In this Psalm, God is calling Israel to account for their sin, but it’s not for the sins that you might expect. In verse 7 He says that He will testify against His people, but then proceeds to tell them that the sacrifices that they have been bringing to Him were fine. “I bring no charge against you concerning your sacrifices or concerning your burnt offerings.” They are doing the right things, practicing right religion.
So what does God tell them to do? Three things:
1) Sacrifice thank offerings 2) Fulfill your vows 3) Call on God.
Be thankful. Obey. Trust.
This is the hinge on which the psalm and God’s judgment swings, because He then addresses the wicked. Their problem? They are showing up to worship, reading their Bible verses, saying the right things. But their lives don’t match it. In short, they don’t practice what the preach (v. 16-20). The psalm ends with a key corrective to the wicked – thank offerings honor God.
Why is thanksgiving elevated above obedience in verses 14 and 15? Why are the wicked rebuked for their lack of thanks?
The answer lies back in Psalm 49. The problem in this psalm was trust in self, exchanging shepherds. Those who trust in themselves, in their own abilities, are going to lack a thankful heart. There’s no need to be thankful to God. They have produced the results. They have produced the wealth. God has become a means to an end – say a few verses, show up to service, and voila!
A thankful heart reveals that we understand who our provider is, who our shepherd is. A thankful heart drives obedience motivated by love. A thankful heart leads us to trust the Lord as we see Him as the source of all things. The wicked of Psalm 50 lack this heart.
The tricky part is that a thankful heart can only be seen by God. So we can have a life built on trust in ourselves and still look pretty on the outside, deceiving ourselves and others.
In Psalm 50:21, God says, “When you did these things, I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you.” See? Deceived. We get fooled into making God in our image. And before we know it, we are in over our head and way off track, which brings us to David’s life and Psalm 51.