God Shines Forth
Psalm 50 begins in such a way as to make it difficult to deny the language of Prophetic Apocalypse contained therein. However, later in the psalm, we come to a section in which it seems the apocalypse is simply not there. I believe the psalm does not change gears halfway through. If we examine each section we see that they function together to give us a picture of God revealing Himself to His people and to the wicked at some future point in time. There are three main sections:
(1) ~ God comes, shines forth, and summons the entire earth, 1-6.
(2) ~ God addresses those who are His people, 7-15.
(3) ~ God addresses the wicked, 16-23.
There are more divisions than that within the poetry, but overall those are the three main sections.
1 A Psalm of Asaph.
The Mighty One, God the Lord,
Has spoken and called the earth
From the rising of the sun to its going down.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God will shine forth.
Verses 1-2 compose the first section in the poetry. It starts off with God, God, and more God. The Mighty One, God, the LORD speaks and summons the earth. It is later revealed in verse 4 that God is summoning the people of the land and this verse paints the all encompassing nature of that supernatural summons. In this first section, we see the intent of the entire psalm. God shines forth. Then the poetry will go back and describe how we are going to get to that place of God shining forth. Hebrew poetry does not rhyme sounds; it rhymes thoughts. Note the place where God shines forth from: Zion, the perfection of beauty. I will revisit this at the end.
3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent;
A fire shall devour before Him,
And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.
4 He shall call to the heavens from above,
And to the earth, that He may judge His people:
5 "Gather My saints together to Me,
Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice."
6 Let the heavens declare His righteousness,
For God Himself is Judge. Selah
Verses 3-6 show us what must happen before God will shine forth; He must come. He won’t come quietly either. A devouring fire goes before Him. A mighty tempest surrounds Him. As He comes in power and glory, He calls to heaven and to earth. He summons the people of the earth in order that He may judge His people, His faithful ones, those who are in a covenant relationship with Him.
Some may say that this is figurative language to be interpreted allegorically. I disagree. When God became flesh, it brought out the literal nature of passages just like this. God will come literally, because God has a literal body. Remember that in Jesus dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily. God will descend from heaven to earth because Jesus is God and has promised to return from heaven to earth. So here is Jesus coming with destruction, fire, and tempest. He summons those who are His to Himself that He may judge them.
7 "Hear, O My people, and I will speak,
O Israel, and I will testify against you;
I am God, your God!
8 I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices
Or your burnt offerings,
Which are continually before Me.
9 I will not take a bull from your house,
Nor goats out of your folds.
10 For every beast of the forest is Mine,
And the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the mountains,
And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.
Verses 7-11 compose the first section of God’s address to the righteous. Even though these are His people, He is reproving them. His people here are identified as Israel. They have obviously been sacrificing animals to Him. God is not rebuking them for the continual sacrifices. In verse 9 I follow KJV, NKJV, and NASV with the word “take” and not ESV with the word “accept”. God will not take the animals from them because they are already His. So I don’t believe the verse is saying that God will not accept the sacrifices, especially since He just stated He will not rebuke them for the sacrifices.
How are we to take these verses in light of the second coming of the Messiah? We could spiritualize it and say that this refers to the church and our spiritual sacrifices of church ministry. The language seems too specific. My personal theology will come through here. The nation of Israel was not replaced by the church, but Gentiles were allowed to be included within the believing remnant of Israelites who repented at the coming of the Messiah. So God still recognizes Israel as a people with Gentiles trusting in Him as well. When God (Jesus) comes, He will summon those within Israel to Himself who truly belong to Him. At the time of His coming, Israelites will have been sacrificing to Him. God does not reprove these Israelites for their sacrifices to Him. What exactly is God rebuking them for?
12 "If I were hungry, I would not tell you;
For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.
13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls,
Or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God thanksgiving,
And pay your vows to the Most High.
15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."
Verses 12-15 continue the discourse to the faithful ones. If God had needs, He wouldn’t tell us about them. If God had a need for Kentucky Fried Chicken, He would not say anything about it to us. Sacrifice to God is not for His benefit. He is sufficient with or without our sacrifice. The rebuke seems to be in the form of admonishing them to do what is right from here on out. Make thanksgiving your sacrifice to God. Perform your vows to God. Call upon Him in the day of trouble, or should we say, this day of trouble. Remember God (Jesus) has just come with destruction, fire, and tempest. Do these things and God will deliver/save you from the destruction that is going on all around you right now at Messiah’s coming. This is the remnant of believing Israelites at the time of Messiah’s glorious appearing. As this remnant calls upon the name of the LORD, He saves them and they bring glory to God.
Joel 2:32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.
This application of this passage is a direct parallel with Joel 2:28-32. The setting there is the Day of the LORD, the cosmic signs, the repentance of Israel, and the coming of the Messiah. Verse 32 contains the phrase. “Whoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be delivered.” It is this verse that the Apostle Paul quotes in Romans 10:13 showing salvation for all who call upon His name. Some other excerpts from Joel 2:32 are, “In Mount Zion… shall be deliverance… in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” This fits the passage we are currently dealing with in Psalm 50. We have a godly Israelite remnant upon Mount Zion which has been offering sacrifices. Messiah comes and summons this remnant to Himself. He tells them to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, fulfill their vows, and call upon His name for deliverance in this day of trouble. As with Psalm 46, I see the 144,000 as fulfilling this role.
16 But to the wicked God says:
"What right have you to declare My statutes,
Or take My covenant in your mouth,
17 Seeing you hate instruction
And cast My words behind you?
18 When you saw a thief, you consented with him,
And have been a partaker with adulterers.
Verses 16-18 begin the discourse to the wicked. Perhaps they don’t appear wicked to others here on earth, but God knows the heart. They have been affirming the covenant of God with their mouth. God calls into question their right to take that covenant upon their lips. He compares their words with their actions. God cites their actions one by one demonstrating how they do not match up with their verbal assent to God’s covenant. They hate discipline by ignoring God’s Word instead of having it in front of them. They keep company with thieves and the sexually immoral.
While the first application is to the unbelieving Israelites at Messiah’s return, I believe these words apply to the church as we know it today as well. When the door was opened to extend salvation to the Gentiles, Israel was not replaced, but expanded. The field of Matthew 13:24-30 originally referred to Israel, but when Gentiles were brought into the fold, the field was expanded to be the church. So when God questions the loyalty of the wicked to the covenant, we need not ask if it is to the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, or the New Covenant. This is speaking of the covenant plan of God as a whole. So Israelites who believe that the land of Israel is theirs but do not follow God are included here. Gentiles who believe they are “Christians” but do not follow Christ are in this same situation. The common denominator is empty words about God and no faith in the God of the covenant.
19 You give your mouth to evil,
And your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
You slander your own mother’s son.
21 These things you have done, and I kept silent;
You thought that I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you,
And set them in order before your eyes.
Verses 19-21 continue God’s verbal assault on those who have been play acting with God. Here the use of the tongue is brought to the forefront. Using evil language, lying, and simply speaking against another person are all actions that prove these people to be wicked. God points out that these actions have been repeated many times over and He has kept silent. The contrast is that now God is not keeping silent about these evil deeds. He has come with authority, He has gathered, and He is pronouncing judgement. God (Jesus) corrects their bad theology about Himself. You thought I was like you, but I’m not. So now I rebuke you as I raise these criminal charges against you.
It does not state here exactly how the wicked will be dealt with. It is obvious they are guilty and will be sentenced for their crimes against God. In my PreMillennial theology, I see the Messiah coming in power and glory to establish His kingdom. He gathers the faithful remnant to Himself, those who have made a covenant with Him by the sacrifice of the Messiah. The wicked are pronounced guilty and may be put to physical death upon the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. Ultimate sentencing will be held in abeyance until the great white throne judgement which is after the Millennial Kingdom.
22 "Now consider this, you who forget God,
Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:
23 Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God."
Verses 22-23 close the psalm with a sharp warning contrasting the two ways. Those who forget about God will be torn in pieces, but those who offer thanksgiving as their sacrifice glorify God and He will show the way of salvation to them. As in the earlier verses, this shows the need to go beyond the physical sacrifices to the spiritual sacrifices of a broken heart, thanksgiving, and praise. Again, there is no direct prohibition from God against the Israelites for offering animal sacrifices when He comes in power and glory. But those who have simply been going through the motions of the rituals without a new heart will find themselves in the category of the wicked at His coming.
In summary, I see this psalm as applying to the state of Israel at the return of the Messiah. Jesus Christ will come with a fire devouring before Him. The nation of Israel will be in a state where animal sacrifices have been reinstated. Many in the nation of Israel belong to the LORD and are considered the faithful ones who have made a covenant with Him by sacrifice. God will deliver this faithful remnant in that day of trouble as they call upon His name. There are also many wicked who have been hypocrites about God’s covenant. They are judged by God and found to be guilty. Those who are delivered will glorify God as He comes to shine forth. This is how the LORD will shine forth out of Zion. This is how Zion will become the perfection of beauty. God will only allow those who are His to remain. Through this coming, gathering, and judgement, God’s covenant plan moves forward into the Messianic Kingdom. Here is the New Jerusalem. It is the establishment of Zion, the Jerusalem from above, the heavenly Jerusalem; all being established here on earth.
The Gentile church also will be purged from those who play act at being Christians. We must remember that believing Israelites are the core of the church. There is no way to completely separate Israel from the church, although some distinctions can be made. When Gentile believers are gathered, there is a separation there as well. The New Testament scriptures will later reveal these very truths and build on this foundation. We must remember at which point in the chronology each truth is revealed. The way I see the psalms, they stand as revelation under the Davidic Covenant. They illustrate, for the most part, the coming of the Davidic King who will be the Messiah. It is clearly revealed that this Messiah would be God in the flesh. So while the text states that God shines forth, I also believe we can see that Messiah shines forth. Remember that the New Covenant is built upon the foundation of the Davidic Covenant and not the other way around.
For a study in the New Testament, see how closely the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus resembled the language here in this psalm. See Luke 3:1-18, 12:35-59, 13:1-9, 13:18-35.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman