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Psalm 50

Day after day we are confronted in the newspapers and on television with men who commit the most brutal acts of violence. Many laugh at the thought of a God in heaven. They ridicule the Word of God and openly blaspheme. World statesmen pursue their various policies with little thought of their Creator and Sustainer. And God is silent. No judgement is seen to fall on evildoers, no voice from heaven calls a halt to their wickedness. The silence of God was an enigma to many, even as long ago as the time of Asaph. In Psalm 50, recounting the wickedness, even of His people, God says "These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you" (v.21, NIV).

In order to correct this appalling misconception of the character of God, He reminds them of three things they should never lose sight of. Firstly His power. Verse 1 tells us "The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to place where it sets" (NIV). Don't men think themselves clever when they venture as far as the moon? But God made the moon and the sun and He controls their passage through space day by day. He is the great God of power.

Secondly, He reminds them of His possessions. In their ignorance, the people were bringing animal sacrifices to God in the condescending way they would throw the crumbs from their tables to a beggar. "Every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills", He tells them. The real purpose of sacrifices was to show repentance and thankfulness. He is the God of great possessions.

And thirdly, He is the God of His people. Not from some distant galaxy in the depths of the universe, but "out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth" (v.2). Years previously, in Moses' lifetime, Moses had taken the book of the covenant and read it in the audience of the people, and they said, "All that the LORD hath spoken will we do, and be obedient" (Ex. 24:7). Through Asaph, God now reminds His people of the covenant. Although still claiming to believe in, and actually teaching, the law of God, much that was evil had crept in.

God identifies the root of this trouble. Verse 17: "Thou hast hated instruction." How comfortable and convenient their own lifestyle seemed. When the law of God interfered with their opinions they hated instruction. I suppose, in honesty, we must all admit that our own way seems very sweet. But it's through God's way that blessings are found. "To him that ordereth his way aright, will I show the salvation of God" is the promise of verse 23 (RVM).

If the root of the problem was a love of their own way, the fruit was horrifying indeed. Joining with thieves, adulterers and slanderers; the lips which mouthed the words of the covenant sabbath by sabbath were "given to evil" through the rest of the week. James warned first century Christians of the same dangerous trend: "Out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing," he says (Jas. 3:10). Speaking of the tongue, he accuses them, "Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the likeness of God" (3:9). How inconsistent this is. No wonder James adds "My brethren, these things ought not so to be."

I wonder if, before our God, we can state that we are completely without trace of this sin. If a tree is diseased and brings forth repugnant fruit, the gardener needs to take drastic action. And here God warns those who forget Him to consider His words "lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver." Those who have had great privileges of knowing God will know the severest judgement. This is a solemn word to all believers, is it not? The writer to the Hebrews states in this connection, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (10:31). But though a righteous God must judge, how He longs to bless. Can we fill our minds at the close of our meditation with the wonderful promise of verses 14 and IS "Offer unto God the sacrifice of 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."