FaceBook does for me, is it provides an opportunity to see how some of you live your lives during the week in such drastically different ways than you present yourself at church. I am amazed at the lack of shame sometimes. I also suspect that much of what we all should really be ashamed of will never be posted on FaceBook or any other social media platform. Yet remember, God will call heaven and earth as witnesses. Everything that we do is ever before Him. He will charge us with insincere worship if we live lives radically independent from our worship professions.
The consistency of our lives will be judged. God will charge us if worship is independent of the rest of life.
Once again, though, God is giving advanced warning which holds out the opportunity for a second chance. In verses 22 and 23 we find…
B. The second chance offered: We must live a life of true devotion to God
This second chance breaks into two separate actions. The first is to stop and think, God says, “Now consider this, you who forget God.” Stop and think. If your life reveals that you do not really acknowledge God as your Lord and Master, then don’t fool yourself that simply saying He is on Sunday will make any difference.
What a graphic image is given here, If you forget God, in other words, refuse to act on what God has revealed, then God will “tear you in pieces and there will be none to deliver.” As Heb 10:31 says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” When God decides to destroy you, there will be none to deliver you.
So first of all, stop and think. Strip all the false delusions of self-sufficiency from you. Remove the mirage of acceptability from you mind. Recognize that living a false life will never fool God.
And then, secondly, change; change now. Begin to honor God…of course that must begin by truly accepting Jesus as your own personal Savior. But it also must involve changing the way you live your life. Heed the word of God. Order your life aright. Begin to offer God heartfelt worship rather than token actions. Live a life that is in line with salvation. The fact that God levels this charge and then holds out this as the second chance clearly indicates that there is a life in line with the way of salvation. Begin to live that life. Will you start today? The second chance has been offered.
Transition from body to conclusion:
The consistency of our lives will be judged. Living a life in which worship is independent from the rest of life will bring God’s charge upon us. The second chance that God is offering today is that We must life a life of true devotion to God. Our worship will be judged.
Our worship will be judged. While it may be unrealistic to think that Perry Mason or Matlock are able to constantly elicit confessions of guilt from those placed on the stand in a court of law; we should recognize that when we are in the stand and when God presides as Judge, we will confess our guilt to every charge He brings because the only charges God brings will be valid.
This morning Psalm 50 has served as our advance warning. Our worship will be judged. We have seen that God will judge His people in absolute righteousness. When He does the motivation of our worship will be judged and the consistency of our lives will be judged. He has given us advance warning so that we are ready for His judgment. Our worship will be judged.