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
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.
He is calling everything on the earth,
from where the sun rises in the east
to where it goes down in the west.
A fire burns up everything that is in front of him.
And there is a great storm round him.
to say whether his people are good or bad.
Bring to me the people that have made a
and have made a
and that God himself is the
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.’)
I have something to say against you, Israel.
I am God, your own God.
nor with you for always burning offerings to me.
and all the cows and bulls on a thousand hills.
All the farm animals are mine.
This is because the world is mine
and everything that is in it.
Do I drink the blood of goats? No!
Do what you have promised for the
I will make you safe and you will say good things to me.
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.
· why do you repeat my rules?
· why do you talk about my covenant?
You put my words behind you.
If people have sex with other people's wives or husbands, you do it too!
You repeat bad things about your own mother's son!
So you thought that I was just
But I will be angry with you
and tell you to your face what you have done wrong.
– 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.’
or I will tear you into pieces.
No one will save you.
They that live the right way will see that God will make them safe.
– 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.