Today’s Psalm speaks of a mighty God, but not in the way we have experienced in recent readings. We have been focusing on God’s power to redeem and save. We’ve been reading about God’s compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. We’ve learned that he numbers and knows the stars…by name! All of these things are mighty and true.
But today’s reading is a reminder of other aspects of God’s might. Here we see that God summons the rising and the setting of the sun. This is lovely, and it brings us comfort to know the power God has over his creation.
The rest is not as comforting.
Psalm 50 (New Revised Standard Version)
The mighty one, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes and does not keep silence,
before him is a devouring fire,
and a mighty tempest all around him.
The imagery changes to a God who comes with a devouring fire. A mighty tempest surrounds him. He will not be silent. Why? What does he say?
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
His role as judge is laid out. He calls to heaven and earth to be witnesses to his power. He comes to love, yes, but also to judge. This aspect of God’s relationship with us is too often diminished.
When we favor the image of God as “Jesus is my forever friend,” we dilute the aspect of God that comes to judge the quick and the dead. Don’t be fooled. God will judge us according to his righteousness. His righteousness includes all that is just, right, fair, and holy. He cannot abide unrepentant sin, so he sent his only Son to make a sacrifice on our behalf. He kept his end of the covenant. We need to keep ours. But be aware…God will judge us according to HIS plumb line, not the world’s.
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge. Selah
We are inching our way toward the season of Lent, when we examine our behavior against God’s expectations. May this Psalm be the beginning of that process, and may God judge us and find us among the faithful ones, who make and keep a covenant with him.