A Psalm of Asaph. The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.Psalm 50:1. The mighty God, even the Lord — Hebrew. Eel Elohim, Jehovah; the God of gods; Jehovah; the supreme Lord of heaven and earth, the Lawgiver and Judge of men and angels; to whom the greatest kings and potentates are but subjects; the infinite, the eternal, who changes not; hath spoken and called the earth, &c. — Hath given forth his orders, that all the inhabitants of the earth, from one end to the other, should appear before him. These he now summons to be witnesses of his proceedings in this solemn judgment, between him and his people, which is here poetically represented. For here is a tribunal erected, the judge coming to it, the witnesses and delinquents summoned, and at last the sentence given, and cause determined.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.Psalm 50:2. Out of Zion — The place where he was supposed to reside, and where he would now sit in judgment; the perfection of beauty — The most amiable place of the whole world, because of the presence, and worship, and blessing of God; God hath shined — Hath manifested himself in a glorious manner; hath illustriously displayed his infinite and glorious perfections. Some versions read it, Out of Zion, with perfection of beauty, God hath shined, or will shine.
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.Psalm 50:3-4. Our God shall come, &c. — God will undoubtedly come and call us to judgment; though now he seems to take no notice of our conduct. The prophet speaks this in the person of one of God’s worshippers. As if he had said, Though he be our God, yet he will execute judgment upon us. And shall not keep silence — He will no longer connive at, or bear with, the hypocrisy and profaneness of the professors of the true religion, but will now speak unto them in his wrath, and will effectually reprove and chastise them. Or, he will not cease, that is, neglect or delay to come, as אל יחרשׁ, al jecheresh, may be interpreted. A fire shall devour before him, &c. — “He will not come like earthly princes, before whom marches an armed multitude; but in a far more terrible and irresistible manner, which shall make you as sensible of his dreadful presence, as your ancestors were at mount Sinai, when the devouring flames, and thunder, and lightning, which attended him, made the very mountain quake and tremble.” He shall call to the heavens, &c. — “He shall call heaven and earth (angels and men) to be witnesses of the equity of his proceedings, Isaiah 1:2; and you may as soon move them out of their place, as avoid appearing before his tribunal.” — Bishop Patrick. This is evidently a prediction of the terrible manner of God’s coming to execute judgment on the apostate Jews and Israelites, partly by the kings of Assyria and Babylon, who laid waste their country, destroyed their cities, and carried multitudes of them into captivity; and more especially in their last destruction by the Romans, when a signal vengeance was taken on them, as for their hypocrisy, abuse of their privileges, and all their other sins, so in particular for crucifying their own Messiah. This most terrible execution of divine wrath upon them was frequently foretold by the prophets: see Malachi 3:2; and Malachi 4:1; Isaiah 66:15; Isaiah 66:17; and is often represented in the Scriptures as the coming of the kingdom of God, of the Son of man, or of Christ, the Father having committed all judgment to him. Now this prediction in this Psalm seems especially to respect this event. And it has accordingly been so interpreted by the best Christian expositors, as Poole has shown in his Synopsis Criticorum; where he likewise tells us that the Jewish rabbis affirm the subject of the Psalm to be, “that judgment, which will be executed in the days of the Messiah;” “ignorant, alas!” says Dr. Horne, “that they themselves, and their people are now become the unhappy objects of that judgment.”
He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.
Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.Psalm 50:5-6. Gather my saints, &c. — O ye angels, summon and fetch them to my tribunal. Which is poetically spoken, to continue the metaphor and representation of the judgment here mentioned. My saints — The Israelites, whom he calls saints; 1st, Because they were all by profession a holy people, as they are called in Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy , , 2 d, As an argument and evidence against them, because God had chosen and separated them from all the nations of the earth, to be a holy and peculiar people to himself, and they also had solemnly and frequently devoted themselves to God and his service; all which did greatly aggravate the guilt of their present apostacy. Those that have made a covenant with me, &c. — Who have entered into covenant with me, and have ratified that covenant with me by sacrifice — Not only in their parents, Exodus 24:4, &c., but also in their own persons from time to time, even as often as they have offered sacrifices to me. This seems to be added, to acquaint them with the proper nature, use, and end of sacrifices, which were principally appointed to be signs and seals of the covenant made between God and his people; and consequently to convince them of their great mistake in trusting to their outward sacrifices, when they neglected the very life and soul of them, which was the keeping of their covenant with God: and withal to diminish that too high opinion which they had of sacrifices, and to prepare the way for the abolition of them. And the heavens shall declare his righteousness — Which they were called to witness, Psalm 50:4, as was the earth also; but here he mentions the heavens only, probably, because they were the most impartial and considerable witnesses in the case. For men upon earth might be false witnesses, either through ignorance and mistake, or through prejudice, partiality, and passion; but the angels understand things more thoroughly, and are so exactly pure and sinless, that they neither can nor will bear false witness for God; and therefore their testimony is more valuable. Or, the meaning is, that God would convince the people of his righteousness, and of their own wickedness, by thunders and lightnings, and storms, or other dreadful signs wrought by him in the heavens. For God is judge himself — In his own person. God will not now reprove them by his priests or prophets, but in an extraordinary manner from heaven.
And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah.
Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God.Psalm 50:7. Hear, O my people, &c. — Having brought in God, as entering into judgment with them, he now gives an account of the process and of the sentence of the judge, whose words are contained in this and the following verses. O Israel, I will testify against thee — I will plead with thee, and declare my charge or endictment against thee. I am God, even thy God — Not only in general, but in a special manner, by that solemn covenant made at Sinai; whereby I avouched thee to be my peculiar people, and thou didst avouch me to be thy God.
I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me.Psalm 50:8-13. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, &c. — This is not the principal matter of my charge against thee, that thou hast neglected sacrifices, which thou shouldest have offered; for, although thou hast often omitted thy duty even in that respect, yet I have greater things than these to charge thee with. I will take no bullock, &c. — Be not so foolish as to imagine that thou dost lay any obligations upon me by thy sacrifices, or that I required them because I had need of them, or took any pleasure or satisfaction in them for their own sakes. Every beast of the forest is mine — I could command or dispose of them at my pleasure, without thy leave or assistance; and the cattle, &c. — Which feed upon innumerable hills, or in valleys and fields. I know all the fowls, &c. — Where they are, and whence I could easily fetch them when I please; and not only tame and domestic fowls, but even such as are wild and fly up and down upon mountains; which, though out of man’s reach, are at my command. If I were hungry — If I wanted or desired any thing, which I do not, being the all-sufficient God; I would not tell thee — That thou mightest supply my wants. For the world is mine, &c. — And all those creatures wherewith it is replenished. Will I eat the flesh of bulls? — If I did want any thing, hast thou such gross and carnal conceptions of me as to suppose that I need or delight in the blood of brute creatures?
I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds.
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.
If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.
Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:Psalm 50:14. Offer unto God thanksgiving — If thou wouldest know what sacrifices I prize, and indispensably require, in the first place, it is that of thankfulness, proportionable to my great and numberless favours; which doth not consist barely in verbal acknowledgments, but proceeds from a heart deeply affected with God’s mercies, and is accompanied with such a course of life as is well pleasing to God. And pay thy vows unto the Most High — Not ceremonial, but moral vows seem to be evidently meant here: the things required in this Psalm being opposed to sacrifices, and all ceremonial observances and offerings, and preferred before them. He means those substantial vows, promises, and covenants, which were the very soul of their sacrifices, and to which their sacrifices were but appurtenances and seals; namely, the vows whereby they did avouch Jehovah to be their God, and engaged to walk in his ways, Deuteronomy 26:17; and to love, serve, and obey him according to that solemn covenant which they entered into at Sinai, Exodus 24:3-8, and which they often renewed, and indeed did implicitly repeat in all their sacrifices, which were appointed for this very end, to confirm this covenant.
And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.Psalm 50:15. And call upon me — Make conscience of that great duty of constant and fervent prayer to me, which is an acknowledgment of thy subjection to me, and of thy trust and dependance upon me, and therefore is pleasing to me; in the day of trouble — When trouble comes, do not endeavour to avoid or extricate thyself from it by sinful shifts and contrivances, nor apply merely or chiefly to creatures for relief, but give glory to me, by applying to me, relying on my promises, and expecting help from me in the way of hearty and unfeigned prayer. I will deliver thee — I will support thee under thy troubles, and deliver thee out of them in the time and manner which will be most for my glory and thy good. And thou shalt glorify me — Shalt have occasion, and shalt consider it as thy duty, to praise and glorify me for thy deliverance. Observe well, reader, our troubles, though we see them coming from the hand of God, should drive us to God, and not from him. We must acknowledge him in all our ways, depend upon his wisdom, power, and goodness, and refer ourselves entirely to him, and so give him glory. This is a cheaper, easier, readier way of seeking his favour than by a peace-offering or trespass-offering, and yet more acceptable. Observe also, when in answer to our prayers he delivers us, as he has promised to do in such way and time as he shall think fit, we must glorify him, not only by a grateful mention of his favours, but by living to his praise. Thus must we keep up our communion with God: meeting him with our prayers when he afflicts us, and with our praises when he delivers us.
But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?Psalm 50:16. But unto the wicked — The same hypocritical professors, whom he called saints, Psalm 50:5, in regard of their profession, and here wicked, in respect of their practice; God saith — By his Holy Spirit inspiring his prophets with the knowledge of his will, and commissioning them to declare it; What hast thou to do to declare my statutes? — Having informed them what he would not reprove them for, Psalm 50:8, and why, Psalm 50:9-13, he now tells them for what he did reprove and condemn them, even for a vain and false profession of religion. That thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth — With what confidence darest thou make mention of my grace and favour in giving thee such a covenant and such statutes, pretending to embrace them, and to give up thyself to the observation of them? This concerned not only the instructers of the people, such as the scribes and Pharisees, at whom it prophetically pointed, but the hypocritical and formal Israelites in general, who professed to know God, but by works denied him. And it still concerns all those professors of the true religion, whose practice contradicts their profession, and in an especial manner those ministers of the gospel who, while they teach others, neglect to teach themselves. All such, according to the psalmist here, are guilty of a usurpation, and take unto themselves an honour to which they have no title, and from which therefore they shall soon be removed with shame and disgrace as intruders.
Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.Psalm 50:17. Seeing thou hatest instruction — Seeing thy practice contradicts thy profession, and makes thee a notorious and impudent liar. For though with thy mouth thou showest much love to my statutes and counsels, yet, in truth, thou hatest them, as they oppose and hinder the gratification of thy beloved lusts, and are the instruments of thy just condemnation, and a manifest reproach to thy conduct. Or, seeing thou hatest reproof as מוסר, musar, is often rendered. And this, above all other parts of God’s word, is most hateful to ungodly men; and, therefore, this is fitly alleged as an evidence of their wickedness. And castest my words behind thee — As men do things which they abhor and despise.
When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.Psalm 50:18-20. When thou sawest a thief — Instead of reproving him, and witnessing against him, as those should do that declare God’s statutes, or that profess his religion; thou consentedst with him — Didst approve of his practices, and desire to share in the profits of his iniquitous proceedings. Or, thou didst run with, him, as תרצ עמו, tiretz gnimmo, may be rendered. Thou didst readily and eagerly associate thyself with him in his unrighteous actions. Thou didst yield to his motions, and that with great complacency and earnestness. And hast been partaker with adulterers — By joining with them in their lewd and filthy practices. “In this and the two following verses,” says Dr. Dodd, “are represented the notorious vices of the synagogue, (the Jewish Church,) which was extremely corrupt in the time of Christ.” Thou givest thy mouth to evil — To sinful or mischievous speeches. Thou hast an unbridled tongue, and castest off all restraints of God’s law, and of thy own conscience, and givest thy tongue liberty to speak what thou pleasest, though it be very offensive and dishonourable to God, and injurious to thy neighbour, or to thy own soul. And thy tongue frameth deceit — Uttereth lies or fair words, wherewith to deceive and circumvent those who deal with thee. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother — Thou sittest in the seat of the scornful to deride and backbite others, even those whom thou oughtest to respect and show kindness to, thy own relations, thy very brother: and this, not through inadvertency, or upon some sudden and great provocation, but it is thy constant and deliberate practice. This, the word תשׁב, teesheb, thou sittest, or continuest, implies. And thou art not only guilty of backbiting, or speaking evil of them when they are absent, and making known to others the follies or faults with which they are justly chargeable; but thou accusest them of things of which they are innocent. Thou slanderest even thine own mother’s son — And takest away his good name, which is better than all riches, yea, than life itself: and this in opposition to any express and often repeated commands.
Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit.
Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son.
These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.Psalm 50:21. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence — I did not express my displeasure against thee in such grievous judgments as thou didst deserve. Or, I was deaf: I conducted myself like one that did not hear thy sinful speeches, nor see, or take any notice of thy wicked actions. And thou thoughtest, &c. — Thou didst misconstrue and abuse my patience and long-suffering, as if it had proceeded from my not noticing, or not regarding thy evil courses, or from my approving of them; and therefore thou didst grow more audacious and impudent in sin. But I will reprove thee — I will quickly undeceive thee, and convince thee of the contrary, to thy cost; and set them, thy sins, in order before thine eyes — I will bring to thy remembrance, and lay upon thy conscience, all thy sins in full number, and in their order, with all their circumstances of aggravation: and thou shalt then see and know that I particularly observed and hated them all, and that none of them shall go unpunished. Thus the psalmist, as from the mouth of God, foretels the destruction of the impenitent Jews; who, having received the law of God, and the ordinances of his worship and service, and entered into a solemn covenant with him, would not be reformed by the warnings and exhortations of Moses or the prophets, nor by the preaching and miracles of Christ and his apostles; and, therefore, after a long series of lesser judgments and calamities, of which we have a circumstantial account in their history, at last suffered an infliction of wrath and vengeance sufficient to make the ears of every one that heareth it to tingle.
Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.Psalm 50:22. Now consider this, ye that forget God — Ye hypocritical and ungodly Israelites, who have forgotten (as Moses foretold ye would do, Deuteronomy 32:18) the God that formed you, and made you his people, and have forgotten his mercies and judgments, by which you should have been instructed, and the covenant which you made with him, and by which you stand obliged to obey and serve him. Lest I tear you in pieces — Lest my patience be turned into fury, and I proceed to take vengeance on you; and there be none, or, for there is none to deliver — None that can rescue you from the power of mine anger.
Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.Psalm 50:23. Whoso offereth praise — Or, thanksgiving, as the word תודה, todah, is often rendered; glorifieth me — He, and he only, gives me the honour which I prize and require; and not he who loads my altar with a multitude of sacrifices. And to him, that ordereth his conversation aright — Hebrew, ושׁם דרךְ, vesham derech, that disposeth his way, namely, the way, or manner of his life: that is, that lives orderly, and according to rule: for sinners are said to walk disorderly, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-11, and by chance, as it is in the Hebrew, Leviticus 26:21; Leviticus 26:23, which is opposed to order; and the Scriptures own no order but what God prescribes and approves; and, therefore, this word, aright, is properly added in our translation: Will I show — Hebrew, אראנו, arennu, I will make him to see, that is, to enjoy, as that verb is often used; the salvation of God, my salvation, that true and everlasting happiness, which I have prepared for all my true and faithful servants, and for them only: so false is that position of some of the Jewish rabbis, that every Israelite hath a portion in the world to come.