Psalms 50

PSALM L

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 1Ch 25:1, &c.

Asaph himself was one of the musicians who sounded with cymbals

of brass, 1Ch 15:19. And he is mentioned with great respect,

Ne 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.

Verse 1. 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,

Ps 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," Ps 50:2. For out of Zion the law was to go forth,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isa 2:3.

Secondly, The accompaniments. 1. His approach is proclaimed,

Ps 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," Ps 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," Ps 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, Ps 50:16-22. See the

analysis at the end, See Clarke on Ps 50:23, and particularly on

the six first verses, in which a somewhat different view of the subject

is taken.

Verse 7. 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, &c., which they were in the habit of offering. In short,

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.

Verse 8. 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.

Verse 10. 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?

Verse 12. The world is mine, and the fulness thereof.] Ye

cannot, therefore, give me any thing that is not my own.

Verse 13. 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.

Verse 14. 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," Le 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

Le 22:19 with Ps 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, Ps 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.

Verse 16. But unto the wicked] The bloodthirsty priests, proud

Pharisees, and ignorant scribes of the Jewish people.

Verse 17. Seeing thou hatest instruction] All these rejected the

counsel of God against themselves; and refused to receive the

instructions of Christ.

Verse 18. 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.

Verse 21. 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, &c. I will visit for these

things.

Verse 22. 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?

Verse 23. Whoso offereth praise] These are the very same words

as those in Ps 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, Ps 50:1-6.

II. The sentence which he pronounces, Ps 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," Ps 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 2Pe 3:10; Lu 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," &c.

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," &c. And this for 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," &c.

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," &c.

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.

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