The Coming Storm

Psalm 50

As we sit on the crest of a hill, we notice the sun suddenly dims as clouds scurry across. The chirping birds cease, and the wind suddenly whips up. The grass sways rather violently. We see black clouds towering. Lightening starts, and the thunder immediately follows. There's no delay, the storm's at hand and we weren't expecting it. We weren't even prepared. We couldn't believe it snuck up so unnoticed. It came from behind. This scenario might be our position today. The storm is God's impending judgment and wrath. He doesn't want it to take us unaware like the storm. He wants us to avoid it altogether, being well sheltered when it hits. To this end, Psalm 50 was written.

Before reading Psalm 50, I want to take a moment to clarify some of the trappings. It starts with an introductory line of credit, "A Psalm of Asaph". We're told Asaph was a Levite who had charge of music in the service of God:

7 Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the LORD into the hand of Asaph and his brethren.    
1 Chronicles 16:7

37 So he left there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD Asaph and his brethren, to minister before the ark continually, as every day's work required:    
1 Chronicles 16:37

Asaph was apparently the writer of Psalm 50.
Jumping to another musical aspect in the Psalm is the word "Selah" at the end of the 6th verse. It's not known for sure what this word means, but it's supposed this called for a musical interlude. A pause with music to help contemplate the words.
Having covered this, let's read the Psalm:
Psalm 50
A Psalm of Asaph.
T he mighty God, even the LORD, hath  spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. 3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. 5 Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. 6 And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah. 7 Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. 8 I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me. 9 I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. 11 I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. 13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? 14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: 15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. 16 But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? 17 Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. 18 When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. 19 Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. 20 Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. 21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. 22 Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. 23 Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.

Psalm 50 divides into four sections: verses 1-6, 7-15, 16-22 and 23. Proceeding in order, we have:

    Enter:  The Judge
    Verses 1-6
When court begins, the people stand as the Judge enters the judgment seat. It's a sign of respect for this position. We find the scene of this Psalm is much the same. The Judge is about to present His judgment on two specific cases. The beauty of this Psalm, is that it's a preview. The sentence has time to be changed. We don't have to be those with condemnation, if we take the warning this Psalm is intended to give.

In verse 1, we see the introduction of the Judge. Like a worldly judge enters under some distinguished introduction, such as, "the Honorable Judge So and So presiding", so does the Lord in this verse, "The mighty God, even the LORD". He's brought on the scene, and calls the court to order, addressing the entire earth, "the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof."

Verse 2 sets the place of the Judge's seat, His vantage point, as the session is about to unfold.
Verse 3 sets the stage for the proper respect and fear of the Judge. "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence:", this shows He's a Judge who won't hold back condemnation and rendering for anyone. In righteousness, He'll condemn the wicked, be sure of this. The picture the rest of the verse depicts, is that of destruction. His wrath will be vented against evil-doers. Consuming fire and a great storm are here to depict the power of judgment.

Verse 4 is a calling for witnesses, as you would in calling on heaven and earth as witness. They've seen all that's gone on and can rightly bear witness. He calls His faithful servants to the bench, almost as a jury and witness, that the evil wasn't necessary. The people about to be judged could have joined the saints and walked as they did. The Judge is about to start His judgment by viewing those called, "his people."

Verse 5 is that picture I just mentioned of the saints gathering on the LORD's side, as jury and witness. These saints are those who have come to God according to His terms. They've approached Him under the terms of a blood covenant. Righteousness is able to be accredited to them because of having met the requirements of a righteous Judge. One who must render His judgment according to justice and righteousness.

Verse 6 does the same as verse 2, looking to the source of this final judgment. "For God is judge himself" is a big exclamation mark to this section. The Judge is God and the Judgment is the rendering of heaven itself. Hence, in these first six verses, we have both God's place on earth and His place in Heaven standing as witnesses. Then comes in that "Selah". That pause for contemplation of our situation and the judgment that's about to proceed. Are we ready?

    Case 1:  God vs. God's People
    Verses 7-15
We start with words from God Himself. Asaph is now writing directly as a mouthpiece for God. We find the party addressed is the people of God, not the world. The Apostle Peter said this is the way it's to be:

17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?    
1 Peter 4:17

If I found myself in the crowd being addressed, what would concern me, is the negative God starts with. Having the Judge start out with a negative isn't a good sign. The negative is, "I will testify against thee:". God is mad, and is about to verbalize why. He reminds them, He is their God, or so they told everyone.

Verses 8-13 refers to acts that should have been accompanying their claim of worshiping God, and God's attitude to such a people. God says in a form, "You know you were to have been offering sacrifices, but you neglected such service. You were telling people you serve me, but when the rubber meets the road, I couldn't find any of that service I called for. Not that you can really give me anything, for all is mine, but you so selfishly held onto all and didn't count me worth giving up some of your valuables." God looked contemptuously upon His people that gave verbal assent to Him being their God, but were so selfish, they didn't want to give Him anything. I think God's attitude turned to, "I rebuke you so you might now start your sacrifices, but do you really think that I want some gift from you that you give because you have to? Oh, that you would truly love me and want to give your gifts to me." You can sense these feelings through these verses.

Verse 14 reaches the attitude of the heart. A gift of thanksgiving, speaks of a willing heart. Where's our gratefulness to God? "Hey, thanks God for the new car", as we jump in and speed off. Do we love Him, or His provisions? The second half of this verse speaks of obligation: "Pay thy vows". This calls for us to remember our agreement before God in the act of repentance. Are we really sorry, and follow through with that commitment repentance brought forth? Don't skip quickly over the end of this verse, it carries meaning: "The most High" reminds us who we made our vows to. Not to some powerless "nobody", but to the highest authority, the one most able to render judgment.

The verses, in this section, speak of God's people who are negligent in their walk with Him. Those who are diligent are the saints standing with God, while the negligent stand on the other side of the judgment bench. Now, where does this lead us in His sentencing? Look at verse 15.
In verse 15, we find a declaration to these negligent children, that a "day of trouble" will come upon them. God will work to turn their hearts back to Him. Trouble tends to do that, as God well knows. He promised them, that when this trouble came upon them and they turned back to Him, He would deliver them. This chastisement would serve to correct their negligent hearts. They would find themselves in hot water and make that about face. Since they didn't glorify God in their sacrifices, which they neglected, they would glorify Him in their testimony of His deliverance, when He answered their cry of distress. They would give glory to God, one way or another. I'll tell you though, this isn't the way to aim at glorifying God.

    Case 2:  God vs. The Wicked
    Verses 16-22
The final verses go from the house of God to those who claimed to be part of His household. God terms them, "the wicked". These wicked, addressed here, show themselves very pious. They publicly talk of God's laws and go through a form of religion. The people addressed aren't ignorant pagans, they're people found mixed amongst God's people. They're not ignorant of what God said in His word, verse 16 says they declare it. This helps us take a closer look. We know these people, they're among us.

In verse 17, we see these people described. It's definitely not in the way they view themselves, for they deceive themselves. This picture views their true condition, exposing their wickedness to light. Their heart's uncovered in verse 17. The core of their wickedness. They hate to hear instruction condemning their lifestyle. Oh, they love to hear instruction on issues that don't touch their personal lusts, but woe to him that exposes their pet vices! They cheer to hear the liberals slandered and condemned, but don't dare step on their toes in their home court. The second half of this verse, shows they hear the rebuke that should become life to them, but they consider it rubbish. They throw this revelation away as objectionable trash. They're certain it's not of God and scorn such rebuke.

Verse 18 begins laying the details. It presents two crimes: theft and adultery. Top-level class sins. How could these supposedly "religious" people commit such crimes and still feel "religious"? Camouflage!
Let's look at a camouflaged theft. It starts with excuses. This thief works for a company. They have all kinds of machinery. He figures they can afford the loss of a little. What's it to a corporation? What about someone he doesn't like? Maybe this person has it coming, he reasons. He comes up with some kind of reason and finds others who agree he had a right. That's one possible application of "consentedst" in this verse. The theft itself may have been a small theft, such as a calculator, or something larger. Theft is theft, no matter the size.
Disguised adultery is another common vice amongst some "religious". On a seemingly smaller scale, it involves pinups. They may "appreciate" the playgirl of the month along with the other fellows in the shop. Both the guys you gawk alongside with, and the woman who posed for the photo, are all partakers in adultery (Matthew 5:27,28). Maybe the "religious" adulterer is a woman who models her body, through too little clothing, for men to lust after. Her little game is an act of adultery under Matthew 5:27,28. Maybe the offense is committed through the internet or dial-a-porn. Such are some of the camouflages of theft and adultery.

Verses 19 and 20 continue to enlarge on the details of these criminals. Sins of the tongue. Looking at verse 19, we see decisions are made. This criminal actively decides to use his tongue for evil purposes, he "givest". He has the ability to refuse to give, but it's easier to follow the heart that delights in afflicting others. Man's fallen nature loves to pursue such base conversation. It's up to us as individuals to say, "I refuse to partake in such slander or gossip." The tongue that gives itself to spreading evil, easily continues on the road to misleading through conversation. To this person, accuracy isn't important, neither is the consideration of edification. Of those who love to badmouth, how often do you notice edifying conversation come from them? Gossip, slander and complaint are the norm. When a person is given to that, a little deceit added in isn't much more of a topping. Remember, this passage is talking about "religious" people. The religious has to cover this ugliness up, lest their wickedness be too obvious. They would have some "edifying" talk to deceive their neighbor and themselves. Beware though, when the time looks right and some "advantage" provides itself, the tongue will cut loose.

Verse 20 focuses on the object that gets butchered by such evil proclivities of the tongue. Wicked people victimize those closest to them. We find a passage in Proverbs 6:16-19 addressing this as something God finds abominable. He classifies it, side by side, in a list of only seven items with murder as one of them. It's an act akin to murder in that it seeks to bring harm to those closest to you. This isn't a harm of justice, but one of treachery. See the word "slanderest". Slander is to spread lies that can only smear their reputation. To slander is to purposely hurt someone, even if you have to make it up or present the story out of context.
The sins of the wicked hit the three areas that cover all sins. We find the lust of the flesh in adultery, the lust of the eyes in both adultery and theft, and the pride of life in exalting ourselves over our brethren. Mounting an attack against them and overcoming them (1 John 2:16). God has focused in on the core of the matter.

The listing coming to an end, we move on to the 21st verse. God doesn't always visit our sins upon us immediately. Judgment may be delayed our whole lives. Pay attention to what God said about these religious people, "thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself:". They behave with camouflaged evil behavior. They're sure they're as God would have them. Under this dispensation, you could say, "they thought they were good Christians." This should sound an alarm! We must be willing to let the Spirit search and expose our hearts to avoid falling into deception. If we prove dishonest with God's Word, the groundwork's laid for deception in our hearts. We see His Word, but humanly reason it away. This is a common and grave danger.
The verse goes on to say God will correct this deception one day. All motives and deceptions will be brought to the light. Darkness from corruption won't prevail forever, but when the deceived sinner finally humbles himself, will it be too late for him? That's why we need to be thoroughly honest now!

With verse 22, we have God addressing these religious people, calling them by their more accurate title of those "that forget God,". He's appealing to us to consider that God isn't like that. Even though judgment hasn't fallen yet, it will. When it comes, it will be His unleashed fury that will shred them to pieces. When that comes, it will be too late for He says, "none to deliver."

    The Verdict
    Verse 23
Verse 23 is the capstone. It's a grand summary of life. This verse is very much like the conclusion of Ecclesiastes:

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.    
Ecclesiastes 12:13,14

In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon summarized his ponderings on life as boiling down to this basic formula: Keep God as God.

Verse 23 of this Psalm, makes this same call. It's also a close match to 50:14. Both groups addressed, the negligent religious and the wicked religious, are both called to truly worship God and to straighten up. True worship and true obedience.

This final verse lends the light of hope. This Psalm speaks harshly and bluntly, but for a definite purpose. We're given a glimpse of a future judgment, so we can avoid that scene. This Psalm doesn't end at verse 21. It pours forth the additional 22 and 23 because of God's great mercy to give the wicked religious one more chance, "consider . . . . . will I shew the salvation of God."
We see this wonderful hope recorded elsewhere:

4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.    
Psalm 130:4

If we had no hope, we would just shrug our shoulders, resigned to our fate. Since there is hope, we realize we can humble ourselves before the Judge to receive His mercy on His terms.

In this age, there will always be lukewarm, or negligent "Christians" and those wicked "Christians", who are sure they're a great light. You don't have to be part of either group. Stand on the side of the saints. If you're there, maintain your stand. Sleeping at your post will be a court-martial offense, when the General makes his appearance (Luke 12:42-48; Matthew 25:1-13).

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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