Psalm 50: “God Judges His People”
In Psalm 50, God indicts his people for their legalism, and calls them to repentance and renewed worship. In this psalm, God presents his case against his people. It is not that his people have failed to do what God has asked them to do in worship, but that they have failed to worship them in the manner in which he calls them to worship him. God’s charge against Israel is not that they have worshiped other gods beside him (First Commandment), or that they have made for themselves graven images (Second Commandment), but that they have worshiped him in a light, flippant, insincere manner—that is, that they have taken his name as a vain thing (Third Commandment). This text confronts us each and every time we gather for worship, in addition to serving as a preview of the judgment on the last day. In worship, God judges his people.
1. In what ways does the introduction of this psalm (vv. 1–6) present God as a mighty King? In what ways does this introduction present God as a righteous Judge? How does this portrayal of God align with common understandings of God in the church and in the wider culture? How does this portrayal of God align with how you typically think about him? What about this is surprising to you, and why?
2. Whom is God summoning before his royal tribunal? What do all the possessive pronouns suggest about God’s relationship to his people? How does this psalm draw you into role of defendant as God comes to judge? What does God acknowledge that the people are doing well? Why does God nevertheless condemn those efforts? How does legalism look for loopholes in worship? Where do you catch yourself falling short of what God has demanded of you in worship?
3. How does legalism lead to loose living? What sorts of sins have God’s covenant people drifted into, after having thoroughly excused their legalistic, formalistic religion? Where do you see these sins in your own life? Do you recognize a connection between legalistic worship and loose living in your own life? In what ways have you thought that God was silent, or just like you (v. 21)? Has God really been silent all this time?
4. What does it mean to “offer thanksgiving as [a] sacrifice” (v. 23a)? How does this glorify God in a way that all the other sacrifices the Israelites were offering did not? What does it mean to “order [your] way rightly” (v. 23b)? How does this drive us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ? How ought we to seek Christ in prayer, and to honor him with our praises? How is Jesus Christ alone the way to eternal life?