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Asaph, to whom this psalm is inscribed, was a seer, as well as head of the singers. He was also the author of twelve psalms, extremely beautiful, and highly prophetic. He here declares that EL ELOHIM JEHOVAH hath spoken. The Latin reads, The God of gods, Jehovah hath spoken. All versions fall short of the original. The prophet speaks here like Enoch, like Joel, like Daniel, of the Lord’s coming to judge and to punish the apostate priests and rulers for rejecting Christ and the gospel; but under these figures, reference is had to the final day of judgment. It is very striking that the spirit of prophecy wholly ascribes the fall of the Jewish nation to the infidelity, the bribery, and the adulteries of their priestly rulers.
Psalms 50:3 . Our God shall come; literally, our Elohim comes a fire shall devour before him. As the elder rabbins refer this psalm to the Messiah, and as the sibylline verses have been defended by Justin Martyr, by Origen, by Clemens of Alexandria, by Augustine, and by Lactantius, notwithstanding the exclamations of forgery in Arian writers, I make no apology for citing them here, as collateral evidences of the truth. SIBYLLA ERYTHRÆA is thus recited, in the Oration of Constantine, from the Greek.
When the great day, the judgment shall appear, The affrighted earth shall melt away with fear; The King immortal shall from heaven descend, And at his bar all nations shall attend; The just and unjust shall, when time grows old, Their Mighty God, arrayed in flesh, behold. The countless hosts at his right hand shall come, And every soul of man await its doom.
With indignation men shall cast away, Their wealth and idols in that vengeful day; The burning earth in flames ascending high, Whose fires shall search and drain the ocean dry.
All flesh which in their graves immured lay, Shall burst their barriers, and return to day. This fire the saints from sinners shall refine, And make the gold with brighter lustre shine: Men’s secret deeds shall then be open laid, The latent mazes of the heart displayed; Gnashing their teeth their fate they then shall wail, The light of sun and shining orbs shall fail.
Mountains and plains shall undistinguished lie, Nor vales their bosom ope, nor Alps be high. No more the seas the stately ships shall boast, The rolling waves forsake the burning coast.
Te’ impetuous lavas shall in rivers burn, And all the grosser earth to crystal turn: The trumpet then from heaven shall sound, And earth’s destruction in its sins be found.
Psalms 50:16 . But to the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes? These prohibitions are understood to be a dismissal of the Jewish doctors as the ministers of the holy God. Like the sons of Eli, they joined the thief and the adulterer, instead of seeking the salvation of his soul. But on a minor scale, they apply to all unholy men who officiate in the sanctuary of the Lord.
Psalms 50:22 . Lest I tear you in pieces, as a hungry lion rends his prey, and there be none to deliver you, as was the case when the Romans besieged Jerusalem.
Psalms 50:23 . Show the salvation of God. The original indicates not only an insight into the gospel law, but that God would save the christian church when he destroyed the temple. He sets a mark, or writes his name, on those that sigh and cry for sin.
We have here another psalm of the didactic kind; it is a production of the pious Asaph’s, and moves in a higher sphere than the preseding. It opens by calling the whole earth to audience, for the speaker is God of the gentiles, as well as the jews. The subject is worthy of audience and attention: it is God shining forth out of Zion, in the purity of his law and the glory of his gospel. Futurity, in this flood of day, bursts for a moment into open view. The vision was double, closing, like our Saviour’s prophecies, with the destruction of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the world. The prophet, filled with the subject, could hold no more Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence, at the apostasy of his people: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about. Wherever the guilty Jews shall fly for refuge, vengeance, bloody vengeance shall pursue. So all the holy prophets, impelled by the same spirit, arrayed their sermons with the terrors of the Lord. Isaiah 33:14. Joel 2:0. Malachi 4:0. Acts 2:0. The law was published on Sinai with fire and smoke; and the heavens which have attested its violations, shall punish the guilty with sheets of flame.
Before the Judge pours his vengeance down, he gathers the saints under the covert of his wings; for they have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. Providence confirms the prophecy; many of the saints were driven out of Judea by Jewish persecution, 1 Peter 4:12; and the rest, believing our Saviour’s words, fled beyond the Jordan on the approach of the Roman armies. The final judgment is related at large in Matthew 25:0. Revelation 20:0.
The grand cause of Israel’s ruin was corrupt teachers, and hypocrisy of worship. The Lord would not reprove them for sacrifices, but because he loathed their services while they retained their sins. How strikingly also does this apply to the christian church. We may look on the ruins of Israel’s Zion and tremble, for we daringly tread in the same steps.
The prophet, willing to reform his country, says, Offer unto God thanksgivings; worship him with all your heart, not merely with your gifts. Call upon him in the day of trouble, then he will deliver you from the sword, as by Gideon, Samuel, David, and others. So he will deliver the christian in all his trials and afflictions; but we must leave him to choose the time, and the way of our deliverance. Very often he delivers the godly out of the miseries of this sinful world.
But the prophet, most indignant with the corrupters of his country, gives a terrible stroke at the scribes and pharisees, the dignitaries of that age. But unto the wicked, God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes; or that thou takest my covenant into thy mouth; for they hated instruction. If the pious poor dared to intimate their duty, their pride resented it; and when Christ and his apostles delivered their souls of them, they persecuted them to death. They were corrupt on the bench of justice, and took bribes to exempt thieves from punishment; at adultery they made a secret sneer; and habituated to crime, they thought God was like themselves. The prophet exhorts them to consider their forgetfulness of God; for he knew that God would not long keep silence, but would tear them to pieces in the day of his wrath. Hence also christian ministers should read, tremble, and be sanctified. Every wicked minister, says Jesus, is a thief and a robber; and even among the regenerate, whoever is overcome of any known sin, should weep before the Lord, and not presume to go into the sanctuary till he is in some sort again reconciled to God. Origen, in the time of persecution, having fallen by offering incense on the pagan altar, was of course excommunicated, and wept most bitterly for his sin. But one day in the church, when this psalm was read, on hearing these words, he wept so loud, and with grief so sincere, as to bring all the congregation into a flood of tears. His repentance is reckoned the most pathetic of any ancient writing. How holy, how jealous is the Lord! He will be sanctified in them that draw near to him.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 50". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter