1 The Mighty One, God, is the Lord; He has spoken and summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shined. 3 Our God will come, and will not keep silent; a fire consumes before Him, and a strong tempest is around Him. 4 He calls to the heavens above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: 5 “Gather My faithful ones together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6 The heavens will declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge. Selah 7 “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, even your God. 8 I will not reprove you for your sacrifices or for your burnt offerings that are continually before Me. 9 I will take no young bull out of your house, nor male goats out of your folds. 10 For every wild animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know every bird of the mountains, and the creatures that move in the field are Mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness. 13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? 14 Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High, 15 and call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.” 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth? 17 You hate instruction, and cast My words behind you. 18 When you see a thief, you are pleased, and have a share in those who commit adultery. 19 You let loose your mouth to evil, and your tongue is bound to deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; you accuse your own mother’s son. 21 These things have you done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was indeed like you; but I will reprove you and make a case before your eyes. 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver: 23 Whoever sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me and makes a way; I will show him the salvation of God.”
THE BEGINNING OF JUDGMENT — vv. 1-6
God summons the nations to hear God speak (vv. 1-2). Fools think that God is just trying to get the ‘bad guys’, but the truth is, he’s gathering his covenant people. The nations will serve as a testimony against the people of God (vv. 5-7). Peter tells us plainly in 1 Peter 4:17 that judgment starts with the house of God and here God intends to follow through with this principle (v. 4). As Christians we are loved by God because of the great pardon found in Christ Jesus. But this should never make us presumptuous; it should make us humble.
SUPERFICIAL RELIGION — vv. 7-15
As God assembles his people to offer them correction, he does so by getting to the heart of the matter. In verses 8-13 we find that mankind, Christians included, has a penchant for seeking to be religious on the outside and not on the inside, too. Offering God a sacrifice as if he’s hungry—when he has the whole world at his fingertips—is an affront to God. He needs not animals as though he were hungry; he needs not worship as though he were insecure. No, God desires that his people experience the gratitude of his grace (v. 14-15). He tells us to sacrifice a ‘thank offering’ to God, and to pay our vows, that is, do what you say. A thank offering is you exhibiting the gratitude you ought. When we call on him, he promises in verse 15 to deliver us. We don’t worship God to strong-arm him into loving us; he loves us, so trust him. We should not obey him as though he were a cosmic vending machine. We should obey him because he is good.
HYPOCRITICAL RELIGION — vv. 16-23
In assembling his people, he not only rebukes the veneer of superficial religion, he rebukes the religion that is hypocritical as well. People who hold to this type of ostensible faith are people who reduce God down to their level, as though God were “indeed like you” (v. 21). The wicked person declares the statutes of God and confesses with his mouth the covenant of God (v. 16). He professes the faith but does not live inside its truth; he hates God’s instruction and experiences hearing loss because of it (v. 17). The hypocrite celebrates thievery (think public schools), participates in adultery because apparently that’s ‘cool’ (v. 18). Her tongue is violent (v. 19). Hypocrites love to slander, especially family members (v. 20). God sees it all and brings his judicial agenda to their eyes (v. 21). God will “tear [them] to pieces” and no one will be there to rescue them (v. 22). The judgment should drive us to proper worship and obedience (v. 23).
A REBUKE FOR ALL
The pain we’re experiencing right now during this pandemic is a judgment from the hand of God. If we’re honest, we deserve far worse. We have ravaged the earth with toxins and have reaped its carcinogenic effects. We steal and plunder all in the name the ‘common good’. What about the roads!? We tolerate the sin of child sacrifice believing ourselves to be rather helpless to do anything. Instead of realizing the gift of sabbath, we have convinced ourselves that man was made for sabbath. The judgment has us all out of sorts and this is because we have a defiled religion and God wants to purge us of it. When we adopt evolutionary presuppositions and try to fit them in nicely to our healthcare system, we have problems. And not just the healthcare system: every system. God is removing the dross.
In short, we have a defiled religion because we think the only thing that matters is our comfort, safety, security, and church buildings. God has stripped them away and instead of strategizing on how to disciple this nation towards God by bringing the gospel of the Kingdom into every area of life, we’re still hoping things will get back to normal. Normal is the last thing we need. We don’t need normal, with sodomite marriages, inflated currency, abortion on demand, and apathetic Christianity to boot.
Does God need your Sunday morning pew? Does he need your songs and prayers? Does he need any of those sacrifices? He’s not hungry. He’s not insecure. He’s not hand wringing and unable to cope during this time. He is sovereign and he desires mercy, not sacrifice. He desires justice, not the blood of bulls.
Psalm 50 is a rebuke for us all. Sure, it is biblically lawful to gather on the Lord’s Day, sing songs, pray, open up God’s word, fellowship, and enjoy all of it. But this can’t be it. We can’t go back to normal. We can’t go back to superficial religion and we can’t go back to hypocritical religion. If we’re going to go anywhere it better be back to the Word of God so we can truly seek first the kingdom and justice of God in all matters. We want an undefiled religion, not a polluted one. We are in a heap of trouble, economically, spiritually, all of it. But what does God’s word promise? “Call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me” (v. 15).
So call on God we must. If you’re apathetic it’s time to repent. If you’re slothful, it’s time to repent. If you’re acquiescing to the injustice, it’s time to repent. If you’re failing in your family, it’s time to repent. If you’re failing in your work, it’s time to repent. If you’re struggling to obey Christ, it’s time to repent. If you’re not praying or opening up his word, it’s time to repent. If you’re not speaking against the tyranny, it’s time to repent. In other words, whatever it is you have going on in your life right now, always remember that it’s always time to repent. It’s always time to turn it around and run back to Christ. May we fall on our knees in front of the living God and cry out to him. Beg him for deliverance until he does it. Christ has come to adopt us into the covenant family. The gospel has been given to you. Christ’s grace is sufficient. Believe it, Church.
Heavenly Father, we ask and pray that you would deliver us from the tyranny, the sin, the injustice—all of it. Would you give your Church the fresh wind and fresh fire of your Holy Spirit so that we may turn to you in repentance and be restored by your immeasurable grace. We ask this in faith knowing that you are true to your word and true to your promises. We don’t deserve of it, but we ask it anyway. In Christ’s name I pray, AMEN.
*This was a devotional/sermonette given to the saints of Cross & Crown Church for Sunday, April 19, 2020.