Psalm 50: Superficial Faith

The nations are summoned around Zion to hear God speak (verses 1–2). We expect God will be judging the heathens, but instead we are startled to find that he is assembling the nations to witness as he brings testimony against his own people (verses 5–7). God’s judgment “begin[s] with God’s household” (1 Peter 4:17). While our salvation in Christ assures us that our sins can’t bring us into ultimate condemnation (Romans 8:1), it also means that with our greater spiritual resources God holds us more responsible for living as he prescribes. To whom much is given much will be required (Luke 12:48). Christians are more loved and pardoned—and yet called to a stricter account at the same time.

God rebukes his people for two things. The first is external religiosity without inward heart change. Verses 8–13 show people who think their worship offerings are somehow doing God a favor. This is moralism, the idea that with our ethical life and religious observance we can put God in our debt, so that he owes us things. On the contrary, grateful joy for our undeserved, free salvation should be motivating all we do (verses 14–15). Examine your heart. Do you feel God owes you a better life? Do you obey him because you feel you have to in order to get what you want, or out of loving wonder for what he has done?

The second thing God rebukes is doctrinal profession of belief without life change (verses 16–21). Some worship weekly and profess an orthodox faith, but they engage in theft, adultery, slander, and gossip (verses 18–20) based on too small a concept of God (“you thought I was exactly like you,” verse 21). The judgment is terrible—but Jesus took it for us. He was torn to pieces (verse 22)—scourged, speared, nailed, crowned with thorns. Those who trust in him respond with a life of gratitude that honors God and reveals salvation to the world (verse 23). No one who is truly saved by faith and grace can fail to live a changed life of love for God and others (James 2:14–17).