Summary: Have you ever wondered how to approach God? Mankind makes up all kinds of ways to do it including external shows of relgious piety or elaborate ceremony. But in these three psalms we see God's recipe for drawing close to Him.
While Psalm 49 taught us that no amount of money can rescue you from the grave or redeem your life before God, Psalm 50 teaches that no amount of religious practice can save you from the wrath of God against evil. As in both psalms, only trusting in God for your salvation is what matters.
This is the first psalm written by Asaph, David’s worship leader and ancestor for a group of temple worshippers. Asaph wrote twelve psalms, the rest are Psalms 73-83. This psalm concerns lukewarm worship of God. Having a form of godliness is not enough—your heart must be in submission to Him for it to mean anything.
1 – 6
Asaph calls the people to court to hear God speak. Verse 3 reminds me of Hebrews 12:29 “Our God is a consuming fire.” I’m sure Asaph was remembering Exodus 24:17 where God appears as a “consuming fire” on the mountaintop. God is speaking to everyone who approaches Him by sacrifice—those that want some sort of relationship with Him.
7 – 15
His first judgment is to “My people.” God is not chiding them for offering sacrifices but for making the mistake that God needed them—that He would go hungry were it not for the bulls and rams they offered. God says that all the earth is His and He has no need of their sacrifices. The purpose of sacrifice is not for God to owe us. But the purpose is to thank God (vs 14) and be dependent on God (vs 15) not the other way around.
Some people today think that by obeying God or saying the magic words that they can get God to owe them. God will only do what is in the best interests of His kingdom. We need Him. He does not need us!
16 – 21
God here rebukes those that come to Him in name only. They perform public worship but their hearts are not in it. This reminds me of the words of Isaiah:
Isaiah 29:13 “The Lord said: Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service—yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules
learned by rote—“
God uses several examples of their hypocrisy—God’s name is on their lips but His character is not going down into their hearts. The examples are thievery, adultery, deceit, slander and worst of all—thinking that God was just like them.
People make that same mistake today. They think God is just a more powerful them—a super hero. They discount the incredible purity of God. It makes us feel better and less evil, but it isn’t true.
22 – 23
God is calling for the people to think about it and get the difference between a surface show and a heart relationship and dependence on God, and giving thanks for His provision and salvation. God desires two things: dependence and obedience (“orders his conduct”). Today, that obedience means doing the will of God which is to believe in God’s Son and trust in Him (John 6:39).
Jesus told the woman at the well in Samaria that God desires those that worship Him in spirit and truth, not just in tradition (John 4).
Psalm 51 is a very significant psalm David wrote it after Nathan the prophet called him on the carpet for sleeping with Bathsheba. The story is found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. David, king of Israel, had not been doing his job, going out to fight against Israel’s enemies. And as is often the case when we aren’t doing God’s work we end up doing the work of the flesh or the enemy—David was tempted. He saw this beautiful lady taking a bath on the roof (what was she doing there anyway). David saw her, lusted after her, and had intimate relations with her. She got pregnant—but was already married to Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s mighty men (1 Chronicles 11:41). David made a bad decision worse—instead of owning his sin, he tried to cover it up by sending Uriah into battle and purposefully leaving him uncovered so he would be killed. Then he married Bathsheba but the child she bore died.
It took David nearly a year to admit to this sin. Nathan came and told him a story of a rich man who took a poor man’s lamb for his dinner guests. David was incensed and said that that man should die for his crime. Then Nathan said those famous words: “Thou are the man.” It was at this point that David broke—confessed his sin before God and sought God’s forgiveness. This psalm is that response.
1 – 5
David pleads with God not for what he deserves, but was he needs—God’s grace and forgiveness. He recognizes that sin is rebellion, as is all sin—rebellion against the character and authority of God in our lives. He also realizes that the real sin is against God, not just against Bathsheba and Uriah. In the end, all sin is an affront to God, an offense.