PSALM 50 TALK: WORSHIP MATTERS (GOD’S JUDGEMENT OF HIS PEOPLE FOR UNACCEPTABLE WORSHIP)

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PSALM 50 TALK

WORSHIP MATTERS

(GOD’S JUDGEMENT OF HIS PEOPLE FOR UNACCEPTABLE WORSHIP)

INTRODUCTION

Does worship matter?

According to my understanding of Psalm 50 it does matter to God. Throughout history men and women have gone to their deaths because of their belief in how a person should worship God. I am inspired by the story of Thomas Cranmer, probably the founder of the church I belong to, The Anglican Church. In the mid sixteen century he developed the original reformed prayer book and did most of the work on the 39 articles of faith, which the reformed Anglican Church is based on. Yet Thomas Cranmer like many of his fellow reforming ministers and bishops was burnt at the stake in 1556. I believe Cranmer was a very real person because under the threat of a horrible death for what he believed was the right way to approach God in worship and life he recanted his reformed beliefs several times. However Queen Mary 1, a fanatical catholic monarch hated Cranmer so much she ordered his execution anyway. This led Cranmer to make a brave anti catholic speech just before he was executed which proclaimed his error of recanting and he vowed that his right hand that signed the recanting documents would burn first.

It is disturbing to think that if I lived in Cranmer’s time I could have been burnt at the stake for the views I have on worship, the bible and the basis of the Christian faith. I’m not sure I would have the courage and conviction of men like Cranmer if I lived in their day.

Does worship matter today?

The answer is, generally no, as most Christians do not really bother with how corporate worship services are conducted today. I get the impression that so far as worship is concerned the rule is, “anything goes” or “anything is acceptable”. However this is not an attitude supported by the bible and particularly Psalm 50. We will now have a close look at this Psalm and what it had to say to the people of Israel and what it has to say to the Christian church today about what is and is not acceptable worship. We will also learn that unacceptable worship and those who practice it will one day fall under God’s judgment.

Psalm 50 is the first of twelve Psalms attributed to Asaph, one here in book 2 of Psalms and 11 in the third book of Psalms. I must agree with Leupold who writes this about Asaph,

“We could wish that we know more about the writer “Asaph”.

However what little we do know about him tells us that he was in a unique position to comment on worship practices of his day. Asaph or that name appears six times in the bible and I will make a brief observation on each of these six bible references:

1. Put in charge of music in David’s time – 1 Chronicles 6: 31, 32 and 39

2. Led worship in the Tabernacle before the ark of the Lord – 1 Chronicles 16: 1 – 4

3. Was given Psalm’s by David for worship before the Lord – 1 Chronicles 16: 7

4. Set aside by David to use music to prophecy Gods’ word – 1 Chronicles 25: 1

5. Called a seer or prophet like David in later years – 2 Chronicles 20: 14

6. His descendants were involved in music even after the exile – Ezra 2: 41

Richard Thompson gives an excellent summary of who Asaph probably was on a web post in 2005 and basically says he believes that the original Asaph lived through the later reign of David and most of the reign of Solomon and as a Temple leader of music saw both the glory days of David’s reign and the beginning of Israel’s decline under the leadership of King Solomon who turned his back on God through the divisive influence of his foreign wives and their idolatrous worship practices.

Asaph certainly wrote Psalms but as Rabbi Benjamin Segal points out, Asaph was,

“The Levitical eponymous founder of a group of psalm experts (probably singers and writers)”

I believe that the original Asaph wrote Psalm 50 probably during the reign of Solomon because of the obvious false worship practices that it reveals which started to appear in Israel at that time. He writes not like the writer of Psalm 49, a psalm which is like a piece of wisdom literature but more like a prophet like Isaiah (Isaiah 1: 11 – 5) and Amos (Amos 5: 21 – 26).

Why is this one Psalm of Asaph in book two while the other 11 are in book three?

I think this is because this Psalm fits well in between Psalm 49 and 51. Psalm 49 speaks of God’s condemnation on those who trust in riches and not God while Psalm 51 speaks of how God dose not want sacrifices but a broken and contrite heart. Psalm 49 and 50 present the coming judgement of God and briefly say there is a way of salvation provided by God himself while Psalm 51 presents this way of salvation more thoroughly through the love and undeserved mercy of God.

I have broken this Psalm into three parts:

  1. THE OBJECT OF TRUE WORSHIP (1 – 6)
  1. THE ESSENCE OF FALSE AND TRUE WORSHIP (7 – 15)
  1. THE OUTCOME OF FALSE AND TRUE WORSHIP (16 – 23)
  1. THE OBJECT OF TRUE WORSHIP (1 – 6)

Psalm 50 starts very much like Psalm 49 with a call to all the earth but the opening words of Psalm 50 bring to mind the first great time God revealed himself to the nation of Israel on another mountain, Mt Sinai in Exodus 19: 16 – 19,

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountaintrembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him”.

In Psalm 50 the picture of God presented in Exodus is much the same but the mountain on which this vision of God appears is different. It is not Mount Sinai but Mount Zion, verse 2,

“From Zion, perfect in beauty God shines forth”.

Mount Zion features in many of the past 7 Son’s of Korah Psalm’s and we have learnt that Zion was God’s chosen place to symbolize his presence here on earth with his people as we read in Psalm 48: 2 and 3,

“It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth. Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion the city of the Great King. God is in her citadels he has shown himself to be her fortress”.

The first six verses present an awesome God who should be the object of Israel’s worship. The first four verses present six aspects of the God we should worship:

  1. The mighty one (vs. 1)
  2. God (vs.1)
  3. The Lord of the covenant (vs.1)
  4. The God who speaks (vs. 1 and 4)
  5. A Devouring fire (vs. 3)
  6. The judge (vs. 4 and 6)
  1. The mighty one (vs. 1)  

Our English translations fail to pick up the obvious fact that three very different names of God start this Psalm and the first is “El” which means mighty one. A blog page called “Hebrew for Christians” says this,

“The word El comes from a root word meaning, might, strength and power”.

A classical use of El is found in Genesis 17:1 when God reveals himself yet again with Abraham,

“When Abram was ninety – nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God almighty; walk before me and be blameless”.

Jesus said at the start of his famous Lord’s prayer in Luke 11: 2,

“Father, hallowed be your name”

The living Bible translates “Hallowed” as “honoured for its holiness” and so when we pray and worship God we should realise that God is the all powerful mighty one and there is non other like him in heaven or on earth.

  1. God (vs.1)

The second Hebrew name for God in this opening verse is “Elohim”. Hebrew for Christians explains what “Elohim” means,

“The name Elohim is unique to Hebrew thinking, it occurs only in Hebrew and in no other Semetic language. The masculine plural ending does not mean “god’s” when referring to the true God of Israel, since the name is mainly used with a singular verb forms and with adjectives and pronouns in the singular (e.g. Gen. 1: 26). However, considering the Hashalush Hakadosh (Trinity) the form indeed allows for its plurality within the Godhead.”

As I said in my introduction to the second book of Psalms the Psalms in this book feature this general name for God, Elohim in a major way. Here Asaph focuses on the fact that the God we should be worshipping is the one and only true God of heaven and earth. This God is further understood by the others things he reveals about him in these opening verses. In the final chapter of the book of Revelation we read these words, Rev. 22: 12 – 13,

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End”.

There is only one God and he alone must be the object and focus of our worship.

  1. The Lord of the covenant (vs.1)

The final name for God in this first verse of Psalm 50 is “Yahweh” or as our bibles translate it, “The Lord”. Yahweh is the covenant name for God given to Moses at the burning bush when Moses asked for God’s name. Again Hebrew for Christians points out that when this special covenant name for God was written down in the Hebrew scriptures it was considered so holy that only the four principle letters of the name were recorded namely, YHVH and this is sometimes called, The Tetragrammation or “Four Letters”. Listen to some of the things Hebrew for Christians says about this special name for God,

“YHVH is the source of all being and has being inherent in Himself (i.e. He is necessary being). Everything else is contingent being that derives existence from him.

The name YHVH also bespeaks the utter transcendence of God. In himself, God is beyond all “predications or attributes of language: He is the source and foundation of all possibilities of utterance and thus is beyond all definite descriptions”.

The first commandment of the Ten Commandments reads, Exodus 20: 1 – 2,

And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” You shall have no other gods beforeme”.

You are to have no other God’s because there is no other God or God’s other than Yahweh the Lord. Jesus made it clear as recorded in the Gospel of John that he is Yahweh come in the flesh with his seven famous, “I am” statements and I think the “I am” in John 14: 6 sums up them all,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me”.

This is why the object of our Christian worship must be Jesus alone and non other. He shows us the way to God and made us the way to God when he died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead and finally ascended to the right hand of the father in heaven.

  1. The God who speaks (vs. 1 and 4)

So we have seen so far who Asaph believes God is and this first verse goes on to present a very special and unique attribute of God,

“The Mighty One, God, the Lord speaks”

Yes the God of the bible is a God of revelation; he does not stay remote from us he speaks. This is another unique and distinctive aspect of the God of the old and New Testaments. God speaks through Israel and later through Jesus to the whole world as the second half of verse 1 declares,

“And summon the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets”.

This revelation of God goes out to all the earth from Zion as verse 2 declares,

“From Zion, perfect in beauty God shines forth”

Michael Wilcock calls Zion,

“The theological centre of the world”

Jesus makes this clear when speaking to the Samaritan women at the well when he says in John 4: 21 and 22,

“Believe me, women, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritan worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews”.

The first chapter of John’s Gospel makes it clear that God has not left us in the dark but he sent a revelation of himself in a form we can fully understand and relate to namely by becoming a man and speaking in person through him. This is clear from John 1: 14,

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

So many people today say they cannot believe in God because they cannot see him. In other words so far as God is concerned they are in the dark and this darkness says to them God does not exist.

However God has broken through this darkness to speak to us on many occasions and the whole bible is a witness to this great revelation of God. Jesus is presented in John’s gospel as the light that breaks into our darkness to reveal to us God, as we read in John 8: 12,

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world, Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.

The point of God being a God who speaks relates to how we should worship him is made clear by Jesus final words on the nature of true worship to the women of Samaria in John 4: 23 – 24,

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Psalm 50 echo’s a dramatic and terrifying revelation of God, namely his appearance on Mount Sinai where he summoned the people of Israel after he saved them out of the land of Egypt. Now like this revelation of God at Sinai verse four speaks of a summoning of the whole world for a great judgment,

“He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people”.

This I believe looks forward to the great final judgment to come when Christ will return in his glory to bring about this great judgment. As we read in Matthew 25: 31 – 33,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”.

I will comment more on God as Judge soon but in the context of a God who speaks and reveals himself the final revelation of God to come will be when Jesus returns to judge this world once and for all and then there will be no more opportunities to respond to God’s witness of his saving grace in Christ.

This means our worship should feature the revelation of God through his word that tells those who have not yet responded to his saving message that great message. It should also remind those who have responded the importance of continuing to trust in God’s saving message or Gospel to be saved from this great judgment to come.

  1. A Devouring fire (vs. 3)

Verse three is a very similar presentation of God to that in Exodus 19 when God appeared to Israel on Mount Sinai, verse 3 says,

“Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him and around him a tempest rages”.

Asaph now looks forward to the coming of this great and powerful God and he looks back to how he appeared at Mount Sinai to describe what this new coming of God would be like. Leupold makes this comment about the picture verse 3 presents,

“A correct tradition had it, that when God appeared in days of old, the impression he made upon men was overwhelming and terrifying”.

The picture is of fire that devours and on Mount Sinai and Exodus 19: 18 reads,

“Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountaintrembled violently”.

God had first appeared to Moses when he called him he appeared to him from a burning bush and the writer to the Hebrews says this in Hebrews 12: 28 – 29,

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire”.

So the writer to the Hebrews is saying be careful and revere the God who has given us so much because he is a God who is to be feared he is a consuming power. I like how C.S Lewis presents God or rather Christ in the character of Aslan in the book
“The Lion the witch and the Wardrobe. The character of the beaver says this to Lucy about Aslan,

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

 To take the love of God through Christ to mean that God is weak and in affective is to miss the whole point. God is great and powerful and should be respected even feared but this great and fearful God is also a God of Love. This love did not come cheap as it cost God his Son on the cross who suffered and shed much blood for us.

Our worship then should reflect reverence for our God a God who is to be feared but a God who loves us.

  1. The judge (vs. 4 and 6)

The final aspect of God these first six verses of Psalm 50 present is that of God as a great Judge. We first pick this up in verse 4 that says,

“He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people”.

Why is God coming according to Asaph?

He is coming to judge and this is because a major attribute of God is his justice and holiness, which is described in the bible as God’s Righteousness. This is clear from the last verse of this first section, verse 6 which says,

“And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge”.

I remember a sermon I heard in my church recently where the preacher spoke of how the world constantly calls out for justice. People are never happy with the sentences convicted criminals are given they say “there is no justice in this world anymore”. However when they hear of a God who will judge the world with holy and pure justice they soon change their tune and speak of how they are not as bad as others. Maybe they are saying “I want God do rid this world of evil” but that does not mean “I want him to judge me”. The bible says we all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.

Therefore to do away with all evil is to do away with all humanity.

I like how Bob Deffinbaugh put it in an article called “The Righteousness of God” he writes,

“God’s righteousness (or justice) is the natural expression of His holiness. If He is infinitely pure, then He must be opposed to all sin, and that opposition to sin must be demonstrated in His treatment of His creatures. When we read that God is righteous or just, we are being assured that His actions toward us are in perfect agreement with His holy nature”.

This is what led God to have to send his only Son, Jesus Christ into the world to pay the price for sin on the cross for us. We in fact as the prophet Isaiah put it in Isaiah 64: 6,

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away”.

So righteousness has to be given to us as a gift as Paul puts it in Romans 5: 17,

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!”

The basis and object of all Christian worship then should be this great Good News message that he has saved us through Christ from the judgment we deserve that is surely coming.

Who then is Psalm 50 saying God is coming to Judge?

The answer to this question is both surprising and disturbing and it is found in verse 5,

“Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice”

And at the end of the previous verse,

“That he may judge his people”

Both the terms “consecrated ones” and “his people” are well-used terms for the Nation of Israel. Some commentators believe that the central theme of this Psalm is not “Worship” but “Judgment”. Coffman calls this Psalm,

“A prophetic glimpse of the eternal judgment”

And Gordon Churchyard calls it,

“Judgment begins at the house of God”

Judgment is certainly why God is coming in these opening verses but what is being judged?

The answer to this is what the rest of the Psalm is talking about namely the worship of God’s people. Because it is God’s people that are being judged Churchyards title echo’s an important New Testament verse about judgment namely, 1 Peter 4: 17,

 “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

This verse and the concept it presents might throw up in some people’s minds that Christians or the Christian Church being judged is a contradiction to the Gospel message that through what Christ did for us we escape the coming judgment. Paul also taught that their will be a judgment for Christians not to determine their eternal destiny of death or life but rather to give an account of what we have done in our lives with what God has given us as Paul writes in Romans 14: 12,

“So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God”.

Paul also speaks of rewards in heaven and being saved from eternal destruction but for some only just as a result of how they lived their Christian lives. This comes up in a passage like 1 Corinthians 3: 12 – 14,

“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames”.

I always find this teaching of Paul a great challenge to my life and ministry for Christ and it has helped me to push on to more active service for him.

However there is another way of looking at what Psalm 50 verses 4 and 5 are speaking about and that is the fact that not everyone who calls themselves Christian or in Asaph time a child of Israel is in their hearts and lives a true believer. We will see from the rest of this Psalm that two great tests are applied to Israelite worshippers of Asaph time, one being what the real essence of the worshippers heart is when worshipping and whether the worshippers lives actually show they are truly worshipping God or not.

Jesus spoke about this in passages like Matthew 25: 31 – 46 that speaks of God’s judgment to come separating all people in sheep and goats,

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Jesus had more opposition from the so-called religious people of his day than from anyone else. It was these people who refused to acknowledge that he came from God and it was the religious leaders who the devil used to send him to the cross.

Jesus also made it clear that not everyone who calls him Lord are truly following him like Matthew 7: 21 – 23,

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

This is something that must happen for history tells us that in Old and New Testament times and in modern times so called believers in God have done terrible things in the name of their faith in God. This will not go un- punished and will find its day of reckoning when Christ returns and judges the world and his church.

 

  1. THE ESSENCE OF FALSE AND TRUE WORSHIP (7 – 15)

If Asaph was a leader of Temple music he had a front row seat to all who worshipped in the Temple in his day and he seems to have seen a lot of people coming to worship with wrong motives and lives. He saw obvious signs of hypocrisy. He now speaks like a prophet which we learnt in the introduction he was later known as.

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak. O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God”.

This was the common style of introduction of a prophet like Micah at the start of his prophecy against Israel in Micah 1: 2,

“Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it, that the Sovereign Lord may bear witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple”.

 Note how Asaph uses the word, “testify”, Leopold points out that,

God is both the Judge and the prosecuting attorney”.

 He now spells out two things about what is the essence of false worship and then two things that are the essence of true worship.

1. THE ESSENCE OF FALSE WORSHIP (8 – 13)

The two things that are the essence of false worship are:

  1. God is not interested in acts of religion – Nominalism (8 – 11)
  1. God does not need our acts of worship – Complacency (12 – 13)
  1. God is not interested in acts of religion – Nominalism (8 – 11)

The first aspect of false worship is that God is not interested in what we might call religious observance. In Asaph day this showed itself in lots of sacrifices as verse 8 says,

“I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings which are ever before me”.

Wilcock paints a vivid picture of what Old Testament worship would have looked like when he writes,

“Every Temple in the ancient world was a sacred slaughterhouse and reeked of blood”.

He goes on to say,

“Old Testament people took for granted that the incessant sacrificing of animals was at the heart of their religion”.

However Asaph is saying that even though God is not rebuking them for these sacrifices they are not what lie at the heart of what he wants from those who worship him. He goes on to say in verse 9 – 11,

“I have no need of a bull from your stall or goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle of a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.

So mere acts of religion are not what God wants from his worshippers, as they achieve nothing. God gets nothing from our religious acts if they are simply going through the motions of religion and that’s all.

We could call the problem this first point is making, “nominalism”, which could be defined as people who hold to external aspects of a religion but in there daily lives and hearts deny the power of it and it seems to others that what they believe makes them no different than those who do not adhere to their religion.

This was even a problem in the early church and Paul warns Timothy to be alert to such people and tells him what to do if he encounters them in 2 Timothy 3:5,

 “Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people”.

Like hypocrisy, nominalism appears in our lives one way or another even if we are committed Christians but we must fight against both of these problems to make sure they do not over take us and eventually define us. I read a very interesting short article on a web page blog called “Resisting the pull to Nominalism” by Brenton MacArthur Barnet on a web page called RBT (Relevant Bible Teaching) and Barnet spells out what to look out for in our lives if we want to resist the pull of nominalism,

“We can recognize nominalism in our lives if our walks our characterized by a mediocre faith, a subpar holiness, and a habitual indulgence in walking according to the flesh. Nominal Christians tend to let areas of sin go unconfused, they do not envision what God could do by faith, and they enjoy things that don’t make them confront the holiness of God. They do not want to hear about obedience, submission, surrender, the fear of God, and trembling before His Word. Such truths would make them feel uncomfortable. They don’t have an appetite for the preaching of the Word. They don’t grieve over sin, they are not burdened for evangelism, and they have no passion for being in the presence of God. Their desire to be in God’s Word is minimal, and they have little interest in prayer. The authority of God’s Word fails to permeate the whole of their lives”.

Some might think that this type of problem only exists in churches like the Anglican or Catholic churches that follow set forms of liturgies. However I have seen evidence of nominalism in non-conformist churches like Baptist, Methodist etc. No matter what church you belong to you will always follow some set form or pattern even if it’s not written down. So going through the motions type worship is equally found in churches with set liturgies and those who follow a less obvious format. The trap is we can go to church and just go through the motions of worship without our hearts and minds really being involved.

What is the answer to this problem?

Asaph will give us his answer in verses 14 and 15 but I also like Pauls answer to this problem once he had raised it with Timothy in the early part of 2 Timothy 3. His advise to Timothy is 2 Timothy 3: 14 – 17,

 

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Note carefully the role that scripture or the bible plays in combating nominalism and any other false practice. This is another reason why the reading and preaching of the word of God is central to all true worship services.

  1. God does not need our acts of worship – Complacency (12 – 13)

This point follows closely the last one but adds another dimension that of the complacency of the false worshipper. Asaph being up the front of worship of his day witnessed worshippers, who acted like they were doing God a favor by their worship activities Asaph writes God says in verses 12 and 13,

“If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?”

God is saying Wilcock puts it,

“I don’t need them (your sacrifices), they are mine anyway”.

So often you run across people in the church who act like God owes them something. Maybe they believe that because they have been a long time faithful church member God should bless them for all their years of worship. Maybe their attitude shows that they believe in salvation by works and not faith. Jesus faced constantly this type of attitude in the religious leaders of his day. Have a read of Matthew 23 which is a whole chapter devoted to Jesus condemnation of the hypocritical Religious leaders of his day. Listen to one part of that chapter that relates to this point of complacency and hypocrisy, Matthew 23: 23 – 24,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel”.

Let us all take the warning Asaph is giving that we should not have an attitude of complacency when we seek to worship God. I travelled through Europe a few years ago and saw the so-called magnificent church buildings there full of earthly treasures but empty of worshippers. It sickened me to think that the many years of nominalism, complacency and hypocrisy had led to a Christian church devoid of life and witness.

2. THE ESSENCE OF TRUE WORSHIP (14 – 15)

Asaph does not just condemn the false worship of his day but points us to the essence of what he believes is true worship. He establishes again two aspects:

  1. True worship involves thanking God for what he has done (vs. 14)
  1. True worship involves calling on God for his help (vs. 15)

 

1. True worship involves thanking God for what he has done (vs. 14)

After pointing out two aspects of false worship Asaph writes a kind of refrain that states what God wants from those who seek to worship him. I call this a refrain because the last verse, 22 uses the words, “Sacrifice thank offerings”. So in verse 14 we read,

“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High”.

Spurgeon aptly captures what Asaph is saying here,

“No longer look at your sacrifices as in themselves gifts pleasing to me, but present them as the tributes of your gratitude, it is then that I will accept them”.

When we worship God thinking of what we are doing for God we are in danger of practicing false worship. The right attitude is we should think of what God has done for us and simply seek to thank him. This is the worship of a person who truly believes they are save by faith alone and not by their good works. We often here Ephesians 2: 8 and 9 quoted to say, rightfully that we are saved by the grace of God through faith alone but we should also read verse 10 that puts good works in there rightful place,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

The essence of acceptable worship of God is giving him thanks for what he has done for us in Christ. This then is not an act of a nominal hypocrite but the act of heart felt thanks of a person truly connected to the living God who saves.

Spurgeon again aptly explains what the words, fulfill your vows to the Most High” mean in these words,

“Let the sacrifice be really presented to the God who sees the heart, pay to him the love you promised, the service you covenanted to render, the loyalty of heart you have vowed to maintain”.

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of offering a sacrifice of praise in this way in Hebrews 13: 15,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”.

2. True worship involves calling on God for his help (vs. 15)

This next point flows naturally out of the previous one. If we have faith in God that leads to thanking God for what he has done for us then we should be people who continually call on God to help us. This is what verse 15 says,

“And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me”.

When the chips are down, when we can turn to nobody else for help in this world, who do we turn to?

So often you read of people turning to God in dire situations, a saying that gained popularity after the First World War was,

“There are no atheists in the trenches”

I actually do not believe all men who faced the very real prospect of death in battle turned to God in desperate prayer for help but I do believe many would have. I was watching a TV show only last night about a famous near air crash where a flight attendant realizing the plane was going down said the only thing she could do was pray and she prayed very hard. However after the plain ended up safely landing she said she went over to the plain and thanked it for getting her down. The verse says,

“And honor me”

This woman might have turned to God in pray during the day or time of trouble but once she was helped through it her actions said she had more faith in the airplane than God. What she should have said once being saved would be something like, “I thank God for giving us such a good airplane and helping it to land safely when it looked like it was going to crash”.

Many people turn to God in times of difficulty but when the difficulty passes they go back to trusting in something else.

However this verse is a great comfort that when trouble comes God wants us to turn to him and his promise is,

“I will deliver you”

Jesus told us many times in the Gospels to turn to him in times of trouble as recorded in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I believe that if we are honest we all can say we have had times in our lives when we have become complacent and nominal in our lives as Christians. I found the last ten years or so of my full time working life a time when I suffered from this problem. I can now look back and see that God used trouble and difficulty in my work life to force me out of my complacency and nominalism to trust in him.

My work problems came to a head six years ago when I quite my job and decided to rely on God for support and help. I quickly found part time work that was so much more satisfying and in my newfound extra time I started my extensive study of the book of Psalms. Then new and exciting ministry opportunities started to open up to me like short- term mission trips to Myanmar (Burma).

Asaph must have seen many worshippers coming to the Temple who poured out their hearts to God in their days of trouble and he realized that this was part of the essence of true worship not the outward forms of sacrifices and liturgical prayers.

This raw and simple faith in God that Asaph witnessed must have inspired him to understand the kind of worship God wants from us. This raw and simple God centered faith is what Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 9,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

I said before not all soldiers facing death in battle turn to God but those who do find that even though this life is not free of conflict and pain God can be relied upon to pull us through even to heaven itself.

  1. THE OUTCOME OF FALSE AND TRUE WORSHIP (16 – 23)

At the start of this Psalm 50 Asaph in verse 4 he wrote,

“He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people”.

In this last section Asaph sets down God’s judgment outcomes for false worship but in the last verse he sets down God’s outcome for true worship.

Lets now look at:

  1. THE OUTCOME FOR FALSE WORSHIP (16 – 22)

I see two aspects of this outcome for false worship and they will form my two headings for this section.

  1. Speaking Gods law but not acting on it results in God’s rebuke (16 – 20)
  1. Forgetting God and living for yourself results in God’s judgment (21 -22)
  1. Speaking God’s law but not acting on it results in God’s rebuke (16 – 20)

At the start of this study I referred to a great revelation or coming of God on mount Sinai in Exodus 19. This great revelation of God on the mountain led to God giving Israel through Moses the law and that law is summed up in the Ten Commandments. I sense even in the earlier part of this Psalm, which we have just looked at that the Ten Commandments lay at the back of Asaph mind as he wrote this Psalm.

Let me explain, the first two commandments deal with Israel’s attitude to God,

Commandment 1: “You shall have no other God’s before me”.

Commandment 2: “You shall not make for yourself an idol”

In the first section we saw that the false worship God condemned was characterized by acts of worship that from the worshippers heart was not focused on him. The worshippers focus was on simply going through the motions of worship without real faith in God and also the worshippers focus was on what they were doing for God not on thanking him for what he had done for them.

The danger in their false worship was they were not putting God first and in fact were worshipping themselves instead. Paul in the early chapters of Romans makes it clear what sin is and how we all have fallen to it. He quotes scripture in chapter 2: 10 – 12 to say this,

 

 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Now in this third section of his Psalm Asaph makes it even clearer he has the Ten Commandments in mind in God’s condemnation of his people’s false worship of him.

In verse 16 he actually sites the fact that he witnessed people coming to the temple and reciting these Ten Commandments or laws of God,

“But to the wicked, God says; ‘what right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?”

The people mouthed the words of the law but speaking God’s law or even God’s word does not save us. In fact if we speak God’s law and fail to act upon it we are worse off than those who never even knew it in the first place. This is what Jesus had to say to the hypocritical religious leaders of his day in a passage like Matthew 15: 3 – 9,

“Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’and ‘anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”

 

So often through the history of the Christian Church we have seen how people mouthed the word of God but failed to act upon it creating a mass of false witness, which was inspired by the Devil himself. We have already seen how Paul warned Timothy of this in 2 Timothy chapters 3. Let me now give you a more detailed description of what Paul warned Timothy would come in these last days even in the church itself, 2 Timothy 3: 1 – 5,

 

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people”.

Many churches today, sadly reflect people Paul is speaking about here in 2 Timothy 3. Paul says we are to have nothing to do with such people. This means those who we join in ministry and worship with should be those who practice what they preach or live out the faith they proclaim.

Asaph now sets down with the Ten Commandments in mind how these false worshippers are not practicing what they say they believe.

These are the commandments they are breaking in the verses that follow:

Vs. 17 – Commandment 3 – Misuse of the Name of God

Vs. 18a – Commandment 8 – Stealing

Vs. 18b – Commandment 6 – Adultery

Vs. 19 and 20 – Commandment 9 – False testimony

Lets now take a closer look at each of these verses:

Vs. 17 – Commandment 3 – Misuse of the Name of God

So Asaph has stated that God says that many of the worshippers in the Temple were wicked because they recite God’s laws but as we will now see fail to live by them. The first outworking of this is how they really feel about God’s laws.

“You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you”

To take someone’s name in vain is to treat who he or she is and what he or she stands for with disrespect. If I use God’s name as a swear word I am saying by my actions I hate God and want to use my anger or insult as an opportunity to bring God’s name down like throwing the name of God in the cutter or sewer.

These false worshippers in the Temple who recited the laws of God yet hated them in their hearts showed this by casting God’s word behind them which is another way of saying they failed to live them out in their daily lives. Spurgeon writing at the end of the nineteenth century writes these words that could be aptly applied to many in the church today,

“It is an ill sign when a man dares not look a Scripture in the face, and an evidence of brazen impudence when he tries to make it mean something less condemnatory of his sins, and endeavors to prove it to be less sweeping in its demands”.

To cast God’s words behind us them can be seen in many guises. It is seen in the out and out hypocritical Christian to the subtle preaching of God’s word that really ignores what God is really saying and uses the bible as a bunch of proof texts to back up the false doctrine or ideas of the preacher. I have heard sermons in churches like this and they really distract from true worship taking place. Paul gives Timothy some very applicable advice here when he tells him in 2Timothy 4: 1 – 5,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

 Vs. 18a – Commandment 8 – Stealing

The first half of verse 18 is a direct reference to the eighth commandment, which of course speaks of stealing,

“When you see a thief, you join with him;”

This might not mean they are stealing themselves but some how joining in or condoning theft in its various forms. Spurgeon is again helpful here when he writes,

“Those who excuse others in trickery are guilty themselves; those who use others to do unjust actions for them are doubly so. If a man ever so religious, if his own actions do not rebuke dishonesty, he is an accomplice with thieves. If we can acquiesce in anything which is not upright, we are not upright ourselves, and our religion is a lie.”

I have often pondered the media in Australia who seek to bring down a political leader by what I call guilt by association. The newspaper speaks of a Politian hanging around with what they call “a well known racing identity” or straight out a known convicted criminal. This does not alarm me on face value as I hope our Politian’s associate with all people in society but if they are caught out condoning or worse being involved in some form of criminal activity then I am alarmed and disappointed.

Jesus was called to be a sinner because he was reported to hang out with sinners, as we see from a verse like Mark 2: 15 – 16,

“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus might often been in the company of sinners but he never condoned or joined in their sinning. In the next verse Jesus gives the answer to the misguided and evil words of the Pharisees he says, verse 17,

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The fact is Jesus was always in the company of sinners as all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God but at least many of the known, socially, sinners of Jesus day where able to admit they were sinners and in fact ended up seeking God’s forgiveness for there sins once in the presence of the giver of forgiveness Jesus Christ.

Asaph knew that many of the worshippers in the Temple and those who lived throughout the land of Israel in his time where involved in activities that could be called theft either by direct or indirect illegal activities.

Later in Israel’s history many prophets pinpointed the same problem in their day in Israel. Listen to The prophet Amos who speaks of the less obvious practices of theft by people of his day in Amos 8: 4 – 7,

“Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land,

Saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”—
Skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.

The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done”.

All that Amos identifies is forms of wealthy business people exploiting the poor and finding loop holds to squeeze bigger profits from the less fortunate of the society of his day.

Theft in whatever form it appears in is wrong and condoning or doing nothing about it is just as wrong and will be accounted for in the coming judgment of God.

Vs. 18b – Commandment 6 – Adultery

The second half of verse 18 pinpoints the sixth commandment, which says,

“You shall not commit adultery”

Verse 18b reads,

“You throw your lot with adulterers”

There is no doubt that adultery begins with the breaking of another commandment, namely number 10,

“You shall not covert”

The commandment speaks of another man’s wife and so adultery is having sexual relations with someone other than your wife. This commandment seems sometimes to be very much an old fashion idea. However men and women who have been caught out in adultery today still cause great pain and difficulty in the lives of their cheated partners. It seems the rule today is adultery is right if you can get away with it.

Note how the verse suggests that the guilty person might not have been actually committing adultery himself or herself but rather it reads,

“You throw your lot with adulterers”

If we condone adultery in others we are actually saying it is OK and this, in God’s sight is just as bad as committing adultery. Of course as Christians we must recognise that God can forgive any sin and adultery is simply just another form of sin in the lives of men and women. I say this because I have noticed that some Christians can bring themselves to believe that God can forgive certain types of sins but sins like adultery seem to them by their actions towards a repentant adulterer as unforgivable.

We must always remember that we are all fallen sinful people and but by the grace of God go I. Forgiving a repentant adulterer is not the same as throwing our lot in with adulterers.

In fact it is the opposite as it is recognising the serious nature of a sin and seeking to see the person who has committed it turning to Christ for forgiveness, repenting of it and seeking help to stop that dangerous behaviour.

As Paul advises in Ephesians 4: 32,

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”.

Vs. 19 and 20 – Commandment 9 – False testimony

Both verse 19 and 20 pick up the breaking of the ninth commandment which is,

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour”

Verses 19 and 20 reads,

“You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son”.

This picks up what I have called in other Psalm Talks, “Sins of the Tongue” and a much more involved treatment of this can be found in my Psalm talk on Psalm 39. Interestingly we read in verse 16 that these people Asaph is speaking against used their tongues in the Temple worship to “recite God’s laws” and “take God’s covenant on their lips” and now they are using those same tongues and lips to speak evil and deceit to others.

This reveals the insidious nature of sinful men and women and is exactly what James picks up in James 3: 9,

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness”.

The misuse of the tongue even infiltrates family life when people are caught up in wickedness and sin. We all have heard of families in conflict and how people who we love or should love say horrible hurtful things. It is not the people we don’t know who do the majority of murders in most cultures but often it is done by a fellow family member and this often comes from years of slanderous verbal abuse.

The nightly T.V news tells me over and over again that people in our world need to know the Good News of God’s forgiveness in Christ. Paul speaks of how the Gospel message is the answer to all our broken relationships in this dark world in Colossians 1: 13 – 14,

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”.

  1. Forgetting God and living for yourself results in God’s judgment (21 – 22)

Asaph brings to a conclusion what he believed God was saying to those who were involved in false worship in verses 21 and 22 and starts this with these words in verse 21.

“These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you But I rebuke you and accuse you to your face”.

Even in criminal activity today people think that because they are getting away with something they are safe. The people of Asaph day had a false sense of security. The life they lived seemed to be Ok; in there minds as God seemed to be have been silent about the double life they were living. In fact Leupold points out the verse is actually saying,

“Men suppose God’s silence means he is indifferent to the issues of right and wrong”

Even today people live there lives as though they are accountable to know one and when we as Christians suggest by the way we live or what we say about God that there is a God they are accountable to they find all kinds of ways of saying God is dead or doesn’t exist. To admit there is a God is to acknowledge there is someone higher than humanity to be accounted to.

Peter explained God appearing to be silent and not coming in judgment yet this way in 2 Peter 3: 9

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

Verse 21 also seems to suggest that these wicked people had reduced God down to being not much different than themselves, with the words,

You thought I was altogether like you”.

We see this idea even today both in the Church and outside it. People see God as not much different than they are. This is evident when people speak of how they think God should act or be like. Sometimes I get the impression that some people think God is no more than a heavenly Santa Clause and a God who is just there to help them out from time to time when they face problems in life.

But God is not like us as Numbers 23: 19 says,

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

 In some ways we are like God as we are told in Genesis 1: 26 – 27,

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”.

 However even though there is something of God in us all the God of the bible is revealed over and over again as not being like us.

Besides the fact that God is spirit and we are body and spirit and God is eternal, all-powerful, holy etc. Paul tells us this in Romans 8: 6 – 8,

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God’s love is far greater than our love and that love led God to actually send his only son to become like us. He became both body and spirit by becoming a man so that he could rescue us from the sin that separates from God.

The final part of verse 21 simply says,

“But I rebuke you and accuse you to your face”.

Asaph was in his day a prophet who was God’s mouthpiece who could speak the rebuke of God in the very faces of these wicked people. Spurgeon suggests that this is a prediction of the coming judgment of God on all mankind and he writes,

“At last I will break silence and let them know my mind. And set them in order before my eyes. I will marshal your sins in battle array. I will make you see them. I will put them down item-by-item, classified and arranged. You shall know that if silent awhile, I was never blind or deaf, I will make you perceive what you have tried to deny. I will leave the seat of mercy for the throne of judgment”.

The earlier verses in 2 Peter 3 speak of this final judgment and the complacency of wicked men living as though there is no God and no Judgment coming in verses 3 – 7,

“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly”.

Verse 22 contains God’s final declaration through Asaph of God’s Judgment on the wicked hypocrites of his day,

“Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue”.

I believe the words,

“you who forget God”

Is speaking not just to the wicked hypocrites of Asaph day but everyone who does not put God first in their lives. To forget God is the basis of all sin and Paul speaks of this in another way in Romans 1: 18 – 23,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”.

Paul is saying among other things, that to forget God is ignore God and replace him with something or someone else. Today most people replace God in their lives with themselves, they are number one and the entire universe, they think revolves around them.

What is the fate of those who forget God?

Verse 22 simply says,

“I will tear you to pieces, with no rescue”

This is a vivid poetic picture of the final judgment. It is a picture that says that if you fall into God’s hands, as an unforgiven sinner God will devour you. The writer to the Hebrew’s says in Hebrews 10: 31,

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

The book of Revelation speaks of the final judgment as being like thrown into a lake of fire where there is eternal punishment, Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

Once that day comes there will be no more opportunity for rescue from that terrible fate of being found in the presence of the living Holy God a sinner with no where to go but into the fires of hell itself.

2. THE OUTCOME FOR TRUE WORSHIP (23)

Fortunately Asaph does not finish his Psalm on worship matters at verse 22, which is a terrifying picture of hopelessness.

He finishes his Psalm with a word of great hope but it is for only those who have choose to worship God in a way that is acceptable to him. The verse says,

“He who sacrifices thank offerings honours me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God”.

Heere Asaph returns to a kind of refrain because the second section after the introduction finishes with similar words in verse 14,

“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High”.

There were many sacrificial offerings an Old Testament Jew could make why does Asaph pinpoint the thank offering as the one that God accepts as true worship?

I suggested, when commenting on verse 14 that the thank offering should represent an attitude of not what I have done for God but what God has done for me.

Leopold says,

“When a man can thank and praise God he has learned the lesson as to what true worship is.”

Paul makes it clear in Romans 12: 1 what he believes is the essence of true worship. He uses the word, “therefore” to start this verse which means with all that I have said so far about how we are saved, renewed and given hope by the work of Christ for us then do this. The verse reads,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

Paul wants us to live a life of praise and thanks which he sees in the next verse as the opposite way of living that the world around us lives, Romans 12: 2,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.

I said at the start of my comments of verse 23 that Asaph finished his Psalm on worship matters with a great word of hope. These words are found in the final words of the Psalm that read,

“And he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God”

The writer to the Hebrews presents throughout his book that Jesus is our great High priest who has made a way back to God for us he says in Hebrews 6: 19 – 20,

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”.

In chapter 12: 2 – 3 he calls us to,

“Fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So Jesus has prepared our way of salvation for us through the cross. Derek Kidner concludes his words on this Psalm in his commentary with this,

“The giving – the salvation – is his (God’s) side; ours is to receive it with the delighted thanks and obedience it deserves”.

Asaph wants his people who he met in the worship of the Temple to worship God with thanks and obedience so that they can all know God’s salvation from his final judgment to come. We cannot save ourselves God has to do it for us through Christ.

This is a good summary of the main message of the whole bible and it is a message that God wants us to not only trust and believe in but take to the whole world.

I close as usual with a poem and a prayer.

WHEN CHRIST COMES AGAIN

 Mighty is our God the Lord

Who speaks and calls to all.

To be gathered before him

When he shines we fall.

Like a fire and raging storm

God comes in glorious form

To Judge all his people then

When Christ comes again.

 

Hear God as he speaks to you

Seek now to worship him.

He will not refuse your gifts

That you bring to him.

But he does not need a thing

He’s the Lord of everything.

He has the right to judge all men

When Christ comes again.

 

Come to God in humility

Yes worship him with praise.

Thank him for what he has done

Yes thank him all your days.

Call to God in times of need

He will help and lead.

Saving us from judgment then

When Christ comes again.

 

But the wicked God will judge

Who dare to speak his word.

Never trusting in the Lord

Their lives reveal they’ve erred.

They use their tongues to bring God down

So they can wear the crown.

God will judge these wicked men

When Christ comes again.

 

Come to God and trust in him

Yes Christ died for you.

Honor God with a life of praise

And God will carry you through.

Jesus went ahead of us

In his way we must trust.

Saving us from judgment then

When Christ comes again.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven we know that everything we have comes from you and that we can do nothing to save ourselves. We hank you thank you for saving us from the punishment of sin through the sacrifice of your Son on the cross. Help us to show you that we love you by the way we live our lives to praise and honor you, which is the essence of true worship. In Jesus Name we pray Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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