Asaph is overlooked as a psalmist often overshadowed by King David’s slew of entries. However, he is deep, honest, wise, and here we will dwell with him in Psalm 50.
He begins this psalm full of adoration declaring God’s sovereignty and majesty in and over all creation. The audience feels the power of God and the logical posture is prostrate. Then...
“Our God approaches and He is not silent.” (v. 3)
There is no clearer way to tell the listener to pay attention, God is about to speak. Asaph paints a picture of Judgment Day for us. He reveals God’s thoughts about the day when the sheep are separated from the goats, the wheat from the weeds, the faithful from the faithless. God approaches the faithful first explaining He's pleased with their hearts as they attempt to honor God with sacrifices, songs, and the like. However, He owns all and no longer eagerly awaits their version of sacrifice for He has a refreshing, new perspective.
“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God and keep the vows you made to the Most High.” (v. 14)
Thankfulness is the new bull, the new repentance, the new submission. This does not mean Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was or is unnecessary. God takes care of the sacrifice Himself. The entire psalm is affirming sacrifices are unnecessary for He owns all. God wants our hearts. He wants our attitudes. He wants us to be men and women of integrity. The Lord wants us to be grateful for Who He is and What He's done and to live to please Him.
Through our varying relationships we can practice gratitude as a sacrifice. Imperfection is a word that describes everyone. No matter if it’s your boss, spouse, best friend, or babysitter we all can name a person's imperfections. But what does it mean if we offer a sacrifice of thanks in the midst of imperfection?
- Rather than going to work irritated by your boss's communication style you sacrifice your own feelings and selfish impulses and say, “Praise God for a job!”
- When you find that blasted pair of socks thrown on the floor of the bathroom you push through frustration toward your spouse and say, “Lord, I’m grateful I have a pair of socks to pick up - I'm married.”
- Next time your best friend ruins your favorite sweater she borrowed you loan her another because she supports you in ways others don’t. You praise God for her companionship.
- After coming home from an evening away and the living room looks like a hurricane blew through you tell the babysitter, “Thank you for giving up your evening so I can have one. And praise God we have the resources to afford a babysitter in the first place.”
Instead of serving your own feelings offer up gratitude to the Giver of all good things.
In the second half of Psalm 50 God addresses the faithless. Note how the Lord begins His critique:
“Why bother reciting my decrees and pretending to obey my commands? For you refuse my discipline and treat my words like trash.” (v. 16-17)
Judgment on the faithless is not reserved for only those who defiantly refuse Him as Lord and Savior. The goats, the weeds, the faithless are even found among those in church, those who know Scripture. You may be a goat if you:
- refuse discipline
- disregard God’s Word
- accept devious people
There are other goat-like qualities in Scripture, but these are the ones in Asaph’s psalm. If you’re like me, you fall in the faithless category on several accounts. There is hope...always. Even in the Day of Judgment the faithless are given a chance. Our God approaches, finds us guilty as goats, and offers us eternal salvation. Both the faithful and faithless are given directions and promises.
God tells the faithful to give thanks and says, “Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” (v. 15)
God tells the faithless, "Repent, all of you who forget me, or I will tear you apart, and no one will help you. But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” (v. 22-23)
If you’re the faithful say thanks with your words and your lifestyle and always find yourself with a Deliverer. If you’re the faithless, turn from your goat-like qualities, live out of gratitude, and receive His salvation. For those who do not fall in either of these categories, there is only one alternative - complete destruction. May we choose His ways and receive the sweet eternal benefits of His Sacrifice and Love.