This Psalm was written by Asaph, (2 Chron. 29:30), a Levite and prominent musician, who had been appointed by David to preside over the choral services. It is the first of twelve that are attributed to him, but some of these should be credited to “the sons of Asaph.”
Psalm 50 begins with a prophecy. As God had given His Law on Mount Sinai , He now appears with glory at the culmination of the age as the Judge of the whole earth. “The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion , the perfection of beauty, God hath shined” (Ps. 50:1-2).
After a long period of silence, God will now call to the heavens and earth as a witness for the purpose of judging His people (Deut. 4:26; 32:1). “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people” (Ps. 50:3-4). The whole earth is now called on to observe His righteousness in reproving, chastising, and converting Israel , and for taking vengeance on the wicked.
His saints are summoned: “Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Ps. 50:5). It is described as follows: “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31). “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17 ). “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him” (2 Thess. 2:1). These elect belong to the Lord by accepting the body and blood of the Redeemer-who was offered in sacrifice. These elect have covenanted with Him and will now receive the promised reward of that covenant. The uprightness of these promises is declared: “And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself . . . ” (Ps. 50:6).
Again, God speaks, no longer keeping silent, giving the call to witness what is about to take place. Physical Israel is now addressed. The saints, the people who have been accepted by God on the basis of the covenant through Christ’s sacrifice, are distinguished from physical Israel that is now reproved for their religious practices. “Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God” (Ps. 50:7). Why are they testified against? The answer: “And [God] testifies against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear” (Neh. 9:29 ).
God states: “I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me. I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds” (Ps. 50:8-9). The meaning is that while Israel brought their sacrifices and offerings regularly enough, there was no inward devotion. They failed to grasp that the physical sacrifices were of secondary importance, and what God desired was a change of heart. “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever” (Deut. 5:29). But this heart was not to be found.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. (Heb. 8:7-10)
The saints, mentioned in Psalm 50:5 are the called-out ones who have already embraced this New Covenant-a covenant yet to be fulfilled in a grand scale worldwide after Christ returns.
God says He did not need Israel ‘s sacrifices, even though there was no charge for neglect. He states: “I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds” (Ps. 50:9). Why? “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine and the fulness thereof” (vv. 10-12).
The sacrificial system was not established because God needed animal sacrifices, and He certainly was not dependent upon Israel for these. He states: All the animals in the world belong to Him. All, whether wild or tamed, are His. “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1). What man owns, he owns under God, and God is free to give it and take it. Job expressed this truth clearly: ” . . . Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21 ).
“Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” (Ps. 50:13). God emphasizes Israel ‘s false notion that He needed their sacrifices, or in some way was dependent upon them, or was under some obligation to them, or in some way sacrifices contributed to His happiness, or that sacrifices were essential to His welfare. Only pagan gods were believed to have literally partaken of the sacrifices made to them, but not the true God, and this the people of Israel needed to understand. Higher concepts were attached to the true God than to eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats.
What, then, is man’s obligation under this assertion? The answer: “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Ps. 50:14-15). God wanted a devoted heart and attitude of thankfulness, not the notion that they were doing God a favor by their sacrifices and offerings. Why is it that so many who profess belief in God neglect or ignore this obligation? God owns everything, and all we own and enjoy in this world comes from Him. Devotion to Him includes giving back something in return (tithes and offerings), thus demonstrating an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation. God promises over and over in the Scriptures that He will bless and protect those who fear and obey Him.
But what about those who make a pretence of professing God but are in reality hypocrites? God regards them as wicked.
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? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son. 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. (Ps. 50:16-21)
The people acknowledged God but paid little attention to His recorded Word. The long period of silence lulled them into an attitude of indifference. They did not really believe God meant what He said. As they continued in their obstinate path, they were promised certain destruction. The wicked were now exposed. They hadbeen deluded because they think they were given permission to practice evil while making a pretence of obeying God.
“Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?” (Jer. 7:8-10).
Consider how the above applies to the last days (2 Tim 3:1-5). What is the final warning given to the wicked? “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver” (Ps. 50:22).
And what is the blessing promised to the righteous?
“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his [path, manner] aright will I shew the salvation of God” (Ps. 50:23).