Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, attempted to pick up the discipline. I got part-way through that month, and so after a long hiatus, am determined to get going. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:
- What is this Psalm about?
- What does this Psalm teach about God?
- How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.
On the 18th of September 2023, here’s Psalm 50:
1 The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
2 From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes
and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
and around him a tempest rages.
4 He summons the heavens above,
and the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me this consecrated people,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for he is a God of justice.
7 “Listen, my people, and I will speak;
I will testify against you, Israel:
I am God, your God.
8 I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
9 I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields are mine.
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
16 But to the wicked person, God says:
“What right have you to recite my laws
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 You hate my instruction
and cast my words behind you.
18 When you see a thief, you join with him;
you throw in your lot with adulterers.
19 You use your mouth for evil
and harness your tongue to deceit.
20 You sit and testify against your brother
and slander your own mother’s son.
21 When you did these things and I kept silent,
you thought I was exactly like you.
But I now arraign you
and set my accusations before you.
22 “Consider this, you who forget God,
or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you:
23 Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me,
and to the blameless I will show my salvation.”
What is this Psalm about?
This Psalm is about God’s speech – as introduced in verse 1, and recorded directly in verses 5, 7-15, and 16b-23. This is, I think, a first for the Psalms, and something that is important to note in Scripture – God does speak directly, and we do have that recorded. What God says is as important, at least, as the fact that God said it – in this case, the Psalm records that God speaks to his people, and to those who are not his people, saying different things. We can also see that God is a god of justice (v6) and a God who gives laws (v16).
What does this Psalm teach about God?
This Psalm clearly teaches that God speaks, that God dwells in ‘Zion’, judges, testifies, and declares things. God speaks to both his own people and those who are not, who are described as ‘the wicked’. With this in mind, God is revealed by his own words in Psalm 50 to covenant with people, to accuse people, to destroy people, and rescue people. The picture that Psalm 50 paints is of a God who speaks and acts in a variety of ways!
How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
Psalm 50 is a sobering reminder that God speaks, and that there will ultimately be two kinds of people. We are either ‘a consecrated people’ or ‘the wicked’ – and this is a challenge to lean into the safety and security of being God’s people, to use Christian language to be ‘in Christ’, because ‘to the blameless I will show my salvation’ (v23). There is also, I think, an encouragement from the thoughts around v9-12, wherein God owns everything and knows everything. This is a challenge to our reliance on our selves, and a challenge to put our trust in God, whilst remembering that, thankfully, we cannot ‘give’ him anything.
A prayer drawn from Psalm
Lord, thank you that you speak, and that through your word you speak still today. Help me to honour your, to call on you in my trouble, and make me blameless so that I will see your salvation. Help me to walk with you day by day – let me see your beauty, and behold you on this day and for every day. Amen.