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Doing the Right Thing in the Wrong Way

June 25, 2023 Speaker: Jonathan McLeod Series: Summer in the Psalms 2023

Topic: Worship Scripture: Psalm 50:1–23

The Right Thing in the Wrong Way

Have you ever done the right thing, but in the wrong way?

Maybe you wanted to help someone (e.g., home organization). You had good intentions, but you ended up doing more harm than good.

Psalm 50 is a wisdom psalm. It speaks to people who are doing the right thing in the wrong way. But Psalm 50 is about something much more important than home organization. It’s about worship.

Worship is something we’re supposed to do, but it’s possible to do the right thing in the wrong way.

God the Judge

[Read vv. 1-3.]

At the beginning of Psalm 50, God steps forward and speaks as a judge.

We like to think of God as a Father who loves us—which is true!—but he’s also a judge.

The way God is described tells us that we shouldn’t take him lightly. He’s the “Mighty One” (v. 1). “Before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest” (v. 3).

It’s a serious thing to stand before a judge. But this judge–the judge of Psalm 50—is no ordinary judge. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. You can’t intimidate him. You can’t hide anything from him.

To stand before God is to stand before someone who knows our every action, our every word, our every thought.

As we dig into Psalm 50, we’re going to look for answers to three questions:

  1. Who are the people being judged by God for doing the right thing in the wrong way?
  2. What is the right thing that they’re doing?
  3. How are they doing the right thing in the wrong way?

The Objects of God’s Judgment

Who are the people being judged by God for doing the right thing in the wrong way?

[Read vv. 4-6.]

God is judging his covenant community for doing the right thing in the wrong way.

Psalm 50 was written in the days of the Old Covenant. Back then, the nation of Israel was God’s covenant community. Today, the church is God’s covenant community. We are living under the New Covenant.

God doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin in the church. First Peter 4:17 says, “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God.”

The purpose of God’s judgment is not only to convict us of sin, but to also heal us.

The Right Thing

What is the right thing that God’s covenant community is doing?

[Read vv. 7-8.]

The right thing that God’s covenant community is doing is offering sacrifices.

We might call these sacrifices rituals. Rituals aren’t bad things. There are Christians rituals that we are supposed to do (e.g., gathering for worship, giving an offering, observing the Lord’s Supper).

God says to his covenant community, “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you” (v. 8). Offering sacrifices was the right thing to do. So what is he rebuking them for? They are doing the right thing in a wrong way.

The same can be true of us. 

The Wrong Way

How is God’s covenant community doing the right thing in the wrong way?

God’s covenant community is doing the right thing in the wrong way by valuing ritual over relationship.

[Read vv. 9-15.]

God’s not impressed by empty ritual. God doesn’t need our offerings.God wants obedience that comes from the heart. 

[Read vv. 16-21.]

God's not fooled by hypocritical worship. Hebrews 4:13 says, “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him of whom we must give account.”

“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’” (Isa. 29:13; cf. Matt. 15:8-9).

What does God think of our worship?

Relationship is more important than ritual. 

In verse 7 the psalmist alludes to two very significant parts of God’s law.

The words “Hear, O My people” take us back to Deuteronomy 6:4-5. [Read verses.] What does God want from his people? Their love.

The words “I am God, you God!” remind us of the giving of the Ten Commandments. [Read Deut. 5:1-3, 6.] Before God gave to his people the Ten Commandments, he reminded them of who he is and what he did for them. “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (v. 6).

 [Read vv. 22-23.]

They weren’t forgetting their sacrifices, but they were forgetting God (v. 22).

A Right Reliance

Twice in Psalm 50 (vv. 14, 23) God’s covenant community is told to offer thanksgiving to God. 

Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through [Christ] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips that acknowledge his name.”

When we offer thanksgiving to God, we acknowledge our dependance on him. 

God wants us to rely on him, not on our sacrifices.

From God comes salvation. Salvation doesn’t come from our sacrifices.

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