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Deeper Commentary

Psa 50:1 A Psalm by Asaph- Although all of Psalms 1-72 were by David (Ps. 72:20), it seems they were rewritten and edited, under inspiration, for use in later contexts. This "Asaph" could be the Asaph of Hezekiah's time (Is. 36:3) who used the Psalms in the context of the events of the Assyrian invasion. The Asaph Psalms all have parts in them relevant to that context (Ps. 50, 73-83). Or the "Asaph" may have been the singers who were relatives of Asaph, prominent at the restoration (Neh. 7:44; 11:17,22). It could mean that the psalms were a part of a collection from the Asaphites, and the name "Asaph" was therefore simply used to identify the temple singers. And again, parts of the Asaph psalms also have relevance to the restoration. But Asaph was the "chief" of the Levites to whom David assigned the ministry of praise before the ark (1 Chron. 16:4,5). It seems he did compose his own Psalms, which were used by Hezekiah at his time (2 Chron. 29:30). So I would again suggest that all the Asaph Psalms were composed originally by David "for" [not necessarily "by"] Asaph, but were rewritten and edited for later occasions.

However there is a clear linkage between Psalms 50 and 51. The language about God not wanting sacrifice is clearly related (Ps. 50:8 = Ps. 51:16,17). The Psalm is a threat of judgment upon God's people, but clearly it is relevant to David. There is a structural connection between the Psalms:


A 50:1–6 About sacrifice and Zion

B 50:7–15 Deliverance and sacrifice

C 50:16–21 The rebuke

D 50:22–23 The call to repent given judgment to come

E 51:1 The appearance of Nathan to condemn David

 D 51:1–2 An appeal to God's grace

C 51:3–9 Confession

B 51:10–17 About sacrifice and deliverance

 A 51:18–19 About sacrifice and Zion.

The Mighty One, God, Yahweh, speaks, and calls the earth from sunrise to sunset-
The chapter is about judgment; God "speaks and summons the earth" (ESV) from east to west. The call or summons is to judge His people from wherever they are (:4). And they need to prepare for that judgment and act appropriately.

Psa 50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth-
The implication is that the judgment happens at Zion, the place of God's throne, when His glory will visibly shine forth from it.

Psa 50:3 Our God comes, and does not keep silent. A fire devours before Him, it is very stormy around Him-
The Psalmists often complain that God 'keeps silent'. But finally He will "come", with all the fire and wind associated with His previous theophanies.

Psa 50:4 He calls to the heavens above, to the earth, that He may judge His people-
The call to judgment is for those who are responsible to God, Israel "His people" (:5). The calling to heavens and earth may refer to how His judgments of His people affect both those in the ruling classes ("heavens") as well as the ordinary people ("earth"). This is exactly the language of Is. 1:2, where the heavens and earth of Judah are called to judgment.

Psa 50:5 Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice-
"Saints" doesn't have to imply 'holy ones' in the sense of righteous ones; it is simply the title for God's separated out people, Israel (Ex. 19:6; Ps. 79:2; 85:8). And there is much negative to say about them in :7-15. They are perhaps "saints" only in that God has imputed righteousness to them. The old covenant appears to be the covenant in view, for that was dependent upon Israel's offering of sacrifice for inauguration (Ex. 24:3-8; Heb. 9:18). The new covenant, based upon the promises to Abraham, was a promise of salvation by God's unilateral grace; it didn't require sacrifice by Abraham for it to come into effect. The offering of the Lord's body was to confirm that covenant, to commend it to us; it was not of itself required for the covenant of grace to be made with Abraham.

Psa 50:6 The heavens shall declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge. Selah-
There could be no doubt that the judgment of Israel was just / righteousness; the whole heaven and earth declare that God is a just judge.


Psa 50:7 Hear, My people, and I will speak; Israel, and I will testify against you. I am God, your God-
This appeal to "My people" appears in contrast to the address to the "wicked" in :16. But the condemnation of "the wicked" in :16-23 is appropriate to those who are within Israel and responsible to God. So it could be that the section from :7-15 is addressed to the weak but potentially spiritual within God's people, His true Israel; whereas :16-23 is to those in Israel who had totally turned away from Yahweh.


Psa 50:8 I don’t rebuke you for your sacrifices. Your burnt offerings are continually before Me-
Although this is a Psalm of Asaph (:1), it may well have been a rewrite of one of David's psalms. The allusion is to how after his sin with Bathsheba, David perceived that God didn't require bulls and goats, but rather the sacrifice of  contrite heart (Ps. 51:16,17). See on :1. David had been open to Nathan's "rebuke" (s.w. Ps. 6:1; 38:1; 141:5), which was not given in God's anger so much as in His appeal for David to accept His grace.

Psa 50:9 I have no need for a bull from your stall, nor male goats from your pens-
This connects with the teaching in the following Psalm, that God didn't require sacrifice from David for his sins, but rather a broken and humbled heart (Ps. 51:16,17). It would seem therefore that this Psalm originated with David, although it may have been edited subsequently. This was comfort for the exiles, who would have been unable to offer sacrifice away from the temple. God didn't want sacrifice, essentially. But rather trust in His ability to forgive and restore, after the pattern of David's experience.


Psa 50:10 For every animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills-
God apparently is not a fan of 'sacrifice' because humans inevitably think that they are giving God something; it suggests that man owns things which God doesn't. David therefore says that all the sacrifices and gifts for the temple were in fact only giving God what He had already given to the 'donors' (1 Chron. 29:16); thus all apparent generosity to God is only a giving back to Him of what He already knows.

Psa 50:11 I know all the birds of the mountains. The wild animals of the field are Mine-
God not only owns the wild birds, but knows them. Wild animals are typically used as representative of Israel's enemies; and these too are known and owned by Him.

Psa 50:12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all that is in it-
The fact that "the earth is the Lord's" is used to highlight the wonder of the fact that therefore how much moreso do His people belong to Him, and are cared for by Him with such sensitivity (Ex. 19:5; Dt. 10:14; Ps. 50:12; 89:11). Just as the eretz / earth / land promised to Abraham is Yahweh's, so is in fact the entire planet (Ps. 24:1), and His purpose was perceived by David as incorporating the entire planet and not just Israel. The argument here continues that God is not "hungry" for ritualistic obedience, but for His people to be spiritually minded, praising Him and trusting in Him (:14,15). The Father's hunger was reflected in the hunger of His Son for fruit on the fig tree (Mt. 21:18). Even if it were immature fruit, His hunger was such that He would have accepted it. But instead He found only leaves, the appearance of spiritual fruit, but no reality.

Psa 50:13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?-
As explained on :12, the Father's hunger is not for flesh and blood, but for spirituality. Such flesh and blood was indeed offered to God but He found it an irritation, for it was not a reflection of spirituality (Is. 65:5; Am. 4:4 and often in the prophets). God was not a pagan deity, placated by flesh and blood.

Psa 50:14 Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, pay your vows to the Most High-
Heartfelt praise was what God hungered for (:12), not ritualistic sacrifice. To this day, He is thrilled by from the heart thanksgiving, and actions of gratitude for what He has done ["pay your vows"].

Psa 50:15 Call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour Me-
The intention of David's Psalms were to share his experience of God's grace and salvation with others. It was David who had been answered in his 'days of trouble', and set on high (Ps. 20:1). His desire was fulfilled- for this verse of the Psalm clearly was reapplied to the "day of trouble" of the Assyrian invasion (s.w. Is. 37:3) and also to the Babylonian traumas of the exiles (s.w. Jer. 16:19; 30:7; Nah. 1:7; Hab. 3:16). See on Ex. 25:8. God didn't want sacrifice as much as He wanted faith in His promise of deliverance.

Psa 50:16 But to the wicked God says, What right do you have to declare My statutes and to have taken My covenant on your lips-
The appeal to "My people" in :7-15 appears in contrast to this address to the "wicked" in :16. But the condemnation of "the wicked" in :16-23 is appropriate to those who are within Israel and responsible to God, having taken His covenant onto their lips. So it could be that the section from :7-15 is addressed to the weak but potentially spiritual within God's people, His true Israel; whereas :16-23 is to those in Israel who had totally turned away from Yahweh.

Psa 50:17 since you hate instruction-
Solomon later accuses any who refuse his Proverbs of doing just this, hating instruction, which here in Ps. 50:17 means 'You are condemned' (s.w. Prov. 5:12; 12:1; 15:10).

And throw My words behind you?- Nobody would have said they did that to God's words. But here we have an example of where God interprets human attitudes for what they are in practice. But we must sound a caveat- we can too quickly say that 'Because you said A, therefore, that means B'. And often we are wrong. But God has the right and ability to judge in this way.

Psa 50:18 When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have participated with adulterers-
This is not to teach guilt by association; for the Lord ate with sinners in order to bring them to Himself. But 'consenting with' a thief is paralleled with committing the same sin as adulterers. The idea is that by mixing with such company, what begins with consenting to their behaviour leads men to actually commit the sins of those they consort and consent with. "Consent" is the word for approval, delighting in, agreement with (s.w. Ps. 49:13). We may begin by vicariously approving the behaviour of sinners and mixing with them, and this will lead us into committing their sins. Perhaps the parallel between theft and adultery is because adultery is a form of theft.

Psa 50:19 You give your mouth to evil, your tongue frames deceit-
This is an example of how the final judgment will involve God giving people flashbacks from their lives (see on :21). But the present tense is used, because they were impenitent, and therefore in essence continue in those positions right up to judgment day.

Psa 50:20 You sit and speak against your brother, you slander your own mother’s son-
This example of a flashback at the day of judgment (see on :21) involves the virtual photograph of a man sitting and speaking slander against his brother. The body language and circumstance is recorded. On Ps. 51:5 I suggest that this may in fact be a rebuke of David having slandered his own brother.

Psa 50:21 You have done these things, and I kept silent. You thought that I was just like you. I will rebuke you, and accuse you in front of your eyes-
I suggested on :1 and Ps. 51:5 that Psalm 50 is judgment directed at David. This verse would therefore in that context speak to God's apparent silence after David's sin, and then rebuking and accusing him through Nathan. 

In a more general sense, the day of judgment will be a face to face meeting between God and man, with flashbacks of human life provided to those who are to be condemned. We tend to see ourselves as little sinners, just a fraction over the line, we come to the end of the day with no real sense of having offended God, no sense of how deeply sin and indifference hurts Him. Perhaps we see God as altogether too human, like us not very shocked at habitual sin, comfortably numb to the fact that sinful thoughts really are as bad as the action. God's words to Israel are so relevant to us, living in a world where sin means nothing, and where God never openly intervenes in judgment. And it can be that we also lack the faith, or perhaps the concentration and reflection, to meditate on the actual reality of sin forgiven that we have experienced in Christ. Our temptation is to think that God sees things as we see them, to think that God is merely an ideal human being. But the day of judgment will reveal otherwise (Ps. 50:21). He is God, not man. It is not for us to set the terms. As the Lord taught in His parable of the approaching army, it's either total, abject surrender before the King of Heaven, accepting whatever terms He asks, or a foolhardy attempt to meet Him in head on confrontation (Lk. 14:31). Those who challenge the harder side of God are often called 'brave'; but their 'bravery' is foolhardy rebellion against the sovereign Almighty.


Psa 50:22 Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you into pieces, and there be none to deliver-
The deliverer was God (:15). But He would not do this if they forgot Him. The threat of tearing to pieces uses a term especially relevant to lions (Ps. 17:12; 22:13), a symbol of Judah's later enemies (Jer. 5:6 s.w.), who would be used by God to inflict such tearing into pieces (Hos. 5:14; 6:1 s.w.).

Psa 50:23 Whoever offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifies Me, and prepares his way so that I will show God’s salvation to him
- God is not practicing universal salvation. His salvation, Yehoshua, Jesus, is to those who prepare their way to desire it. Heartfelt praise was what God hungered for (:12), not ritualistic sacrifice. To this day, He is thrilled by from the heart thanksgiving, and actions of gratitude for what He has done ["pay your vows", :14].