God, the Sovereign Judge, cites before his throne all his people, and the priests and the judges, 14; and reproaches them for their vain confidence in the sacrifices they had offered, 7-13; and shows them the worship he requires, 14,15; and then enters into a particular detail of their hypocrisy, injustice, and union with scandalous transgressors; all of whom he threatens with heavy judgments, 16-22. The blessedness of him who worships God aright, and walks unblamably, 23.
NOTES ON PSALM L
In the title this is said to be A Psalm of Asaph. There are twelve that go under his name; and most probably he was author of each, for he was of high repute in the days of David, and is mentioned second to him as a composer of psalms: Moreover Hezekiah the king, and the princes, commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord, with the WORDS of DAVID, and of ASAPH the SEER. His band, sons or companions, were also eminent in the days of David, as we learn from 1 Chronicles 25:1, Asaph himself was one of the musicians who sounded with cymbals of brass, 1 Chronicles 15:19. And he is mentioned with great respect, Nehemiah 12:46: And in the days of DAVID and ASAPH of old there were CHIEF of the SINGERS, and SONGS of PRAISE and THANKSGIVING unto God. He was certainly a prophetic man: he is called a seer-one on whom the Spirit of God rested; and seems from this, his education, and natural talent, to be well qualified to compose hymns or psalms in the honour of God. Persons capable of judging, on a comparison of those Psalms attributed to Asaph with those known to be of David, have found a remarkable difference in the style. The style of David is more polished, flowing, correct, and majestic, than that of Asaph, which is more stiff and obscure. He has been compared to Persius and to Horace; he is keen, full of reprehensions, and his subjects are generally of the doleful kind; which was probably caused by his living in times in which there was great corruption of manners, and much of the displeasure of God either threatened or manifested. It is not known on what particular occasion this Psalm was written; but at most times it was suitable to the state of the Jewish Church.
The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken
Here the essential names of God are used: EL, ELOHIM, YEHOVAH, hath spoken. The six first verses of this Psalm seem to contain a description of the great judgment: to any minor consideration or fact it seems impossible, with any propriety, to restrain them. In this light I shall consider this part of the Psalm, and show,-
First, The preparatives to the coming of the great Judge. El Elohim Jehovah hath spoken, and called the earth-all the children of men from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, ( michlal yophi, the beauty where all perfection is comprised,) God hath shined, Psalms 50:1,2. 1. He has sent his Spirit to convince men of sin, righteousness, and judgment. 2. He has sent his WORD; has made a revelation of himself; and has declared both his law and his Gospel to mankind: "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined," Psalms 50:2. For out of Zion the law was to go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3.
Secondly, The accompaniments. 1. His approach is proclaimed, Psalms 50:3: "Our God shall come." 2. The trumpet proclaims his approach: "He shall not keep silence." 3. Universal nature shall be shaken, and the earth and its works be burnt up: "A fire shall devour before him and it shall be very tempestuous round about him," Psalms 50:3.
Thirdly, The witnesses are summoned and collected, and collected from all quarters; some from heaven, and some from earth. 1. Guardian angels. 2. Human associates: "He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people," Psalms 50:4.
Fourthly, The procedure. As far as it respects the righteous, orders are issued: "Gather my saints," those who are saved from their sins and made holy, "together unto me." And that the word saints might not be misunderstood, it is explained by "those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice;" those who have entered into union with God, through the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus Christ. All the rest are passed over in silence. We are told who they are that shall enter into the joy of their Lord, viz., only the saints, those who have made a covenant with God by sacrifice. All, therefore, who do not answer this description are excluded from glory.
Fifthly, The final issue: all the angelic host, and all the redeemed of the Lord, join in applauding acclamation at the decision of the Supreme Judge. The heavens (for the earth is no more, it is burnt up) shall declare his righteousness, the exact justice of the whole procedure, where justice alone has been done without partiality, and without severity, nor could it be otherwise, for God is Judge himself. Thus the assembly is dissolved; the righteous are received into everlasting glory, and the wicked turned into hell, with all those who forget God. Some think that the sentence against the wicked is that which is contained, Psalms 50:16-22. See the analysis at the end, See Clarke on Psalms 50:23. and particularly on the six first verses, in which a somewhat different view of the subject is taken.
Hear, O my people
As they were now amply informed concerning the nature and certainty of the general judgment, and were still in a state of probation, Asaph proceeds to show them the danger to which they were exposed, and the necessity of repentance and amendment, that when that great day should arrive, they might be found among those who had made a covenant with God by sacrifice. And he shows them that the sacrifice with which God would be well pleased was quite different from the bullocks, he-goats, he shows here that God has intended to abrogate those sacrifices, as being no longer of any service: for when the people began to trust in them, without looking to the thing signified, it was time to put them away. When the people began to pay Divine honours to the brazen serpent, though it was originally an ordinance of God's appointment for the healing of the Israelites, it was ordered to be taken away; called nehushtan, a bit of brass; and broken to pieces. The sacrifices under the Jewish law were of God's appointment; but now that the people began to put their trust in them, God despised them.
I will not reprove thee
I do not mean to find fault with you for not offering sacrifices; you have offered them, they have been continually before me: but you have not offered them in the proper way.
Every beast of the forest is mine
Can ye suppose that ye are laying me under obligation to you, when ye present me with a part of my own property?
The world is mine, and the fulness thereof.
Ye cannot, therefore, give me any thing that is not my own.
Will I eat the flesh of bulls
Can ye be so simple as to suppose that I appointed such sacrifices for my own gratification? All these were significative of a spiritual worship, and of the sacrifice of that Lamb of God which, in the fulness of time, was to take away, in an atoning manner, the sin of the world.
Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High
zebach, "sacrifice unto God, Elohim, the todah, thank-offering," which was the same as the sin-offering, viz. a bullock, or a ram, without blemish; only there were, in addition, "unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil; and cakes of fine flour mingled with oil and fried," Leviticus 7:12.
And pay thy vows
nedareycha, "thy vow-offering, to the Most High." The neder or vow-offering was a male without blemish, taken from among the beeves, the sheep, or the goats. Compare Leviticus 22:19with ; Psalms 50:22. Now these were offerings, in their spiritual and proper meaning, which God required of the people: and as the sacrificial system was established for an especial end-to show the sinfulness of sin, and the purity of Jehovah, and to show how sin could be atoned for, forgiven, and removed; this system was now to end in the thing that it signified,-the grand sacrifice of Christ, which was to make atonement, feed, nourish, and save the souls of believers unto eternal life; to excite their praise and thanksgiving; bind them to God Almighty by the most solemn vows to live to him in the spirit of gratitude and obedience all the days of their life. And, in order that they might be able to hold fast faith and a good conscience, they were to make continual prayer to God, who promised to hear and deliver them, that they might glorify him, Psalms 50:15.
From the 16th to the 22nd verse Asaph appears to refer to the final rejection of the Jews from having any part in the true covenant sacrifice.
But unto the wicked
The bloodthirsty priests, proud Pharisees, and ignorant scribes of the Jewish people.
Seeing thou hatest instruction
All these rejected the counsel of God against themselves; and refused to receive the instructions of Christ.
When thou sawest a thief
Rapine, adulteries, and adulterous divines, were common among the Jews in our Lord's time. The Gospels give full proof of this.
These things hast thou done
My eye has been continually upon you, though my judgments have not been poured out: and because I was silent, thou didst suppose I was such as thyself; but I will reprove thee, things.
Now consider this
Ye have forgotten your God, and sinned against him. He has marked down all your iniquities, and has them in order to exhibit against you. Beware, therefore, lest he tear you to pieces, when there is none to deliver; for none can deliver you but the Christ you reject. And how can ye escape, if ye neglect so great a salvation?
Whoso offereth praise
These are the very same words as those in Psalms 50:14, ; and should be read the same way independently of the points, zebach todah, "sacrifice the thank-offering." JESUS is the great eucharistic sacrifice; offer him up to God in your faith and prayers. By this sacrifice is God glorified, for in him is God well pleased; and it was by the grace or good pleasure of God that he tasted death for every man.
Ordereth his conversation
sam derech, DISPOSETH his way.-Margin. Has his way THERE, sham derech, as many MSS. and old editions have it; or makes that his custom.
Will I show the salvation of God.
arennu, I will cause him to see beyesha, into the salvation of God; into God's method of saving sinners by Christ. He shall witness my saving power even to the uttermost; such a salvation as it became a God to bestow, and as a fallen soul needs to receive; the salvation from all sin, which Christ has purchased by his death. I sall scheu til him, the hele of God; that es JESHU, that he se him in the fairehed of his majeste.-Old Psalter.
ANALYSIS OF THE FIFTIETH PSALM
The prophet, by a prosopopaeia, brings in God prescribing rules for his own worship. The point in debate is: How God will be honoured in his own Church? And as none can teach this but God, he brings him in speaking to his people.
The Psalm has two general parts:-
I. The majesty and authority of the person who is to judge this debate, Psalms 50:1-6.
II. The sentence which he pronounces, Psalms 50:7-23.
The prophet begins with calling an assize. He summons a court, presents us with a judge, produces witnesses, cites those who are to answer, and, having seated the Judge on his throne, gives forth his charge.
I. First. He presents, 1. The Judge, in authority and majesty: "The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken," Psalms 50:1.
2. The place to which he comes to hold his court-the Church: "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty; God hath shined." To Zion the law was given; and out of Zion the law was to come, by which he would judge; and therefore it was rightly said, "Out of Zion the Lord hath shined."
3. His appearance, which is terrible. It was so when he gave his law on Mount Sinai; and it will be so when he comes to require it: "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him." See 2 Peter 3:10; ; Luke 21:25,26.
Secondly. Those who are cited to appear before him-his saints-those who had undertaken to worship him as he had appointed: "Gather my saints together; those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice."
Thirdly. Against these he produces his witnesses, whom he collects, 1. From heaven; 2. From earth. "He shall call the heavens from above, and the earth, that he may judge his people." Including the inhabitants of the whole earth, "from the rising of the sun until the going down thereof." And his award shall be universally approved: "The heavens shall declare his righteousness-his just method of procedure; for God himself is Judge."
II. Next follows the charge given by God himself the Judge; and, to engage attention, he proclaims: "Hear, O my people, and I will speak,"
1. "I am God;" therefore, worship and obedience are due to me from all creatures.
2. "I am thy God; and thou art my people;" therefore, due from thee especially.
3. "I will speak." I will judge and determine this controversy about my worship.
4. "I will testify against thee," and convict thee of what thou hast done amiss.
There is a twofold worship: 1. Ceremonial and external. 2. Spiritual and moral. And I will speak and testify of both.
It was the duty of the people to bring the sacrifice, and perform the ceremonies appointed by the law: but God is not pleased with the outward act merely; nothing pleases him where the heart and affections are wanting.
1. "I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices." These thou bringest, and these I accept. But in this I reprove thee, because thou thinkest that I must be pleased with the external service, howsoever performed; and that thou hast a right to expect pardon and all other blessings.
2. Unless the heart be penitent, and the offerings be made in faith, I will not accept them: "I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goat," two reasons:-
1. I do not need them: "Every beast of the forest is mine-the cattle on a thousand hills-the fowls of the mountain-the wild beasts of the field-the world and its fulness."
2. My perfection is such that I could not use them: "Thinkest thou that I will eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?"
The heathen priests taught the people that the gods fed on the odour of the sacrifices; and they represented them as complaining of being starved, when they were withheld!
For these reasons the sacrifices, as you have performed them, do not please me; but I shall acquaint you with those that do please me; thanksgiving and prayer or invocation.
1. Thankfulness: "Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows,"
2. Invocation: "Call upon me in the day of trouble."
Which being done, he makes an indenture with us:
1. On his part, that he will save us: "I will deliver thee."
2. On our part, that we give him the glory of our salvation: "Thou shalt glorify me."
3. And yet he makes an exception to some men's prayers and praises, hypocrites and impious men. Praise is not comely in the mouth of a sinner, and petitions offered by the profane shall not be heard.
1. "To the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes,"
2. The reason is: Thou professest to love me, but in works thou deniest me: for thou hatest instruction, and hast cast my words behind thee: how then can I be pleased with thee? I shall now prove this against thee.
1. Thou hast broken the eighth commandment: "Thou sawest the thief, and consentedst to him,"-joinedst with him to carry off the spoil; or, when he stole, thou didst receive.
2. Thou hast broken the seventh commandment. "Thou hast been a partaker with the adulterers."
3. And the ninth: "Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit;-thou sittest and speakest against thy brother, and slanderest thy own mother's son." Thou didst do all this deliberately. Thou didst sit and speak.
4. Thou hast broken the first commandment. Because I did not execute judgment upon thy evil works, "thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself;" or, in a word, that there was no God, or none worthy of fear and reverence.
This wickedness I will not suffer to go unpunished; for the day will come when "I will reprove thee,-set thy sins in order before thee, and punish the wickedness which thou hast attempted to hide. Yet in judgment God remembers mercy; he gives warning to the wicked, and threatens that he may spare, and that they may repent and perish not.
1. Now, while you have respite, consider this, that God is not pleased with outward rites and formalities, and that they who trust in merely having performed them are far from being in a safe state. They do the outward work, and forget God. Take heed, lest as a lion he rush out upon you, and tear you to pieces.
2. To the pure and spiritual worshippers he makes a gracious promise of defence, help, and salvation. He who sacrifices the thank-offering, with an humble, believing heart, glorifies me; and to him who places his feet in that path, and THERE determinately abides, going the right way which God's word directs, I will show the salvation of God-he shall be saved; and shall know that he worships not God in vain. See the preceding notes on this Psalm.