The glory of God. (1-6) Sacrifices to be changed for prayers. (7-15) Sincere obedience required. (16-23)
Verses 1-6 This psalm is a psalm of instruction. It tells of the coming of Christ and the day of judgment, in which God will call men to account; and the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of judgement. All the children of men are concerned to know the right way of worshipping the Lord, in spirit and in truth. In the great day, our God shall come, and make those hear his judgement who would not hearken to his law. Happy are those who come into the covenant of grace, by faith in the Redeemer's atoning sacrifice, and show the sincerity of their love by fruits of righteousness. When God rejects the services of those who rest in outside performances, he will graciously accept those who seek him aright. It is only by sacrifice, by Christ, the great Sacrifice, from whom the sacrifices of the law derived what value they had, that we can be accepted of God. True and righteous are his judgments; even sinners' own consciences will be forced to acknowledge the righteousness of God.
Verses 7-15 To obey is better than sacrifice, and to love God and our neighbour better than all burnt-offerings. We are here warned not to rest in these performances. And let us beware of resting in any form. God demands the heart, and how can human inventions please him, when repentance, faith, and holiness are neglected? In the day of distress we must apply to the Lord by fervent prayer. Our troubles, though we see them coming from God's hand, must drive us to him, not drive us from him. We must acknowledge him in all our ways, depend upon his wisdom, power, and goodness, and refer ourselves wholly to him, and so give him glory. Thus must we keep up communion with God; meeting him with prayers under trials, and with praises in deliverances. A believing supplicant shall not only be graciously answered as to his petition, and so have cause for praising God, but shall also have grace to praise him.
Verses 16-23 Hypocrisy is wickedness, which God will judge. And it is too common, for those who declare the Lord's statutes to others, to live in disobedience to them themselves. This delusion arises from the abuse of God's long-suffering, and a wilful mistake of his character and the intention of his gospel. The sins of sinners will be fully proved on them in the judgment of the great day. The day is coming when God will set their sins in order, sins of childhood and youth, of riper age and old age, to their everlasting shame and terror. Let those hitherto forgetful of God, given up to wickedness, or in any way negligent of salvation, consider their urgent danger. The patience of the Lord is very great. It is the more wonderful, because sinners make such ill use of it; but if they turn not, they shall be made to see their error when it is too late. Those that forget God, forget themselves; and it will never be right with them till they consider. Man's chief end is to glorify God: whoso offers praise, glorifies him, and his spiritual sacrifices shall be accepted. We must praise God, sacrifice praise, put it into the hands of the Priest, our Lord Jesus, who is also the altar: we must be fervent in spirit, praising the Lord. Let us thankfully accept God's mercy, and endeavour to glorify him in word and deed.
Psalms 50:1-23 . In the grandeur and solemnity of a divine judgment, God is introduced as instructing men in the nature of true worship, exposing hypocrisy, warning the wicked, and encouraging the pious.
1-4. The description of this majestic appearance of God resembles that of His giving the law (compare Exodus 19:16 , 20:18 , Deuteronomy 32:1 ).
4. above--literally, "above" ( Genesis 1:7 ).
heavens . . . earth--For all creatures are witnesses ( Deuteronomy 4:26 , 30:19 , Isaiah 1:2 ).
5. my saints--( Psalms 4:3 ).
a covenant, &c.--alluding to the dividing of a victim of sacrifice, by which covenants were ratified, the parties passing between the divided portions (compare Genesis 15:10 Genesis 15:18 ).
6. The inhabitants of heaven, who well know God's character, attest His righteousness as a judge.
7. I will testify--that is, for failure to worship aught.
thy God--and so, by covenant as well as creation, entitled to a pure worship.
8-15. However scrupulous in external worship, it was offered as if they conferred an obligation in giving God His own, and with a degrading view of Him as needing it ( Psalms 50:9-13 ). Reproving them for such foolish and blasphemous notions, He teaches them to offer, or literally, "sacrifice," thanksgiving, and pay, or perform, their vows--that is, to bring, with the external symbolical service, the homage of the heart, and faith, penitence, and love. To this is added an invitation to seek, and a promise to afford, all needed help in trouble.
16-20. the wicked--that is, the formalists, as now exposed, and who lead vicious lives (compare Romans 2:21 Romans 2:23 ). They are unworthy to use even the words of God's law. Their hypocrisy and vice are exposed by illustrations from sins against the seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments.
21, 22. God, no longer (even in appearance) disregarding such, exposes their sins and threatens a terrible punishment.
22. forget God--This denotes unmindfulness of His true character.
23. offereth praise--( Psalms 50:14 ), so that the external worship is a true index of the heart.
ordereth . . . aright--acts in a straight, right manner, opposed to turning aside ( Psalms 25:5 ). In such, pure worship and a pure life evince their true piety, and they will enjoy God's presence and favor.