First Off…read Psalm 50!
Our psalm today is a “didactic” psalm – a “teaching” psalm…and it’s attributed to Asaph (he was a musician). The goal of this didactic psalm is to teach or instruct all those listening and as we read through psalm 50 we can see three different movements: Introduction, instruction/charge to the righteous followers, and instruction/charge to the wicked. And all of this is framed around WHO God is.
As I read this psalm I can’t help but be drawn to the 3rd of the 3 instructions. I know who God is (vs 1-6) and I fully understand that God doesn’t NEED our sacrifices and our giving’s to him and really all of our life is about fulfilling our vows to not only him but each other (vs 7-15)…but it’s that 3rd instruction (16-23) to where I’m struck and focused.
We can see in verse 16 that the “wicked” are reciting the laws of the Lord and speaking of the covenant that was made…and yet they obviously are wicked because they are simply giving lip-service to God and their fellow brothers and sisters. They see bad things happen and they join in. They speak lies and evilness, they speak harshly against others and their actions, and yet they still profess God and his love.
So why does God even care?
God is concerned with those who speak of his name and do so wrongly because being in a relationship with him means living out that relationship in all aspects of our life. If we are called to be his hands and feet then we simply must BE his hands and feet. We must love who he loves and serve who he serves. God gives us very specific commands on how we are to act and be… (see the 10 Commandments from Ex 20) on how we should love and serve him as well as others – and so NOT doing those simply is breaking them.
But we also must realize that not only does God care about HOW we are being his hands and feet but God does not want us to believe and know what he demands of us and then simply refuse to do it. God does not want people who give lip service.
Active worship of God requires actively following his commands. Nodding and speaking the words to people that God is love requires us to BE that love in all situations. We can’t say that God is ________ but that that is him and we don’t have to abide by that cuz…well, we’re not him. We are called to emulate him in all we say and do. Which means we can’t choose who we want to love and who we do not. It simply doesn’t work that way.
Here’s an example of what I’m getting at (sorry – this may come across as a soapbox moment because I’m slightly passionate about this…but bear with me):
We, as a Christian community, speak of the “sanctity of life” – the importance of life. But what we find ourselves doing is using that expression when and where we want. We speak of the unborn child and of THEIR sanctity of life and importance (as used and seen with abortion) but for some reason we stop there. For whatever reason “sanctity of life” has become only a banner to hang when it comes to the unborn child and fighting abortion.
- But what about the murderer who sits in prison? What about the sanctity of THEIR life?
- What about the refugee? Does their life not matter?
- What about the rapist whom we quickly want to throw their life away?
Do none of their lives matter?
“Sanctity of Life” doesn’t only stop there though. What about how we speak to people, the words we use to build up or break down? What about our giving and holding of finances to people in need? What about how we THINK of people and the conclusions we draw about them? All those things (and so much more) speak to the importance of life – for they all give a value OF life.
I don’t want to sit here and say that all those who DON’T speak of those things are “wicked” but we need to understand, we need INSTRUCTION from each other (and reminders) that God calls his children to be active worshippers – and really we should be challenged by Asaph’s words in verses 16-21. We know God speaks of love…so are we doing it? REALLY doing it?
This instruction from Asaph is here because we all need reminders and instructions. Paul reminds us in Romans (1:32 as well as 2:21-22) that what we teach and say must not only be words for others – but words for us as well. We must be obedient in words, heart, and actions. Hypocrisy has no place in the kingdom of God.
So what does this mean? To me – this means that we take a page from Asaph. That we listen to the words we speak when we speak of God – that we truly take them to heart. That we fully understand the words we use and why we use them…but that we must not stop there. That our actions back up our words and that we live into the commands and grace of God each and every day. But that we also do what Asaph is doing here for us…that in his challenge to those who did NOT live Godly lives that we too speak into each other’s lives and remind each other just want it means to follow God (being my “brother’s keeper”).