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THE PENTATEUCH

GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-36--- ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 --- MICAH ---NAHUM--- HABAKKUK---ZEPHANIAH --- HAGGAI ---ZECHARIAH --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-16 --- 2 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-13 -- -GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS 1-6 --- 7-10 --- 11-13 --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION

--- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS - 46-50

The next three Psalms that we will look at, Psalms 46-48, are connected and contain a trilogy of praise for some signal deliverance of Jerusalem from its enemies. They make clear that God is the Great King over all the earth. But as with so many Psalms they give no hint as to whom the deliverance was from. They are focused on God and on His power to save, and were clearly written so that they might be of ongoing value. Thus for us they are a reminder that God is over all and that God's power is available to save us if we are His, whatever our circumstances might be. Thus:

  • Psalm 46 stresses that God is with His people and is their refuge and Stronghold, and the consequence is that while their trust is in Him Jerusalem is the inviolate city of God, so that opposing kingdoms will melt before them at the sound of His voice. The invitation is then given to the people to consider how He has wrought peace on the earth, and has been exalted among the nations. Its overall theme is that 'YHWH is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge'. Most commentators see it as having in mind God's deliverance of Jerusalem under Hezekiah (2 Kings 18.13-19.37; compare Isaiah 36-37), but other alternatives have been suggested.
  • Psalm 47 concentrates on the idea of the universal sovereignty of YHWH. It stresses that God is their King, and is King over all the earth, and is the great Subduer of the nations.
  • Psalm 48 stresses the mightiness of YHWH, and the inviolability of Mount Zion because it is the City of the Great King. The consequence will be that when the nations gather together against her, they will fall back in dismay so that great praise comes to God.

    We will now consider the three Psalms individually.

    Psalm 46.

    Heading

    'For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah; set to Alamoth. A Song.'

    Here we have another Psalm dedicated to the choirmaster, and also another which was either written by, or composed on behalf of 'the sons of Korah' who were musicians and singers in the Temple. They were a branch of the subtribe of the Korahites. (See introduction to Part 2). 'Alamoth' means 'damsels' and 1 Chronicles 15.20 speaks of 'psalteries set to Alamoth'. Thus Alamoth may well refer to Psalms set especially for women's voices.

    This Psalm stresses that God is with His people and is their refuge. The consequence is that while they trust in Him Jerusalem is the inviolate city of God, with the result that opposing kingdoms will melt before them at the sound of His voice. (What they overlooked later was that this was only the case when king and people were loyal to God. It was not automatic).

    The invitation is then given to consider how He has wrought peace on the earth, and has been exalted among the nations. Its theme is 'YHWH is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge' (verses 7, 11).

    Most commentators see it as having in mind God's deliverance of Jerusalem under Hezekiah (2 Kings 18.13-19.37; compare Isaiah 36-37), when the armies of Assyria which were besieging Libnah and Jerusalem were decimated by the angel of YHWH (Isaiah 37.36), something which, combined with news from Assyria about troubles at home (Isaiah 37.7), caused Sennacherib to return there, leaving Jerusalem relatively unscathed.

    Note the contrast between the raging waters of the enemy, and of spiritual troubles battering at us (2-3), and the peaceful waters that come from the throne of God which bring only gladness to God's people (4). Compare the similar pictures in Isaiah 8.6-8 where because the people have rejected the peaceful waters 'of Shiloah that flow gently', they will have to face the raging waters of the armies of Assyria. Because they have turned away from the true Immanuel (7.14), they will find themselves at the tender mercies of Ahaz, the self-proclaimed Immanuel (8.8).

    God's People's Confidence Is In Him Even In The Face Of Raging Waters (46.1b-3).

    46.1b

    'God is our refuge and strength,
    A very present help in trouble.'

    The Psalmist commences with an expression of confidence in God as our place of safety, our certain refuge. Once we are in God we are therefore truly safe. Indeed He is the source of our very strength, (or alternately is our stronghold). The words may well have had in mind how stoutly the walls of Jerusalem had kept out the Assyrians. But they were also well aware that if God had not stepped in eventually those mighty walls would have fallen, whereas they can know that the walls of God will never be breached, even in the face of the battering of the mightiest of seas. To Israel particularly the seas were seen as an enemy of inestimable proportions because they had little to do with the sea and only saw its awesomeness from the land. Despite their coastline they had few secure ports.

    'A very present help in trouble.' This should literally be translated, 'a help in troubles has He let Himself be found exceedingly', expressing the wonderful deliverance that they had experienced, and their consciousness that God had abundantly stepped in and supplied it. But its presence in a Psalm indicates that His massive help is available for all continually. It was not just a one off.

    46.2-3

    'Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change,
    And though the mountains be shaken into the heart of the seas,
    Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
    Though the mountains tremble with the swelling thereof.' [Selah

    As a result we will not be filled with fear, and will not be shaken, whatever happens. The earth itself may be subject to change, the fierce waters may batter against the great cliffs causing them to fall into the sea, the waters may roar and be troubled as the storm rages, the mountains may tremble at their impact. But none of this will move us, for we will know that God is our refuge.

    In mind in the picture may well have been the impact of invading forces, and the fierce onslaughts of enemy warriors, as they battered the people, but it is equally as true when we have to face spiritual enemies. Then, when the world seems in turmoil, we can be sure that God will be our refuge and stronghold. He will be 'our strength'.

    We note that each section ends with the word 'selah', which probably denotes a musical pause. From our point of view it is saying dramatically, 'think of that!'

    In Contrast With The Raging Waters Which Seek To Shake Them God Is To Be Seen As Like A Peaceful River Making Glad His People (46.4-7).

    46.4-5

    'There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God,
    The holy place of the dwellingplaces of the Most High.
    God is in the midst of her; She shall not be moved,
    God will help her, and that right early.'

    We can compare with this Isaiah 33.21, where it says, 'there (in Zion) YHWH in majesty will be for us, a place of broad rivers and streams'. Permanent rivers and streams where what men in Palestine dreamed of so that they might not be so dependent on the rain. We can compare the fruitfulness of Eden with its great river (Genesis 2.10). This is therefore a picture of full provision. (Compare the similar picture in Ezekiel 47). And the promise is that to us God will be such a River, through His Spirit, a river that will satisfy our hearts and will also flow out from us to others (John 7.37-38). And it will flow to all of God's people, to 'the city of God'.

    Note the description of the city of God. It is 'the holy place of the dwellingplaces of the Most High'. For Israel that was because it was there that the Temple was among them, with its inner and outer sanctum, and its storage and utility rooms, the place where God met with them and dwelt among them. For us it is because we are ourselves are together the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and each of us is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3.16; 6.19; 2 Corinthians 6.16-18; Ephesians 2.19-22), so that God's River flows in, and through, and from us continually (John 7.38).

    Note also the description of God as 'the Most High'. This title is regularly used in relation to the nations. It is a reminder that God is over all. See, for example, Genesis 14.22; Numbers 24.16; and compare Daniel 3.26; 4.2.

    And because God in the midst of her is over all, nothing can move or shake her. For while she trusts in Him God will always help her, and that without delay (right early). In the same way because God is in the midst of us we too, if we trust in Him, will not be moved. We too can be sure that we will know His prompt and powerful help.

    'And that right early.' Literally, 'when the morning appears' (compare Exodus 14.27). Thus it is saying that His assistance will come once the night is over and morning appears, without our being made to wait until later in the day.

    46.6-7

    'The nations raged (or 'roared'), the kingdoms were moved,
    He uttered his voice, the earth melted.
    YHWH of hosts is with us,
    The God of Jacob is our refuge.' [Selah

    This confidence that we have in God is in spite of the activities and efforts of the world in its enmity against God. The nations might rage and roar against God's people, the kingdoms might move against them, but they can be confident that when God utters His voice the earth and all that is within it melts. And where will they be then? We can compare with this Isaiah's beautiful words, 'in quietness and in confidence will be your strength' (Isaiah 30.15).

    And this is because YHWH of hosts, YHWH the God of battle and lord of the heavenly hosts, is with us. It is because the God of Jacob (Israel) is our stronghold. Knowing that God is with us and is our stronghold is sufficient to bring peace in the most devastating of situation.

    In the original instance Israel had seen the raging and roaring nations melt away as the Assyrians withdrew hastily from Judah once God had uttered His voice. But the promise is to all believers whatever troubles they have to face. Note how the same words 'roar' and 'moved' are used as in verse 2. It reminds us that those whose trust is in God need fear neither natural phenomena, nor the activities of men. For God is in control over all.

    The second section again ends with Selah, 'think of that'.

    A Call To Consider All God's Mercies And To Recognise That One Day He Will Bring Everlasting Peace And Will Be Exalted Among The Nations (46.8-11).

    46.8-9

    'Come, behold the works of YHWH,
    What desolations he has made in the earth.
    He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth,
    He breaks the bow, and cuts the spear in sunder,
    He burns the baggage wagons (or 'shields') in the fire.

    All God's people are now called on to look on and consider the works of YHWH. Let them look on and consider His final judgments, as initially exemplified in the destruction of the Assyrian army. Mankind may continue to fight and war, but God will in the end visit them with His desolations, thereby bringing to an end all their sinful activities. He will outlaw war worldwide, He will destroy man's weaponry, He will burn up their supplies. (Then He will introduce His kingdom of everlasting peace). Compare here Isaiah 2.3-4 which describes how He will do it. And see Revelation 19.

    'Baggage wagons.' Compare 1 Samuel 17.20; 26.7. The word nowhere means chariots. Some would repoint to mean 'shields' as in LXX and the Targum.

    46.10

    'Be still, and know that I am God,
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.'

    All are therefore to be stilled in awe, as they recognise by what He has done, that He truly is God, and what it will mean for the future. For in the future God will be exalted among the nations. He will be exalted in the earth. All power will be seen to be His, even on earth. To Him every knee will bow. His triumph is sure.

    This gradual attainment of His triumph began at the cross when he defeated all the powers of evil (Colossians 2.15), then as His people went our to establish the Kingly Rule of God, and it will be finalised in that day when Satan and all his hosts and followers, including warring mankind, are totally vanquished (Revelation 19), and God is all in all.

    46.11

    'YHWH of hosts is with us,
    The God of Jacob is our refuge.' [Selah

    No wonder then that he can remind God's people that:

    • 'YHWH of the hosts of heaven and earth is with us.'
    • 'The God who protected weak and lowly Jacob is our refuge.'

      With God present with us as our powerful God and Protector we need fear nothing.

      Psalm 47.

      Heading.

      'For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.'

      See introduction to part 2.

      The Psalm divides easily into two as indicated by 'Selah'. The first half describes Who and What God is as YHWH Most High, King over all the earth, and the One Who has chosen out and acted on behalf of His people in the past. The second half has in mind the acclamation of YHWH as a result of the signal deliverance that He has wrought for His people, which has demonstrated His worldwide Kingship and glory, and has resulted in the nations of the world acknowledging His Kingship and becoming His people too. It is a depiction of God as Lord over all, and is a foretaste of God's final triumph in Christ.

      The Nations Are Called On To Salute YHWH Most High As The Great King Over All The Earth Who Has Established His People In The Choicest Of Lands (47.1-4). .

      47.1-2

      Oh clap your hands, all you peoples,
      Shout to God with the voice of triumph.
      For YHWH Most High is terrible,
      He is a great King over all the earth.

      The clapping of hands and the shouts of acclamation were the means by which peoples normally acknowledged their great king and overlord. Here then they are called on to acknowledge YHWH Most High, the great King over all the earth, because of His recent triumph. For thereby He had revealed His awesome power.

      The description is in direct contrast with the title that Sennacherib claimed for himself as 'the great king' (Isaiah 35.4). YHWH had now put Sennacherib firmly in his place demonstrating Who really was the Great King (compare 46.4; 48.2), YHWH Most High. His worldwide dominion has been demonstrated.

      Here then His people are to clap their hands and shout in triumph because He has come down and wrought a mighty deliverance and is now returning to His heavenly abode, having achieved the victory.

      We also should clap our hands and shout in triumph as we consider how our Lord Jesus Christ came down and wrought our deliverance, and has now ascended into Heaven as the great Victor, and as our everlasting King, and will one day do it again in a different way at His second coming.

      47.3-4

      'He subdued peoples under us,
      And nations under our feet.
      He chose our inheritance for us,
      The glory of Jacob whom he loved.' [Selah

      And that worldwide dominion that is His, and has now been demonstrated, had already been previously demonstrated by the fact that in earlier times He had subdued peoples under Israel, and had brought nations under their feet. He had done it when they had entered Canaan in order to take their inheritance. Indeed it was He Who had chosen that inheritance for them, that choicest of lands in which they gloried as the people (Jacob) whom He loved (compare Deuteronomy 7.6-8). And it was He Who enabled them to possess it.

      Note their recognition that it was because He had chosen to love them that they had experienced His salvation and blessing. It had not been their doing. It had been all of His goodness. And the same is true of us as the people of God today. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4.9-10), and He has given us a glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1.11, 14; 1 Peter 1.4), because He chose us in Christ before the world began (Ephesians 1.4).

      The Psalmist Sees YHWH As Having Received His Acclamation As King Over All The Earth And Over All Peoples (47.5-9).

      In this second part of the Psalm we are introduced to the triumph ceremony following the defeat and humiliation of Sennacherib and the Assyrian army. We are probably to see that the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH has been brought out of the Holy of Holies and is now leading a great procession up the Mount back into the Temple, accompanied by clapping, shouting and singing, and this as a portrayal of His own rise to heaven after having gloriously come down and disposed of the enemy.

      It is probable that representatives of the nations round about who had seen the humiliation of Sennacherib had come to Jerusalem and were joining with them in the ceremony. (Hezekiah had been one of the leaders in a coalition against Assyria). They too were grateful for what had been wrought by Israel's God (compare 2 Chronicles 20.29).

      47.5-6

      'God is gone up with a shout,
      YHWH with the sound of a ram's horn.
      Sing praise to God, sing praises,
      Sing praises to our King, sing praises.'

      As the Ark, the symbol of God's earthly presence, is borne triumphantly upwards towards the Temple, it is seen as depicting the greater reality of YHWH returning to His heavenly throne having dealt with the Assyrians (compare 68.18; 1 Kings 8.27). The shouting and the blowing of the ram's horns greet His victory, while the people are called on to sing praises to Him as their God and King. It is bringing home their recognition of the supreme Sovereignty of God as Lord over both Heaven and earth.

      47.7-8

      'For God is the King of all the earth,
      Sing you praises with understanding.
      God reigns over the nations,
      God sits upon his holy throne.'

      And this is moreso because He has now unquestionably proved Himself to be the King of all the earth. (Who else could have defeated the Great King of Assyria who ruled over 'all the earth'?). Thus as they praise they are to understand the significance of what they are doing. They are to see that they are praising the One Who reigns over the nations, and Who sits on His holy throne, both in Heaven and on earth.

      When Jesus came to His disciples after His resurrection and declared that 'all authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth' (Matthew 28.18) He was revealing the same, and it represented an even greater victory, which we too should constantly celebrate with clapping and shouting and singing, and the blowing of trumpets (see Acts 2.32-36; Ephesians 1.19-22; 1 Peter 3.22; Hebrews 1.3).

      47.9

      'The princes of the peoples are gathered together,
      To be the people of the God of Abraham,
      For the shields of the earth belong to God,
      He is greatly exalted.'

      As they looked at the nations from round about who had gathered with them to celebrate the victory it must have brought to mind the great promises of Isaiah about the nations submitting at His feet. And they saw in this a portrayal of that day when the peoples of the nations would become the people of the God of Abraham, through whom all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12.3). And they knew that that day was inevitable. For what God had done had demonstrated that the shields of the earth belonged to Him. It had demonstrated His great exaltation.

      Today as we look around and see how His true church has become established around the world, how much more should we be shouting His praise as His conquest of the nations continues as a result of His even greater victory gained at the cross. For He has truly gathered men from the nations of the world, and is still doing so, in order that they might be the people of the God of Abraham.

      Psalm 48.

      Heading.

      'A Song; a Psalm of the sons of Korah.'

      For the sons of Korah see introduction to Part 2. Many of the temple singers were sons of Korah.

      This psalm continue the theme of the Great King. Its aim is to exalt Him and describe the wonder of the place where He dwells. Israel were well aware that God was so great that even the Heaven of Heavens could not contain Him. In the words of the wise Solomon, 'Behold Heaven, and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain you. How much less this house that I have built' (1 Kings 8.27).

      But they also knew that God had been pleased to establish on earth a place where He could be approached, a kind of doorway to Heaven. And that place was the Temple on Mount Zion, on which was centred the worship of the one true God. That was why they gloried in Mount Zion and Jerusalem, because they represented God's interest revealed on earth towards His people, and they pointed to, and drew men to, God. Today that Temple has been replaced by a greater Temple, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (compare John 4.24). Thus all that is said here about the Temple and Jerusalem should now be focused on our Lord Jesus Christ Who has replaced the Temple as the centre of people's worship. It is now to Him that we should point, and to Whom we should give praise and glory.

      The Greatness of God And The Beauty Of The Place Which Represents His Dwelling Among Men (48.1-3).

      48.1

      'Great is YHWH, and greatly to be praised,
      In the city of our God, in his holy mountain.'

      48.2-3

      'Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth,
      Is mount Zion, on the sides of the north,
      The city of the great King.
      God has made himself known in her palaces for a refuge.'

      We should note here that while Mount Zion is being admired, it is not Mount Zion but the Great God Himself Who is being exalted. Mount Zion is only seen as beautiful in that it points towards the living God. It is the great God YHWH Who is to be greatly praised.

      The description of Mount Zion should also be noted. It is described in a way that transcends itself. 'The sides of the north' indicated the sacred mountains far off from men see Isaiah 14.13; Ezekiel 38.6, 15; 39.2. Here God is, as it were, seen to have planted those sacred mountains in Jerusalem as His earthly abode. So as in Isaiah 2.2-4 it represents both the earthly and the heavenly Mount Zion. As men gazed on the earthly they were also to think of the heavenly. Today the earthly has long been done away, and we are to concentrate our thoughts on the heavenly (Hebrews 12.22).

      And yet there is still a Temple on earth in which God can be found. It is that Temple which consist of all true believers in Jesus Christ. In them dwells the Holy Spirit of God, and through them the glory of God is to be manifested to the world (see 1 Corinthians 3.16; 6.19; 2 Corinthians 6.16-18; Ephesians 2.18-22). That is why we can rightly apply ideas about Mount Zion to His people.

      So just as the people of old could gather on Mount Zion and sing His praises, and see it as beautiful because of its exaltation, and as the joy of the whole earth because of what it represented as 'the city of the Great King' where God made himself known, so today can we glorify God for His true church in which He dwells, made up of all who truly believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and call on His Name (regardless of denomination) and worship Him in His Temple. His church is beautiful in elevation (compare Galatians 4.26; Ephesians 5.25-27), even though it may dwell here in vessels of clay, for we are the living stones of the Temple of God, built up on the chief Cornerstone, our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2.4-7), and we are called on to show forth the excellencies of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His most glorious light (1 Peter 2.9).

      Thus can we sing:

      Glorious things of you are spoken,
      Zion city of our God.
      He Whose word cannot be broken,
      Formed you for His own abode.
      On the Rock of Ages founded,
      What can shake your sure repose,
      With salvation's walls surrounded,
      You can smile at all your foes.

      'God has made himself known in her palaces for a refuge.' And because God has made Himself known in the palaces of Jerusalem as being a refuge of His people (at that stage Jerusalem had a godly king), Jerusalem can rest secure knowing that she cannot be touched by her enemies. And the same confidence can be enjoyed by God's people today as He makes Himself known to us through His church.

      The Nations Quail Before The Power of God In His Holy Hill (48-4-7).

      The glory of the dwellingplace of the Great God is such that the nations quail before Him. Though they may assemble themselves against His people and approach them with hostile purpose, once they recognise what they are fighting against they quail before it and fade away. This had proved true of Sennacherib and his forces. It would always prove true for whoever came against Jerusalem, because God was with them.

      48.4-7

      'For, lo, the kings assembled themselves,
      They passed over together.
      They saw it, then were they amazed,
      They were dismayed, they hastened away.
      Trembling took hold of them there,
      Pain, as of a woman in travail.
      With the east wind you break,
      The ships of Tarshish.'

      The kings of the nations had gathered themselves together against God's people. They had passed over together and approached the city of God. But then, when they actually saw it they stopped in amazement. They were dismayed at what they saw and hastened away. Indeed so great was its impact that they trembled and were filled with the equivalent of labour pains. And God's powerful and feared east wind blew among them, and the proud Tyreans and their associates fell before it. The ships of Tarshish sailed regularly from Tyre around the world, and here they indicate what is strong and invulnerable. Or at least they are until the East wind blows. Perhaps it also represents the powerful Tyrean contingent in Sennacherib's army. But Tyre's glory and Sennacherib's glory could not stand in the face of God's holy mountain, the place that God had chosen as His earthly abode. God's East Wind would see to that.

      In the same way we can be sure today that all who begin to plot against the people of God will find themselves ashamed and dismayed. They may appear to be a great threat, but in the end their threat will collapse.

      God's People Rejoice In The Security Of The City Of God Now Evidenced Not Just By Hearsay But Also By What They Had Themselves Seen (48.8).

      48.8

      'As we have heard, so have we seen,
      In the city of YHWH of hosts,
      In the city of our God,
      God will establish it for ever. [Selah

      The deliverance having taken place, and the enemy having faded away, God's people triumphantly declare that they have now seen with their own eyes the delivering power of God revealed on behalf of His people. They had from their past heard many stories of His delivering power, but now they had seen it for themselves. It was thus clear to them that the city of YHWH of hosts, the city of their God, would be established by Him for ever.

      And while they were faithful to Him that was, of course, true. But what they later forgot was that their security depended on faithfulness to the covenant. The truth was that God's promises were only secure to an obedient people. That is why Jerusalem would end up a ruin, not once but a number of times (under Nebuchadnezzar, under Antiochus Epiphanes and under the Romans). However, in all that it was not that God had forgotten His true people. While unbelieving Israel suffered and perished, they were preserved through all the tribulations that would come, as part of the whole people of God who will rise again at the last day (Isaiah 26.19). Their names were recorded in Heaven. Thus God's cause was secure. It is the outward trimmings that suffer, as they would later also for the churches in Asia Minor when their lamp went out, not the inner heart of His true people.

      'Selah.' This once again indicates a musical break and a pause for thought.

      Having Meditated On What Has Happened, God's People Now Declare Their Confidence in God (48.9-11).

      48.9-11

      'We have thought on your lovingkindness, O God,
      In the midst of your temple.
      As is your name, O God,
      So is your praise to the ends of the earth,
      Your right hand is full of righteousness,
      Let mount Zion be glad,
      Let the daughters of Judah rejoice,
      Because of your judgments.

      What they have seen has turned their thoughts towards God's lovingkindness (His covenant love), as they come to worship in His Temple, and they acknowledge gladly that what His Name (His nature and activity) means to them has also become known to other nations so that they also praise Him. Many nations had in fact cause to be grateful for the humiliating of Assyria, and would give praise to Israel's God for His deliverance.

      For they recognise that God has acted in righteous deliverance by the might of His right hand, and will therefore, they are sure, continue to do so. Thus Mount Zion herself could rejoice, and so could all the neighbouring towns (her 'daughters' - compare Numbers 21.25; Joshua 17.11, 16) who had suffered so terribly under the Assyrian invasion. All could now rest secure in the judgments and decisions of their mighty God.

      What they later forgot was that His righteous deliverance was only for the righteous. Thus once they had virtually forsaken Him His protection no longer applied. The promise of His protection applies to all who are faithful to God, but only if they are looking to Him and trusting in Him. When they are they can ever be sure that His right hand will finally vindicate them, and that His judgments will be carried out on their behalf.

      The Triumphant Inspection (48.12-14).

      This may well have originally indicated a celebratory inspection of the walls carried out in triumphal procession in order to give thanksgiving to God, and it may even have been one that continued to be celebrated annually.

      48.12

      'Walk about Zion,
      And go round about her,
      Number her towers,
      Mark well her bulwarks,
      Consider her palaces,
      That you may tell it to the generation following.
      For this God is our God for ever and ever,
      He will be our guide even to death.

      We must not misunderstand the Psalmist here. He is not boasting about the strength of Jerusalem He is rather praising God for the fact that it is all still there. He is basically saying, 'look, because of what God has done you are now free to walk around the outside of the city now. And as you do so you will note that nothing is missing. Her towers are still intact, her bulwarks (defensive walls) are in place, her palaces are still unmarked. And this in spite of the threats of the King of Assyria.' This then is final evidence of how fully God has delivered them, and they will therefore be able to tell ensuing generations, how God preserved it for them, and delivered them without any real harm coming to Jerusalem. And this, he reminds them, is due solely to their God, the God Who is theirs for ever and ever, and will be the guide of each one of them until death.

      Note the contrast between their counting the towers, and the fact that the Assyrians had previously counted the towers with very different intent (Isaiah 33.18). The Assyrians had intended to destroy them. Thus God has by His deliverance altered the whole situation.

      'He will be our guide even to death.' Some suggest that this fits oddly in the context because it is too personally applied in a national Psalm, but it is not really so. It can rather be seen as a practical final comment applying the situation of the whole to each individual. Having sung generally of the greatness of God, they are being brought to recognise that for each one of them that greatness is applicable throughout their lives.

      Psalm 49.

      Heading.

      'For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.'

      This is the last of the Psalms of the sons of Korah (42-49) to be found in this second part. (In the third part see 84-85; 87-88).

      The Psalm is addressed to both rich and poor, and is a meditation on wealth. It can be seen as in very close parallel with the Book of Proverbs. It could be called a 'wisdom' Psalm, and gives warning that while wealth may appear desirable in this life, it offers nothing for the next. Then the only question that will count will be as to whether we were right with God.

      An Appeal To Listen To His Words (49-1-5).

      The Psalmist commences by making an appeal to all men, both high and low, rich and poor, to listen to his wisdom. Note his recognition that he is speaking mysteries (parables, dark sayings). This would confirm that he expects them to see in what he is saying something more than the usual platitudes. For he is in fact indicating that for those who trust God this life is not the end. There is hope beyond the grave. Such glimpses of a future hope are found a number of times in Davidic Psalms (e.g. 16.10-11; 17.15; 23.6).

      49.1-5

      'Hear this, all you peoples,
      Give ear, all you inhabitants of the world,
      Both low and high,
      Rich and poor together.
      My mouth will speak wisdom,
      And the meditation of my heart will be of understanding.
      I will incline my ear to a parable,
      I will open my dark saying on the harp.
      For what reason should I fear in the days of evil,
      When iniquity at my heels compasses me about?

      His appeal is to all people of all classes. It contains a universal appeal which is characteristic of wisdom literature, but is also found in the prophets (see Micah 1.2). He wants it known that what he has to say applies to everyone. The word for 'world' is an unusual one indicating the transitory nature of the world. And it is the transitory nature of life that is a central idea in the Psalm.

      He speaks to 'both low and high'. This is literally 'both sons of mankind (adam) and sons of men (ish - important men)'. Thus it is to the common man and also to the distinguished man. It is also to rich and poor. To the rich lest they trust in their riches. To the poor lest they become discontented with their lot. All need to heed his words. None must see themselves as outside their scope.

      He explains that his aim is to give wisdom and understanding (literally 'wisdoms and understandings'. The plural indicates the length and breadth of that wisdom and understanding). In other words he is speaking of the deeper things in life. Yet he recognises also that he can only do so in terms of simile and metaphor. He is not speaking of what is commonplace. He thus speaks in comparisons (mashal) and dark sayings (chidah).

      'I will incline my ear --.' He leans forward, as it were, to hear what God has to say, for what he has to say is coming from God..

      The word mashal (parable) indicates a comparison, a proverb, a parable, a metaphorical saying, or a poem (Isaiah 14.4). It is illustrative rather than literal. The word chidah (dark saying) indicates an enigma or riddle (Judges 14.12 ff; 1 Kings 10.1), a simile or parable (see Ezekiel 17.2), an obscure utterance, a mystery, a dark saying. For both words used together elsewhere see 78.2; Proverbs 1.6; Ezekiel 17.2. Certainly one of the great mysteries of life to many was the prosperity of the unrighteous. Why should God allow the unrighteous to prosper, and the truly righteous to go in need? Men often saw only the outward trimmings and not the importance of the inner heart which riches could destroy.

      'On the harp.' He intends to set it to music. Men will often listen to the wisdom of a song where they would eschew the same words if plainly put.

      And the question that he raises is as to why he should fear when evil abounds, and when he is dogged by injustice and sin which threaten to trip him up. David especially, for example, had known what it meant to be 'on the run', as had Elijah. And they had learned in such experiences to trust in God.

      The Helplessness Of The Rich In The Face Of Death (49.6-10).

      He now points out that the rich are helpless in the face of death. None can redeem his brother, because the price of such redemption is too high. None can give to his brother eternal life and incorruptibility. The implication is that such a redemption might be possible. But not at a cost that the rich can pay, however rich they are.

      49.6-9

      Those who trust in their wealth,
      And boast themselves in the multitude of their riches,
      None of them can by any means redeem his brother,
      Nor give to God a ransom for him,
      (For the redemption of their life is costly,
      And it fails for ever),
      That he should still live always,
      That he should not see corruption.'

      He sees men strutting around in their riches and splendour, confident that nothing can drag them down. And then they are suddenly faced with the death of a loved one, and there is nothing that they can do about it. Suddenly all their wealth has become useless. All their money cannot enable them to buy that person back from death. They cannot make anyone live for ever.

      The words for ransom and redemption are found in Exodus 21.30 where a man is considered to bear the guilt for a death which is caused by an ox if that ox has gored men previously, thus showing its propensities, and has been allowed to live (thus putting its owner under a responsibility to ensure that it cannot happen again). If it gores a man to death the owner bears the guilt. But in that case ransom and redemption was possible and the courts and the relatives of the dead man could determine the size of compensation which would allow the owner to live.

      However, the Psalmist's point is that when it comes to a man or woman themselves dying, there is no price payable by man that can prevent them from dying and their body corrupting. In this case no ransom is sufficient. The redemption of such a life is too costly. Any attempt to achieve it must fail for ever. Again, however, there is the implication that there is such a redemption. It is simply one that is not achievable by man.

      'By any means redeem.' This is translating the emphatic repetition of the root for 'redeem' in the Hebrew text (padoh yipdeh). We might paraphrase as 'redeem by redemption'. The idea is that redemption by any earthly means is totally impossible.

      'Nor give to God a ransom for him.' Indeed none is able to pay sufficient to satisfy God's requirements. And that is because the price of redemption is too high ('the redemption of their life is costly') and all men's efforts to achieve it can only fail ('it fails for ever').

      49.10

      For he will see it.
      Wise men die,
      The fool and the brutish alike perish,
      And leave their wealth to others.'

      'For he will see it.' The one who dies will see corruption whatever men do to prevent it. It will be just as true for the wise man as for the fool and brutish. All alike perish. And all alike leave their wealth to others.

      Man's Vain Attempt To Perpetuate Himself Will Be In Vain Whatever He Does (49.11-13).

      Men do in their own ineffective way seek to perpetuate themselves. They think that they will live for ever in their children and their children. They set up establishments and foundations in their own name. And they vainly imagine that it will be perpetuated for ever. But it will always fail. Families die out, foundations fail, and any idea of the people themselves disappears into oblivion. Even Alexander the Great is but a bust and a name.

      49.11-13

      Their inward thought is,
      That their houses will continue for ever,
      And their dwelling-places to all generations,
      They call their lands after their own names.
      But man being in honour abides not,'
      He is like the beasts which perish.
      This their way is their folly,
      Yet after them men approve their sayings. [Selah

      Man's vanity and hopeless search for continued remembrance is well brought out here. They vainly hope that they will live on in their children's children, that their houses will continue for ever. They vainly hope that their family residence will abide for ever. They even call their lands after their own name. Surely that will last for ever? But it does not. Sooner or later it will vanish from the combined memories of man.

      For no man's honour is permanently abiding. Even those whose memories abide are at the mercy of historians and wits. They are not remembered as they would wish to have been. So the truth is that in the end men are like the beasts that perish, with the result that all their attempts to perpetuate themselves turn out to be but folly. And yet after them other foolish men actually approve of their attempts to perpetuate themselves. Such is the folly of mankind.

      But For The Upright There Is Hope. For Them There Is A Coming Morning and A Redemption (49.14-15).

      These two verses stand out on their own between the two 'Selahs'. In them the fate of the unrighteous is contrasted with the of the upright. Once again we see in a Davidic Psalm his certainty that somehow God will not let him or the upright perish for ever. This is especially confirmed by the use of the term 'redeem' (same root as verse 8). Here there is a redemption. It is wrought by God Who alone can pay the price that is required

      49.14-15 'They are appointed as a flock for Sheol,

      Death will be their shepherd,
      And the upright will have dominion over them in the morning,
      And their beauty will be for Sheol to consume,
      That there be no habitation for it.
      But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
      For he will receive me. [Selah

      The truth is that like sheep follow one another without thought wherever the shepherd leads, so all these men described are appointed as a flock for the world of the grave, entering it by following their shepherd Death, with no way of escape . And all their wealth and beauty will be for the grave to consume. In Sheol there is nowhere for their wealth and beauty to be stored.

      But this is in contrast with the upright for whom there is to be a morning. 'And the upright will trample over them (rule over them, triumph over them) in the morning', Had it not been for what follows we might simply have seen this as signifying that they would live on and enjoy fullness of life, but the mention of redemption from Sheol argues strongly that such a redemption is indicated for the upright. For them there will be a resurrection morning when at last they receive their reward and triumph over those who have spurned them. Compare Isaiah 26.19. We can compare how on our behalf Christ rose again from the dead and triumphed over those who assailed Him (Colossians 2.15)

      This thought is confirmed by the certainty of the Psalmist himself that his soul will be redeemed from the power (literally 'the hand') of Sheol, so that God will receive him. In the light of the previous mention of a redemption so costly that no wealthy man can finance it, the thought must surely be that God Himself can pay that price. The Psalmist is therefore confident that he will be received into the presence of God. He possibly has in mind how Enoch walked with God, and 'God took him' (Genesis 5.22-24). A similar idea is in mind when Elijah was taken up into Heaven (2 Kings 2.11, 16-18). Both these examples indicated the possibility of the upright not finally dying. In view of the sacrifices that redeemed men from death it is not a great step from them to the possibility of a greater sacrifice that will redeem men from eternal death, but that is of course not mentioned here. It is, however, made more plain in Isaiah 53.10.

      For the Christian the significance is even clearer. Through the offering of Christ once and for all, the greatest price that was ever paid (see 1 Peter 1.18-19), the truly believing Christian has been redeemed from the grave and has been guaranteed eternal life through the resurrection.

      The Upright Are Not Therefore To Be Concerned About The Way That The Rich Seem To Flourish, For In The End The Rich Who Do Not Have True Understanding Will Simply Perish Like The Beasts (49.16-20).

      The Psalm ends with the assurance that there is no need to fear, or be puzzled, when the rich flourish and increase in wealth and glory, and lord it over men, because when those who lack true understanding die they will take nothing with them. They will no longer be rich. Their glory will not follow them. Rather they will go into everlasting darkness, and will be like the beasts which perish. It is very much a warning to the rich that they ensure that they walk in the ways of the Lord in all their doings.

      49.16-20

      'Do not be afraid when one is made rich,
      When the glory of his house is increased.
      For when he dies he will carry nothing away,
      His glory will not descend after him.
      Though while he lived he blessed his soul,
      (And men praise you, when you do well to yourself,)
      He will go to the generation of his fathers,
      They will never see the light.
      Man who is in honour, and understands not,
      Is like the beasts which perish.

      Jesus may well have had this Psalm in mind when He told the story of the rich fool (Luke 12.13-20). The picture is of men who appear to be blessed because their prosperity grows and their glory and fame increases. But the Psalmist assures us that they are not to be envied. For when they die they will leave it all behind. And then they will receive the due reward of their behaviour. While they are alive they preen themselves, and 'bless their souls', and others praise them because they do well for themselves, but eventually they must go to those who have died before them, and once there they will be in perpetual darkness. 'They will never see the light.'

      And the Psalmist ends the Psalm with the assurance that men who are held in honour on earth, but do not have true understanding (they do not walk in God's ways), will simply be like the beasts that perish. For that is what by their behaviour they will have revealed themselves to be, mere brute beasts. (Compare how in Daniel 7 the people of God are likened to a 'son of man', while those who oppose God are seen as being like wild beasts).

      Psalm 50.

      Heading.

      'A Psalm of Asaph.'

      The Songs of the Sons of Korah having come to an end as far as Book 2 is concerned (42-49), we now have a Psalm of Asaph which stands on its own, presumably because it was seen as forming a bridge between Psalms 49 and 51. This Psalm will then be followed by a number of Psalms of David, and one of Solomon.

      As we will see later there are a number of Psalms of Asaph, but the remainder are in Book 3 (73-83) where they are followed by more songs of the Sons of Korah. Asaph was one of David's three chief musicians, and 'the sons of Asaph' continued throughout the generations to provide music for the Temple (2 Chronicles 20.14; 29.13; 35.15. See also Ezra 2.41; 3.10; Nehemiah 7.44; 11.22). For further information see the introduction to Book 3.

      Like Psalm 49 this is a teaching Psalm, but more from a prophetic viewpoint. Note, for example, the importance of the divine utterance, the description of the theophany, the stress on spiritual worship as against sacrifice, and the denunciation of the wicked. Thus whereas Psalm 49 was addressed to 'the peoples', this Psalm is specifically concerning the people of YHWH. It contains a solemn picture of His judgment of them, as the mighty God YHWH calls on all the earth to witness as He sits to judge His people. It contains a firm warning that if they are to be able to depend on Him to answer them in the Day of Trouble, then they must walk rightly before Him and offer Him true worship.

      It can be divided up as follows:

      • 1). God is pictured as coming from Zion, surrounded by the symbols of His majesty described in terms of a tremendous storm. All are called on to witness His act of judgment on His covenant people whom He has caused to be gathered together (50.1-6).
      • 2). God speaks to the majority of His people who have not gone too badly astray and calls on them to recognise that what He requires of them is not sacrifices and offerings which are simply designed to 'satisfy' Him. What He requires from them is rather their true worship and obedience. Then they can be sure that He will respond to them in the day of trouble (50.7-15).
      • 3). God speaks to the 'wicked', the more overt covenant breakers, whom he sees as blatantly hypocritical, and outlines the activities that cut them off from His mercy. He points out that He is coming in order to 'reprove' them and put things right (50.16-21).
      • 4). God calls on all who have forgotten Him to consider, lest they finally discover that there is none to deliver, and promises that to those who truly praise Him and live rightly before Him, He will show the salvation of God (50.22-23).

        God Calls On The Whole Earth To Witness His Coming To Judge His People (50.1-6).

        This section can be divided up as follows:

        • Who it is Who is coming (verse 1).
        • Where He is coming from and how He is coming (verses 2).
        • The glory in which He is coming (verse 3).
        • The purpose of His coming (verses 4-6).

          Who It Is Who Is Coming (50.1).

          50.1b

          'The Mighty One, God, YHWH,
          He has spoken and called the earth,
          From the rising of the sun,
          To its going down.'

          The One Who is coming is El Elohim YHWH, the mighty God of Gods, YHWH. This unusual combination of divine names is found nowhere else in this particular formation. But the three names do appear together in Joshua 22.22, which speaks of YHWH El Elohim in a most solemn oath; Deuteronomy 4.31, where His people are told 'YHWH your Elohim is a merciful El'; Deuteronomy 5.9, where God declares, 'I YHWH your Elohim an a jealous El', (compare Deuteronomy 6.15); and Deuteronomy 7.9 where His people are told, 'YHWH your Elohim, He is Elohim, El the faithful.'

          The three names bring out three aspects of God. As El reveals Him as the Mighty One. As Elohim He reveals Himself as the Creator of Heaven and earth, the One Who is manifest through creation (19.1-6; Genesis 1.1). As YHWH He reveals Himself as Israel's covenant God, the Self-revealing One (Exodus 3.14-15; 6.3; 20.2). And finally His universality is revealed in that He speaks to the whole known earth, and those who dwell in it, from where the sun rises in the east to where it sets in the west. All are under His sway and are to be interested in His verdict.

          Where He Is Coming From And How He Is Coming (50.2a).

          50.2

          'Out of Zion,
          The perfection of beauty,
          God has shone forth.

          In the ancient days God shone forth from the Tabernacle (Exodus 40.34, 38). He also shone forth from Sinai and Mount Paran on behalf of His people (Deuteronomy 33.2). Now He is revealing Himself from Mount Zion. It is an open question whether 'the perfection of beauty' refers to Zion, or to God. (Do we read as 'Zion which is the perfection of beauty' (compare 48.2; Lamentations 2.15) or as 'As the perfection of beauty God has shone forth' - compare 29.2). Israel may well have seen Zion, where God dwelt, as the perfection of beauty because of the fact that He dwelt there, something confirmed in Lamentations 2.15, but the fulsome description might be seen as favouring the idea that it refers to God Himself. Lamentations 2.15 may then have arisen from a later application of this description to Zion on the basis of this Psalm. It is not really important. Under either interpretation the perfection of beauty is finally God's.

          Israel did not believe that God was limited to Mount Zion, any more than they saw Him as limited to the Tabernacle or to Sinai. The point was rather that these were places where God had been pleased to manifest Himself on behalf of His people. They knew, however, that, in the words of Solomon, 'even the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built' (1 Kings 8.27).

          The Glory In Which He Is Coming (50.3b).

          50.3

          Our God comes,
          And does not keep silence,
          Fire devours before him,
          And it is very tempestuous round about him.

          God is not coming in silence. He is coming to speak openly to His people, whether out of the splendour of Zion as indwelt by Him, or out of His own glorious splendour. And His glory is revealed as being like a mighty storm, with lightning devouring before Him, and a raging tempest swirling around Him. Compare 19.1-6. There also He was to be worshipped in 'the beauty of holiness'.

          The vision of God as coming in a raging and violent storm is a regular one in Scripture. E.g. 18.7-14; 19.1-6; 97.2-5; Exodus 19.16-18; Isaiah 29.6. For God as a consuming fire see Deuteronomy 4.24; 9.3; Hebrews 12.29.

          The Purpose Of His Coming Is To Judge His People (50.4-6).

          50.4-6

          He calls to the heavens above,
          And to the earth, that he may judge his people,
          Gather my saints together to me,
          Those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
          And the heavens will declare his righteousness,
          For God is judge himself. [Selah

          It is stressed that He has come to pass judgment on His people. The call to Heaven and earth concerning His judgment of His people is paralleled in Deuteronomy 4.26, 32; 31.28; 32.1; Isaiah 1.2-3. Compare Micah 1.2; 6.1-2. They, including their inhabitants, are solemn witnesses who have seen all that has happened since creation.

          He desires that His people be gathered together, 'Those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice'. It is they who made a covenant with Him at Sinai through the blood of the sacrifices (Exodus 24), and are sealed by the blood of the covenant, something which they have ratified since then by continuing sacrifices, and it is they who are being called on to fulfil their responsibilities towards Him. Then the Heavens will declare His righteous judgments, because it is God Himself Who is judging.

          The call goes out to gather His 'saints' together. Note the use of 'saints' - chasid - who are those on whom He has set His covenant love (chesed), to signify the true people of God. The call may be addressed to the leaders of the people who normally summoned the assembly, or to the angels in Heaven (compare Matthew 24.31), or to Heaven and earth as a whole, or may simply be a general request indicating His desire that they might be gathered together. Whichever is true what matters is that His true people are brought together.

          'And the heavens will declare his righteousness.' This may be stressing that because God is the judge, it is the Heavens and not earth who will declare His righteous judgment, or it may be indicating that the Heavens will confirm the righteousness of the Judge, because the Judge is God Himself. Either way the judgment can be seen as just and righteous.

          God Addresses His People As Defendants And Reveals That He Is Not Judging Them Because Of The Inadequacy of Their Physical Sacrifices, Which In Fact Are Not Needed By Him, But Because Of The Inadequacy Of Their Thanksgiving And Faithfulness To Their Vows (50.7-15).

          God assures them that He is not judging them because of the inadequacy of their sacrifices. Indeed they were not necessary for His sustenance because had He required sustenance the whole of nature was His, the world and all its fullness was available to Him. No what He rather requires is their offerings of thanksgiving, and their obedience to their vows. Then they can be sure that when they call on Him He will respond.

          We are reminded here of Samuel's words to Saul in 1 Samuel 15.22, 'has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen and respond than the fat of rams.'

          50.7

          'Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
          O Israel, and I will testify to you,
          God, even your God am I.

          God now calls on Israel to listen to Him in what He says to them, for He wants to testify to them. And He reminds them of Who He is. He stresses that He is God, even their own God. That is why they should hear what He has to say.

          50.8-10

          'I will not reprove you for your sacrifices,
          And your burnt-offerings are continually before me.
          I will take no bullock out of your house,
          Nor he-goats out of your folds.
          For every beast of the forest is mine,
          And the cattle on a thousand hills.'

          He assures them that He is not reproving them for the quality and number of their sacrifices. Indeed their burnt offerings are continually before Him. Thus it is not their ritual observance that is at fault.

          In fact He stresses that He wants nothing more from them in that regard. He will not take any bullock from their house, or he-goats from their fold, for He has no need of them. After all, every beast of the forest is His. He possesses the cattle on a thousand hills. (We have here a typical use of 'a thousand' to simply mean a large number. Israelites were not on the whole very numerate, and large numbers tended to be used in this way).

          50.11-12

          'I know all the birds of the mountains,
          And the wild beasts of the field are mine.
          If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
          For the world is mine, and its fullness.'

          Continuing the same theme He stresses that He knows all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the countryside. Thus if He had been hungry He would not have needed to tell them, because the whole world was His, and all its fullness.

          In many polytheistic religions the belief was that their gods fed on sacrifices, and needed such sacrifices in order to maintain their welfare. But they are assured that this is not true of the God of Israel. He requires no sustenance from sacrifices. Thus they should recognise that their offerings and sacrifices are for their benefit, not His.

          50.13-15

          'Will I eat the flesh of bulls,
          Or drink the blood of goats?
          Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
          And pay your vows to the Most High,
          And call on me in the day of trouble,
          I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.'

          To suggest therefore that God would eat the flesh of bulls or would drink the blood of goats when they were offered in sacrifice was ludicrous. No. The truth was that what God required of them was the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the performance of their vows to serve and worship Him faithfully. In other words He sought their spiritual worship and gratitude, and their fulfilling of their promises. As long as they offered these things they could then be sure that when they called on Him in the day of trouble, He would deliver them, so that they could give glory to God, and give Him glory by their testimony. He is not here speaking of the 'thanksgiving sacrifice' of Leviticus 7.12, but of genuine thanksgiving as being itself the 'sacrifice' that is pleasing to Him.

          It is similar to the worship that is required in the New Testament. 'Through Him (Who sanctified us through His own blood) therefore let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that make confession to His Name. Do not neglect to do good, and to share what you have with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased' (Hebrews 13.15-16). Man looks at ritual. God looks at the heart.

          God Speaks To The 'Wicked', The More Overt Covenant Breakers, Whom He Sees As Blatantly Hypocritical, And Outlines The Activities That Cut Them Off From His Mercy. He Points Out That He Is Coming In Order To 'Reprove' Them And Put Things Right (50.16-21).

          50.16-17

          'But to the wicked God says,
          What have you to do to declare my statutes,
          And that you have taken my covenant in your mouth,
          Seeing you hate instruction,
          And cast my words behind you?'

          God challenges 'the wicked' for their hypocrisy in that they hate His instruction and cast His words behind them, and yet declare His statutes and take His covenant in their mouths. In Israelite society this was almost inevitable for any who wanted to demonstrate their respectability and yet had no wish really to obey God, but that gave them no excuse before God. Rather the opposite. In the same way today many pay lip service to God, but by their lives they deny Him.

          The Psalmist then goes on to give examples of their disobedience to God's instruction and statutes., demonstrating how they 'cast His words behind them'.

          50.18-21

          'When you saw a thief, you consented with him,
          And have been partaker with adulterers.
          You give your mouth to evil,
          And your tongue frames deceit.
          You sit and speak against your brother,
          You slander your own mother's son.
          These things have you done, and I kept silence,
          You thought that I was altogether such a one as yourself,
          But I will reprove you,
          And set things in order before your eyes.'

          Examples of their perfidy are now presented in detail. Instead of convicting thieves, they allow them to get away with it, and share with them in their ill-gotten gains. They have partaken in adultery and not reproved it in others. They speak evil with their mouths, and deceive with their tongues, both by bearing false witness, and by general deception and lies. They even deliberately (they sit) and slanderously speak out wrongly and untruthfully about their own family. And foolishly they think that because God appears to do nothing about it, He is not concerned about it. They think that God is like themselves.

          However, He assures them that He is not such a one as themselves. Let them recognise that He will reprove them severely and put things right in front of their eyes. Note the contrast with verse 8 where God did not reprove them in respect of their sacrifices. Now we know that He will, however, reprove them because of their sins. And we should recognise that God's reproof can be severe and devastating, especially when He sets about putting things right. Large parts of the most painful parts of Israel's history occurred because of His reproof, and because He was seeking to put things right.

          A Final Plea To All His Covenant People (50.22-23).

          God now makes a final plea to them to consider their ways, and not forget Him. For if they do He will stand by when they are being torn in pieces and will not deliver them. For His salvation is only available to those who offer up to Him the 'sacrifice' of genuine thanksgiving, and order their ways aright.

          50.22-23

          'Now consider this,
          You who forget God,
          Lest I tear you in pieces,
          And there be none to deliver,
          Whoever offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
          Glorifies me,
          And to him who orders his way aright ,
          Will I show the salvation of God.

          God closes by calling on those who have 'forgotten' Him in their lives to consider what He says lest He tear them in pieces like a wild animal tears its prey, and there is no one to deliver them at the time of their distress.

          Indeed He wants them to recognise that His deliverance is only available to those who glorify Him by offering to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and who order their way aright. It is to such that He will show the salvation of God. ('Aright' is not in the text but clearly has to be read in. The point is that in 'ordering their way' rather than living loosely they are doing so in terms of God's requirements).

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          THE PENTATEUCH

          GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-36--- ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 --- MICAH ---NAHUM--- HABAKKUK---ZEPHANIAH --- HAGGAI ---ZECHARIAH --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-16 --- 2 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-13 -- -GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS 1-6 --- 7-10 --- 11-13 --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION

          --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS 1