Thursday, August 1, 2013

When God Testifies Against You

Today is the fourth day in our 30th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  2 Chronicles 24; 2 Kings 12; Matthew 9; Psalm 50.

This morning as I was having breakfast, I was listening to Max McLean reading today's scriptures.  When I heard his reading of Psalm 50, I was awestruck by the intensity, and even anger in his voice.  I've read this psalm many times, but have never felt the severity in it until I heard it from Max's lips.  Click here to listen to Max's reading.

In Psalm 50 (ESV), God speaks through the lips of Asaph, who is not just a psalmist, but a prophet.  Verses 1 and 2 make you think that this is going to be a lovely psalm, evoking images of sunrises, the perfection of beauty, and God shining forth.  Yet the tone quickly changes in verse 3, where God is surrounded by a mighty tempest, and before Him goes a devouring fire.  From this moment, we know that God is about to tell us some difficult things.  Verses 4-6 identify God as the Judge.

He calls to the heavens above
    and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me my faithful ones,
    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
The heavens declare his righteousness,
    for God himself is judge! 

But in this case, God is not only the judge; He is also the Prosecuting Attorney.  Verse 7 says:

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
    O Israel, I will testify against you.
    I am God, your God.

What could it be that God has against His people, that would arouse such anger and retribution?  The people think that they are doing everything right, just because they are carrying out the prescribed religious rituals.  God acknowledges that they haven't wavered in this, and that their cultic acts are not the reason for the rebuke that He is about to give.  Verse 8 says:

Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
    your burnt offerings are continually before me.

Yet, for God, ritualistic observance is not enough.  He wants more than vain religion.  He wants sincerity of heart, thanksgiving, obedience, and total dependence on Him.  Without these things, all the religion in the world is worth nothing.
I will not accept a bull from your house
    or goats from your folds.
10 For every beast of the forest is mine,
    the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills,
    and all that moves in the field is mine.
12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
    for the world and its fullness are mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
    or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and perform your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
Then, God enumerates His grievances against His people.
16 But to the wicked God says:
    “What right have you to recite my statutes
    or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
    and you cast my words behind you.
18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
    and you keep company with adulterers.
19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
    and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
    you slander your own mother's son.
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
    you thought that I[c] was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
    lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
Truly, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31)!  When you've got the Judge acting as the Prosecuting Attorney, can there be any hope for you?  Ah, yes--there is good news at the end of the psalm.  Verse 23 says:

23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!”

Here, the word "thanksgiving" means more than a national holiday.  It represents the fullness of a right relationship with God, in which the believer recognizes total dependence on the Lord, and gratitude for what God has done.  Then, out of the overflow of that right relationship with God comes the natural result of a well-ordered life.  Here, we see a balanced approach to life, a harmony of faith (here, represented by a relationship with God marked by thanksgiving) and works (evidenced by right living).  True faith is revealed by works.  Righteousness should be the result of, and not the price paid for, salvation.  

I hope that your life shows a balance of faith and works, of thanksgiving and righteousness.  I pray that you know the salvation of God, and that you'll listen to the words of the prophet-psalmist Asaph as he speaks for the Lord and delivers God's message to you today.

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