Psalm 50:21-23

21. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I would be like thyself;1 I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. 22. Now consider this, ye that forget God: lest I seize upon you, and there be none to deliver. 23. Whoso offereth praise will glorify me: and to him that ordereth his way aright will I show the salvation of God.


21. These things hast thou done. Hypocrites, until they feel the hand of God against them, are ever ready to surrender themselves to a state of security, and nothing is more difficult than to awaken their apprehensions. By this alarming language the Psalmist aims at convincing them of the certainty of destruction should they longer presume upon the forbearance of God, and thus provoke his anger the more, by imagining that he can favor the practice of sin. The greatest dishonor which any can cast upon his name is that of impeaching his justice. This hypocrites may not venture to do in an open manner, but in their secret and corrupt imagination they figure God to be different from what he is, that they may take occasion from his conceived forbearance to indulge a false peace of mind, and escape the disquietude which they could not fail to feel were they seriously persuaded that God was the avenger of sin. We have a sufficient proof in the supine security which hypocrites display, that they must have formed such false conceptions of God. They not only exclude from their thoughts his judicial character, but think of him as the patron and approver of their sins. The Psalmist reprehends them for abusing the goodness and clemency of God, in the way of cherishing a vain hope that they may transgress with impunity. He warns them, that ere long they will be dragged into the light, and that those sins which they would have hidden from the eyes of God would be set in all their enormity before their view. He will set the whole list of their sins in distinct order, for so I understand the expression, to set in order, before their view, and force them upon their observation.

22. Now consider this, ye that forget God. Here we have more of that severe expostulation which is absolutely necessary in dealing with hardened hypocrites, who otherwise will only deride all instruction. While, however, the Psalmist threatens and intends to alarm them, he would, at the same time, hold out to them the hope of pardon, upon their hastening to avail themselves of it. But to prevent them from giving way to delay, he warns them of the severity, as well as the suddenness, of the divine judgments. He also charges them with base ingratitude, in having forgotten God. And here what a remarkable proof have we of the grace of God in extending the hope of mercy to those corrupt men, who had so impiously profaned his worship, who had so audaciously and sacrilegiously mocked at his forbearance, and who had abandoned themselves to such scandalous crimes! In calling them to repentance, without all doubt he extends to them the hope of God being reconciled to them, that they may venture to appear in the presence of his majesty. And can we conceive of greater clemency than this, thus to invite to himself, and into the bosom of the Church, such perfidious apostates and violators of his covenant, who had departed from the doctrine of godliness in which they had been brought up? Great as it is, we would do well to reflect that it is no greater than what we have ourselves experienced. We, too, had apostatized from the Lord, and in his singular mercy has he brought us again into his fold. It should not escape our notice, that the Psalmist urges them to hasten their return, as the door of mercy will not always stand open for their admission -- a needful lesson to us all! lest we allow the day of our merciful visitation to pass by, and be left, like Esau, to indulge in unavailing lamentations, (Genesis 27:34.) So much is implied when it is said, God shall seize upon you, and there shall be none to deliver.2

23. Whoso offereth praise will glorify me. This is the third time that the Psalmist has inculcated the truth, that the most acceptable sacrifice in God's sight is praise, by which we express to him the gratitude of our hearts for his blessings. The repetition is not a needless one, and that on two accounts. In the first place, there is nothing with which we are more frequently chargeable than forgetfulness of the benefits of the Lord. Scarcely one out of a thousand attracts our notice; and if it does, it is only slightly, and, as it were, in passing. And, secondly, we do not assign that importance to the duty of praise which it deserves. We are apt to neglect it as something trivial, and altogether commonplace; whereas it constitutes the chief exercise of godliness, in which God would have us to be engaged during the whole of our life. In the words before us, the sacrifice of praise is asserted to form the true and proper worship of God. The words, will glorify me, imply that God is then truly and properly worshipped, and the glory which he requires yielded to him, when his goodness is celebrated with a sincere and grateful heart; but that all the other sacrifices to which hypocrites attach such importance are worthless in his estimation, and no part whatsoever of his worship. Under the word praise, however, is comprehended, as I have already noticed, both faith and prayer. There must be an experience of the goodness of the Lord before our mouths can be opened to praise him for it, and this goodness can only be experienced by faith. Hence it follows, that the whole of spiritual worship is comprehended under what is either presupposed in the exercise of praise, or flows from it. Accordingly, in the words which immediately follow, the Psalmist calls upon those who desired that their services should be approved of God, to order their way aright. By the expression here used of ordering one's way, some understand repentance or confession of sin to be meant; others, the taking out of the way such things as may prove grounds of offense, or obstacles in the way of others. It seems more probable that the Psalmist enjoins them to walk in the right way as opposed to that in which hypocrites are found, and intimates that God is only to be approached by those who seek him with a sincere heart and in an upright manner. By the salvation of God, I do not, with some, understand a great or signal salvation. God speaks of himself in the third person, the more clearly to satisfy them of the fact, that he would eventually prove to all his genuine worshippers how truly he sustained the character of their Savior.

1 Horsley translates these two clauses as follows: --

"These things thou hast done, and I was still;
Thou hast thought that I AM is such an one as thyself.

He thinks that the words hyha twyx, heyoth ehyeh, which Calvin renders, "I would be," have been misunderstood by all interpreters, and maintains that they should be rendered, "I AM is." "All interpreters," says he, "seem to have forgotten that hyha, ehyeh, is the name which God takes to himself in the third chapter of Exodus; and he observes, that it is with particular propriety, that God, in expostulating with his people for their breach of covenant, calls himself by the name by which he was pleased to describe himself to that same people, when he first called them by his servant Moses." The LXX. render twyh, heyoth, as a noun substantive, and hyha, ehyeh, as the first person future of the substantive verb. "'Ypelaqev ajnomian, oJti ejsomai soi oJmoiov:" "Thou thoughtest wickedly that I should be like thee."

2 The language here is metaphorical. The Almighty, provoked by the wickedness of these hypocrites, compares himself to a lion, who, with irresistible fury, seizes on his prey, and tears it in pieces, none being able to rescue it from his jaws. We meet with a similar form of expression in Hosea 5:14: "For I will be as a lion unto Ephraim, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him." We must not, however, suppose that the rage and fury of this relentless destroyer can have place in the bosom of the Deity. Such phraseology is adopted in accommodation to the feebleness of our conceptions, and our contracted modes of thinking, to impress the hearts and consciences of sinners with a conviction of the tremendous character of the judgments of God, and the fearful condition of those who fall under his penal wrath.