A few weeks ago, I read through Psalm 50 and was struck by God's mercy toward all of us. The entire psalm talks about coming judgment but ends with a chance for all to turn from their sinful ways and be delivered from the coming judgment. With that judgment still around the corner, it would be good for us all to consider the message of this psalm.
God's message to the world: judgment is coming (1-6)
As we walk through our every day lives, we often forget what awaits us in the end. We think of God's goodness to us in providing a better job, help for a difficult situation, or for helping us pay the bills. But we often forget the way the Scriptures describe the Almighty God. Think of Isaiah's reaction when God's glory filled the temple (Isaiah 6). He fell to the ground realizing his own sinfulness compared to God's perfect holiness. Think of Peter's response to Jesus' transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8). He was so awe struck by the Son of God's glory that he fumbled with his words and fell to the ground! Think of John's response to seeing the Lord in his Revelation (Rev. 1:17). Although he had been very close to Jesus during his earthly ministry, he still fell on his face in amazement.
This is the picture the psalmist attempts to describe for us. The coming judgment is something for which all people of the earth will be called together. From one end of the earth to the other, men, women, and children will be called before the Lord to answer to him. And at that time, no person will be able to stand before the brightness of his majesty. All will bend their knees before the Mighty One! But what will his message be? The rest of the psalm divides his message into two sections. The first is God's message to his people and the second a message to the wicked.
God's message to his people: focus on me (7-15)
As God's people stand before God, they will probably be surprised at God's message to them. He will not rebuke them for their sacrifices and offerings. Those were merely pictures of what God intended to do through the once-and-for-all sacrifice of his son, Jesus, on the cross at Calvary. Although, he had commanded them to offer sacrifices, these weren't what he ultimately wanted. When you think about it, God doesn't need anything. Why would the Creator of the earth need anything? He owns it all already!
When God's people stand before him at the Judgment, he will be more concerned with what their focus was during this life. Was I thankful to him? Did I keep my promises to him? Did I look to him when I needed help? Did I speak kindly of him to others? The answers to these questions will reveal the focus of our lives. Are we focused on him ... or not? In other words, God is more interested in our heart's focus than mere outward actions (see Psalm 51:16-17). And thankfully, there is still time. Each of God's children can respond to the pricking of God's Holy Spirit and change from external conformity to what God really wants — a proper upward focus.
God's message to the wicked: repent while you can (16-23)
As I read through the next section, I came away with the idea that this was not a message to people who had never heard about God. Verses 16-17 point toward some who thought they were God's spokesmen. But as God revealed their actions, it was clear that they were far from him. Consider the lists of sins they were involved with: stealing, adultery, false witness, and slander, just to name a few. But worse than their outward wickedness was their attitude toward God. They considered him to be just like themselves. How little they knew of God's perfect holiness!
And yet, God still offered them hope. The psalm ends with a call to repentance. If they would change their attitude by praising God and change their actions by doing what is right, God promised to deliver them from their sins. But if they would continue in their wicked ways, there would be no hope on judgment day. At that time it will be too late and no one will be able to deliver them.
No one knows when the judgment will come, but we have been given sufficient warning. Although he is the holy and awesome Creator of the universe, God wants our attention. Do you find that remarkable? God actually wants to know us and wants us to see how good he is. And if that's not enough, consider also that he is merciful, willing to forgive you when you respond to him with repentance and faith. So, my hope is this. No matter your background, please consider God's warnings and respond to him. He wants you to be ready, but you'll need to make the choice. Will you give him your heart or continue to turn away from him?