A Sermon on Psalm 50
Courtroom scenes on television or in film often make for good drama–especially when the case takes a surprising turn, or when justice itself in on the line. In Psalm 50 we have a dramatic courtroom scene in which YHWH himself summons the whole world to the foot of Mount Zion to appear before his divine tribunal. But when the charges are read, those assembled in the court realize that the defendant is not who or what we expect. Judgment begins in the house of the Lord.
As we continue our series on select Psalms, we will take up Psalm 50, one of twelve Psalms attributed to Asaph. So far in our series the Psalms we’ve covered Psalms written by David, Moses, and the Sons of Korah. We now add a Psalm to our list attributed to the aforementioned Asaph (whose name, in addition to Psalm 50, is also attached to Psalms 73-83). During our time in the Psalter, have we covered Psalms of praise, Psalms of trust, royal Psalms, wisdom Psalms, and Psalms used during worship in the temple. Psalm 50 (which appears in Book Two of the Psalter–which includes Psalms 42-72) is yet another genre (or type) of Psalm called a prophetic (or oracular) Psalm, because in this Psalm, God appears in a theophanic vision, apparently to accuse the nations and warn them of a judgment certain to come, before calling them to repentance.
As we have done throughout this series, we begin by looking at the setting and historical background of the Psalm. We’ll then go through the text of the Psalm, before we make a number of points of application. As we have also done throughout this series I’ll assign you a bit of homework (read Psalms 46-53), and then we’ll sing this Psalm, a distinctive practice of confessional Reformed and Presbyterian churches who believe that the Psalter is the primary hymn book for the people of God.
We begin by looking at this Psalm’s place in Book Two of the Psalter. Psalms 46-49 speak of God’s rule over his creation from a cosmic perspective. In Psalm 50, God declares that he has no human limitations. He does not hunger. He does not need sacrifices. He hates pious platitudes and self-righteous religious speech. Psalm 51 (which, Lord willing, we’ll cover in several weeks) speaks of human sinfulness and guilt before God, as well as reminding us of God’s forgiveness and mercy. Psalm 52 contrasts human folly and God’s wisdom, while Psalm 53 mocks the fool who says in his heart, “there is no God.”
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