Psalm 50

50:0Asaph was one of King David's music leaders. Either Asaph wrote this psalm, or someone wrote it for him. Or perhaps someone wrote it long after his death, for singers that lived after him. The psalm is very like Isaiah 1:11-20, and Micah 6:6-9. Isaiah and Micah wrote their books about 250 years after David and Asaph died. Psalms 73-83 are also psalms of Asaph.

The psalm is a picture of a Court of Law. This is a place where people decide whether someone has done right or wrong. If they have done wrong, the Court can send them to prison, or worse. In the psalm, Israel is in Court. God is telling them what they have done wrong. Everything in the sky and on earth must decide whether Israel has done right or wrong. God says that they have done wrong and that he will punish them if they do not obey him.

Judgement Begins at the House of God

50:0This psalm is in 4 parts:

Verses 1-6: God calls everybody to his Court of Law.

Verses 7-15: God says that they have not obeyed the first 4 rules.

Verses 16-21: God says that they have not obeyed the last 6 rules.

Verses 22-23: God will punish people that do not obey him. He will give help to those that obey him.

This is a psalm of Asaph.

1 God, the powerful God, the LORD, is speaking.

He is calling everything on the earth,

from where the sun rises in the east

to where it goes down in the west.

2 God is shining out from Zion, that most beautiful place.

3 Our God is coming and he will not be quiet.

A fire burns up everything that is in front of him.

And there is a great storm round him.

4 He is calling the skies above and the earth below

to say whether his people are good or bad.

5 He says ‘Bring my people to me.

Bring to me the people that have made a covenant with me

and have made a sacrifice to me.’

6 Then the skies above showed everyone about God's righteousness

and that God himself is the judge.

SELAH

50:6Verses 1-6: When does God call everybody to his Court of Law?

Remember, a Court of Law is where people decide if someone has done right or wrong. But this Court is not in a building, but in the whole world! So, when does God call everybody to his Court? To answer this we must know something about Hebrew words. Asaph or his friends wrote the psalm in Hebrew. This was their language. But there is something strange about Hebrew verbs. A verb is a ‘doing word’, like ‘speak’, or ‘sing’, or ‘eat.’ In English we say ‘he spoke’ if he has done it; ‘he speaks’ if he is still doing it; or ‘he will speak’ if he will do it tomorrow or next week. These 3 examples are past, present (now) and future. But in Hebrew there is no past, present and future.

So, in verse 1, we could translate it 3 ways:

– The LORD has spoken (in the past)

– The LORD is speaking (now)

– The LORD will speak (in the future).

So, when does God call people to his Court of Law? The answer is that all three ways of translating verses 1-4 are right! He called the people of Israel before him in the past, hundreds of years ago. He is calling them when they read the psalm – or us when we read the psalm today. And he will call everybody when the world comes to an end. We call this last Court of Law ‘The Last Judgement.’ (Here, ‘call’ means ‘asks people to come to.’)

7 Listen to me, my people, and I will speak to you.

I have something to say against you, Israel.

I am God, your own God.

8 I will not be angry with your sacrifices,

nor with you for always burning offerings to me.

9 I do not need a bull from your farm or goats from your fields.

10 This is because all the animals of the forest are mine,

and all the cows and bulls on a thousand hills.

11 I know every bird in the mountains.

All the farm animals are mine.

12 If I am hungry, I will not tell you.

This is because the world is mine

and everything that is in it.

13 Do I eat the meat of bulls? No!

Do I drink the blood of goats? No!

14 Offer to God thanks.

Do what you have promised for the Most High.

15 Then pray to me when you are in trouble.

I will make you safe and you will say good things to me.

50:15Verses 7-15: This part of the psalm is about what we should do for God.

There are 4 important rules in Exodus 20, but there are more in Leviticus. It is one of these that God talks about in the psalm. Though he only talks about one rule, we believe that he meant all the rules in this group.

In verses 7-15 God talks about people sacrificing animals to him. The priest killed an animal and burnt part of it. The priest was a special servant of God in one of the temples that the Jews had. The temples were buildings where they met with God. They could not see God, but they believed that he would hear them in the temples when they prayed. The most important temple was in Jerusalem, but there were others in Nob, Shiloh and other places. In these verses, God is saying that there is nothing wrong in sacrificing animals. But God does not need the meat of sacrifices so it is better just to say ‘thanks’ to God! Then he will answer them when they pray to him for help.

16 But to the bad people God says:

· why do you repeat my rules?

· why do you talk about my covenant?

17 For you hate me telling you what to do.

You put my words behind you.

18 If you see someone robbing someone else then you do it with him!

If people have sex with other people's wives or husbands, you do it too!

19 Your mouth speaks evil and your tongue says things that are false.

20 You sit and say things against your own brother.

You repeat bad things about your own mother's son!

21 You did all this and I said nothing.

So you thought that I was just like you.

But I will be angry with you

and tell you to your face what you have done wrong.

50:21Verses 16-21: This part of the psalm is about what we should do to the people we meet. The last 6 rules tell us about this, and many other rules in Leviticus. We must not only repeat the rules of God, and talk about his covenant, we must obey the rules! Again, the psalm only talks about a few of the rules, but it means all the others as well. The few are just examples.

– We must not take other people's things (verse 18)

– We must not have sex with someone that we have not married (18)

– We must not say bad things (19) about our family (20).

In verse 17, ‘put my words behind you’ means that they did not obey them.

Verse 20 is a good example of Hebrew poetry. The two parts of the verse mean the same. Poetry is a special way of writing words. In verse 21, ‘to your face’ means ‘to you, with nobody between us.’

22 Now, everyone that forgets God, think about this,

or I will tear you into pieces.

No one will save you.

23 Anyone that offers me thanks is giving me praise.

They that live the right way will see that God will make them safe.

50:23Verses 22-23: If people forget these rules, God will not make them safe. He will save those that:

– Say ‘thanks’ to him (rules 1-4)

– Live the right way (rules 5-10).

We called this psalm, ‘Judgement begins at the house of God.’ These are words of Saint Peter. You will find them in 1 Peter 4:17. It means that God starts telling people in a country who is right and who is wrong with the Church. But he does not stop there. At the end, everybody must go to the Last Judgement. In the psalm, God started with his people, the Jews. But he finished in these two verses with everybody.