There are times when in our close relationships there is the risk of going through the motions of well worn habits while the intimate core that was once the focus has withered through neglect. In other words there can be a form of relationship without a heart. From a Christian perspective our human relationships are meant to reflect our relationship with God. Psalm 50 is a prophetic message to his own people about their relationship with him.
The opening stanza vv 1-6 draws upon the exodus experience where an awesome God establishes his covenantal relationship with his people. The whole of creation declares his greatness and righteous character. ‘The mighty one, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth,’ v1 and ‘the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice.’ v6
The second stanza vv 7-13 challenges any misconceived notion people might have that God is in some way dependent on human worship or actions. Ancient Judaism’s religious practices shared in common with the other surrounding religious practices, the incessant sacrificing of animals. C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘we should have not enjoyed the ancient rituals. Every temple in the world, the elegant Parthenon at Athens and the holy Temple at Jerusalem, was a sacred slaughterhouse.’ God’s words as conveyed by the psalmist are, ‘I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.’ vv 9,10
It is a reminder that frequently the form of worship in modern services can become our dominant preoccupation whether formal or informal but the form of worship does not constitute the relationship.
Verses 14 – 23 set out God’s basis for a relationship with him for the people of God as understood in Old Testament times. Framing all, to start and finish what God says, is thankfulness. ‘Sacrifice thank offerings to God,’ v14 and ‘Those who sacrifice thank offerings honour me.’ V23 Thank offerings were a form of fellowship offering. All fellowship offerings were voluntary and the other forms were votive offerings, brought to fulfil a vow and freewill offerings, brought to express love and worship of the Lord.
Verses 16 – 21 reveals how one’s life is the evidence of true freewill offerings. It is what we do, v18 how we speak, v19 and the honourability of our relationships. v20 Asaph, the psalm’s author was a contemporary of David and yet it is striking how modern this set of principles for a relationship with God is and how challenging it remains.
In what terms do we think of worship?
Do we ever get tempted to think that in some way God needs us?
Have we been prompted to examine any aspect of our life?
How Great is Our God – Chris Tomlin