This Psalm deals with humanity’s worship of God and the responsibility we have to our neighbors. This comprises the two sections of the Ten Commandments. It’s ultimate thrust is loyalty to God. The Lord doesn’t require empty ritual (which is formalism and hypocrisy) but instead requires genuine gratitude.
1. The Righteous Judge (verses 1-6)
1 The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.
2 From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.
3 Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.
4 He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge.
a. Human judges are called “honorable”, but the Lord Almighty, as Judge is called “The Mighty One”.
b. The Lord is the Judge, Prosecutor, and Jury—and He knows all about those who are on trial!
c. He calls, in verse 4, heaven and earth to witness the proceedings.
d. Additionally, all of heaven KNOWS that He is the righteous Judge (verse 6).
e. This is NOT a judgment on the lost, but those in a relationship with Him. The purpose of this “trial” was not to judge and condemn the sinners but to expose their sins and give them opportunity to repent and return to the Lord.
2. Judgment Against Formalism (verses 7-15)
7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God.
8 I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
9 I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens,
10 for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?
14 Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
a. Like the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:4, Israel had “left their first love” and were worshiping the Lord out of habit and not from the heart.
b. They were doing what the Lord commanded and honoring the daily sacrifices but inwardly they lacked love and fellowship with God. They forgot that God wanted their hearts before He wanted their sacrifices.
c. Don’t we sometimes do the same thing? Don’t we find ourselves simply going through motions of worship but not actually engaging and connecting with our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend?
d. This is not the way it should be!
3. Judgment Against Hypocrisy (verses 16-23)
16 But to the wicked, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?
17 You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.
18 When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers.
19 You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit.
20 You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son.
21 These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.
22 “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue:
23 He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”
a. Too many members of the community of Israel did not share the faith commitment required of full membership.
b. As such, there is no hope for the “wicked” (v. 16). The purpose of these verses is to prick the conscience of God’s people so as to make them more responsive to God’s requirements of the community. Those who are really interested in being his “consecrated ones” (v. 5) will wisely respond, whereas the wicked will foolishly cast God’s requirements of faith and repentance aside as not being relevant.
c. The purpose of the rebuke was to purify the people who called themselves “people of God.”
d. So the psalm finds guilty God’s people for formalism and hypocrisy in worship.
e. Jesus’ advice was to “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). This give us the way to correct these issues in our own lives.
i. Connect with God in your spirit.
ii. Connect with God through His written revelation.
God is serious about our worship. That has never changed. Again, worship is, at its core, loyalty, devotion, and obedience to God. The Lord has no interest in formalism or hypocrisy but desires us to love Him and as Jesus reminds us, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)