Of the True Service of God.
A psalm of Asaph, one of the directors of the Temple-chorus at the time of David, distinguished for musical and poetical ability, 1 Chron. 26. The hymn shows how the grandeur and solemnity of the divine judgment should instruct men in the true worship and encourage them in true piety. V. 1. The mighty God, even the Lord (in the Hebrew: El Elohim Jehovah), the God of gods, Jehovah, the supreme God of earth and heaven, hath spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof, as far as the earth extends, all its inhabitants are included in this mighty summons. V. 2. Out of Zion, where His Tabernacle and later His Temple stood, where He lived in the midst of His people, the perfection of beauty, the Church and congregation of God being the most beautiful object on earth, Ps. 48, 2. 3, God hath shined, sending out the brilliance of His majesty, more awe-inspiring than the rays of the sun. The psalmist is speaking of the majesty and glory of God's Word, especially the word of the Gospel, whose power and beauty goes forth to enlighten the earth. V. 3. Our God shall come, in this revelation of His divine essence, and shall not keep silence, bound to make known His glory before men everywhere; a fire shall devour before Him, especially in the words of the Law, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him, fire and tempest being the heralds of God as the Judge of mankind. The fire threatens to devour the sinners, and the tempest of His wrath will scatter them like chaff before the wind. V. 4. He shall call to the heavens from above, the heavenly hosts being summoned as His servants, and to the earth, as witness, that He may judge His people. Cp. Deut. 4, 26; 30, 19; Is. 1, 2. V. 5. Gather My saints together unto Me, those who, by virtue of the righteousness imputed to them, are holy in His sight; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice, the reference being to the division of the sacrificial animal, the two parties making the covenant passing between the divided portions, Gen. 15, 10, 18. V. 6. And the heavens shall declare His righteousness, the hosts of the heavens witnessing to the justice of all His sentences; for God is Judge Himself. Selah. Everything is now ready for the great scene of judgment: the court is about to open. V. 7. Hear, O My people, for He addresses those whom He wanted as His own, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee, namely, for their failure to give Him the proper worship. I am God, even thy God, He bore the rightful title to act as judge over Israel, V. 8, I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, He had no complaint to make that they had not been offered, or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before Me, rather, “and thy burnt offerings are over against Me always,” they had omitted none of the sacrifices enjoined by the Law. V, 9. I will take no bullock out of thy house nor he-goats out of thy folds, God felt no interest in the sacrifices as brought by Israel; all outward ceremony of divine worship is futile without the true faith of the heart. V. 10. For every beast of the forest is Mine, all creatures being His, men could not offer Him anything which He did not already possess, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. V. 11. I know all the fowls of the mountains, all the birds that prefer to nest there; and the wild beasts of the field are Mine, all the animals that played in the valleys and lowlands. V. 12. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, to plead for a sacrifice as food for Himself; for the world is Mine and the fulness thereof, and there is no desire on His part which might be satisfied through sacrifice. V. 13. Will I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Any believer bringing his offering should not do so under the delusion that he was doing something good to God personally, that he was obligating the Lord toward himself. The manner of true worship is now described. V. 14. Offer unto God thanksgiving, for true communion with Jehovah, and pay thy vows unto the Most High, Lev. 7, 44-18, namely, by bringing the homage of the heart, faith, penitence, and love, v. 15. and call upon Me in the day of trouble, after the right relation has thus been established by the proper worship. I will deliver thee, helping the worshiper out of all his difficulties, and thou shalt glorify Me, giving all praises to God alone for His every deliverance. That is the right relation which should obtain between the faithful here on earth and their heavenly Father. V. 16. But unto the wicked God saith, in a severe rebuke of hypocritical worship, What hast thou to do to declare My statutes, by imitating the behavior of the true believers, or that thou shouldest take My covenant in thy mouth, joining with the congregation in confessing the Word of God, v. 17. seeing thou hatest instruction, namely, the rebuke of hypocrisy and sin as contained in the Word, and castest my words behind thee, turning his back upon the divine instructions with a gesture of utter contempt? V. 18. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, taking pleasure in the form of wickedness practised against the Seventh Commandment and thus becoming guilty of the same crime, and hast been partaker with adulterers, in transgressing also the Sixth Commandment. V. 19. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, to slanderous talk of every kind, and thy tongue frameth deceit, deliberate falsehoods in order to take away the neighbor's good fame. V. 20. Thou sit test and speakest against thy brother, the nearest relative by blood not being safe against the tongue of the slanderer and reviler; thou slanderest thine own mother's son, the lowest and meanest form of betrayal. Throughout this passage the idea is brought out that God was amazed at the daring displayed by the hypocrite in being guilty of such transgressions and yet holding membership in the congregation of Jehovah. V. 21. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence, cp. Rom. 2, 21. 23; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself, conniving at such wicked behavior, because He did not punish the wickedness outright; but I will reprove thee, as soon as His patience which intended the sinner's salvation is exhausted, and set them in order before thine eyes, showing Himself in His awful majesty and in His revenging justice. V. 22. Now consider this, ye that forget God, those who depend upon an external righteousness of works and forget the need of true piety of the heart, lest I tear you in pieces, in a punishment of utter destruction, and there be none to deliver, for when God once begins to strike, it is impossible to escape. And so the conclusion is offered: v. 23. Whoso offereth, praise, the true thanksgiving of a believing heart, glorifieth Me, the external worship in this case being an expression of the faith of the heart; and to him that ordereth his conversation aright, making his whole life conform with the rule of God's divine will, will I show the salvation of God, His presence and favor attending him at all times. All Christians will shun and abhor hypocrisy in every form and continually watch over their hearts, in order that all their worshiping of God may be the outflow of a heart grateful for His favor and love in Jesus Christ.