Take a minute to read Psalm 50 before you read this reflection.
The loudest sound you may ever hear is the sound of God’s people rejoicing at the perfect and holy judgment of the Lord.
“What!?!” You might be thinking. “There’s no way I’m going to cheer when God sends people to hell.”
But psalm 50 has something to say about that. Judgment is a tough thing for us to grapple with. Let’s be honest and say that we don’t often lead with that when we are trying to share the good news of Christ with people who need to hear it. But God’s judgment is a beautiful thing. And that’s why this psalm is — ironically enough — a psalm of Praise.
This psalm starts by glorifying God’s majesty by invoking two names we use for God, El Elohim, and Yahweh. You may think the Psalmist only needed to use one, but this is the beauty of poetry. I can call my son by his name, but doesn't it carry more weight if I call him by his nickname too? There is something about an unneeded repetition that communicates that we are being genuine. So when you read it, don't skip over it.
The beauty and complexity of this psalm come out when we realize that this psalm is written to the Israelites. At first, they reach out to God in praise and then the tables turn in on them in verse 4. God turns to Israel and puts them on trial. God will turn to the “faithful” or the ones who knew better first.
What happens next is so interesting and applicable for us today. As God starts his rebuke (vs 7), Israel tries to use religious practices to gain God’s favor (vs 8-11). God in this rebuke is telling Israel — and the church today — that he doesn’t need our sacrifices, or devotions to make him happy. He wants a relationship. You know, that thing we have pushed aside because it is easier for us to serve, or bear down in a bible study. We can do all the “right things” yet miss the righteous one.
God leaves us with a serious warning about his wrath in verses 22 and 23. “Seek my heart through praise, not through legalism.”
In a sense, God is telling us that he created everything to praise him, yet we are the only ones dumb enough to think twice about doing it.
The bad news is that we cannot seek him in a relationship. We are naturally too evil to want to love God and therefore deserve to be torn apart by his wrath. The good news is that God himself came to us and was torn apart on the cross in our place. Jesus the Son of God bore the wrath of the Father that was meant for me and you so that we could get what he deserved… a perfect relationship with the father.
I hope you can read this psalm and not be turned off by the fact that God judges and be able to praise him because he sent his Son to pay the judgment for us.