Called to Judgment
(H) A psalm of Asaph. (1) The mighty one, God (namely) Yahweh, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. (2) Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. (3) Our God comes forth and does not remain silent: before him, a devouring fire, around him, a raging tempest. (4) He calls to the heavens above and to the earth (beneath) that he may judge his people. (5) “Gather to me my godly ones who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” (6) The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. (Selah)
Three names for God, “the mighty one...Elohim...Yahweh,” are found in this psalm’s first verse. “Elohim” is used three more times in this opening segment (vss. 2, 3, & 6). Several verbs describe what God does. He speaks and summons (vs. 1). He shines forth (vs. 2). He is manifested in fire and tempest (vs. 3). He calls his people (vs. 4) to gather before him (vs. 5), so that he might righteously judge the earth (vs. 6).
I. What God does: summons the earth. (1-4)
II. What God demands: gather my people for judgment. (5 & 6)
God, in his awesome power and righteousness, summons his covenant people in order that he may evaluate their lives.
In today’s world, the adjective “awesome” has lost much of its impact through overuse. It seems as though everything can be described as “awesome” as in the following comments: “Wasn’t that an awesome movie we just watched? And now we’re enjoying such an awesome hamburger.” Rich Mullen’s praise chorus, Our God Is an Awesome God, gives us a sense of how “awesome” should be used, namely as a way of describing the one who alone is awe-inspiring, dreadful, terrifying, causing us to tremble with fear.
Asaph, in Psalm 50, describes how our awesome God in righteousness deals with those in covenant relationship with him. Although Israel had declared her allegiance to God, the nation was not living in ways that honored him. Her devotion was more a surface conformity than a wholehearted obedience, and that called for examination. As Peter put it, “For it (is) time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:16 & 17)
We should regularly ask ourselves, “Is there anything in our lives that God would consider unrighteous, unholy, unworthy of his greatness and glory?” If there is, we need to repent, confess our sin, and determine to rid ourselves of it before God is forced to take the inevitable step of chastening us. Remember Paul’s advice to the Corinthians: “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment” (1 Cor. 11:31).