Our walk with God is suspect when the condition of our hearts does not match the confession of our lips.
Text: Psalms 50:1-23
The impact that the Lord made on many of us at the new birth was so profound that we carry with us his glorious majesty into everything that we did. At the same time, our friends, neighbors and relations were overtaken with consternation at the mighty hand of God upon our lives. For some, this initial impact was not only sustained but it has taking wider dimensions as they are led by the Spirit, while for others it has degenerated into a religious form and pattern, with no life nor power. In many instances, this latter state comes quite subtly, but over time it becomes noticeable. Psalm 50 is used of the Lord to stir us back to life and vibrancy for him. It will not give us additional empty religious duties of giving offerings and attending Sunday church services, but it will start us to hunger and thirst for the Lord, as it was when we first knew Him. It will rekindle a request for our first love for Christ and His people. When this happens, the services we used to render in the body of Christ to appease the Pastor take a new meaning and appeal. There is now a burning desire to serve his body to please the Lord. Furthermore, our walk with Him is deepened and more intimate. Life’s issues no longer revolve around people but around the Lord. It may well be that it is this kind of regeneration that many of our impoverished hearts are yearning for.
1. To appreciate the Majesty of God.
2. To know what empty religion is.
3. To know how to return to our first love for God.
4. To know that the Lord rebukes the ungodly.
5. To know the way of salvation for the ungodly.
Q1. RECOUNT THE MAJESTY OF THE LORD IN PSALM 50:1-6.
Psalm 50 opens with the phrase, “the mighty one, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth.” That simply reveals that our God is great in strength and might. To appreciate the greatness of His might, we find that when He speaks the earth is summoned. The greatness of the Lords strength is again revealed in Job 26:12, “By His power He churned (stirred) up the sea.” God’s power cannot be comparable to that of humans. Even the power of water in the form of floods9 and the massive devastation that they could cost does not still bring to true focus the extent of God’s power, nor wind power in tornadoes. “In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.” (1 Chron. 29:12) they appreciate this one because of the fact that their power is derived from the Lord and that they are only opportune to exercise it. The glory of the Lord is revealed to us in verse 2. “from Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” How brilliant is this glory? Isaiah felt so empty and worthless in comparison with the brightness of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:1-5); it came down during the dedication of the temple under Solomon’s reign, “and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” (1 Kings 8:10-11) There are many such experiences that dot the entire Scriptures. What is made known when any man experiences the glory of the Lord is that he gets to appreciate the emptiness in the glory of man. Every pride ceases when we have a true encounter with the glory of the Lord. One symbol commonly used in scriptures to indicate the majesty and power of the Lord’s presence is “fire”. “Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours about Him.” (Psalm 50:3) Similar thoughts can be found in Deuteronomy 4:36, Ps 97:3, Isaiah 66:15, Acts 2:3. It clearly shows that our God is holy because fire burns off every chaff (sin). When we have an encounter with the Lord, His fire purifies us as fire purifies gold. We must sense every ungodly nest and hypocrisy being gotten rid of. “And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God Himself is a judge.” (Ps. 50:6) God is righteous and he is a judge that rewards those who walk in righteousness and punishes those who live in unrighteousness. We can only expect to walk with the Lord when we walk in pursue after righteousness.
Q2. WHAT MAKES FOR EMPTY RELIGION?
“I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.” (Ps. 50:8) “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of Rams and the fat of fattened animals.” (Isaiah 1:11b) Empty religion multiplies religious activities in the same proportion as one lives in disobedience to God. It’s seeks to make up for sin by increasing the amount of offering or alms one gives. Paul warns Timothy to stay clear of persons who have a form of godliness but have had no personal taste of the power that goes with it. (2 Tim. 3:5). Empty religion is devoid of power to save and deliver one from the grip of sin and the devil. It boasts itself about the large donation made towards the building of a church or one’s regularity in attending Sunday church service. Even when Monday to Saturday or devoted to doing evil, duping others, cheating, lying, engaging in immorality, etc., the Sunday ritual cannot be missed. And no attempt is made for the Sunday ritual to address the lifestyle of the rest of the week. Week after week, month after month, year after year, the individual with empty religion digs deeper into sin and allegiance to the devil, while he increases his religious activities. That was the state of Israel. They thought that by increasing the number of their sacrifices while they remained entrenched in sin, the Lord somehow will overlook their sins and accept their sacrifices. They were wrong. The Lord is more interested in obedience to his word then burnt offerings (1 Samuel 15:15-23). He takes delight in our obedience then in multitudes of “good” and religious activities. The Lord would prefer that we obey Him and then do some good work to a friend or relation or institution as a cover for our disobedience.
Q3. HOW CAN WE AVOID EMPTY RELIGION?
For persons who once knew the Lord and then the grilled into a form of religion devoid of power, their restoration to true faith starts by their returning in true repentance to their first love for God. To the church at Ephesus the Lord had this to say, “Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Rev. 2:4,5) in repentance we return to the place where we once knew the Lord; we tried not to make up for our sins by increasing the number of our Christian activities but rather we repent and return to doing Christian service that is untarnished by self. In essence, therefore, there are two parts to restoration: one is repentance or an about-turn from sin and disobedience, and then doing the things one once did when one had a devoted love for Christ. It’s is love for Christ that should trigger our Christian activities and not the other way around; it is love for Christ that makes for pure Christian service that is acceptable to the Lord. For those who have never known Christ personally, anti-religion is overcome by true faith in Christ that leads to repentance from sin, accepting Christ as one’s Lord and Savior, and yielding in obedience to the Holy Spirit and His word. Being led of the Holy Spirit to a Bible believing church, such an individual will be endowed with a gift or gifts of the Holy Spirit to profit the people of God. Isaiah 1:18 & 19 says, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be as wool. If you will be willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land”. The crucial point which should not be missed is that repentance should be followed with a life of obedience. It is the latter that sustains one in Christ and saves us from sliding into empty religion. After this act of repentance, sustained Christian service can be achieved by continual obedience to the Lord and his Word. In practical terms, a regular study of the word and prayer on an individual basis and with a local body of believers would be quite helpful. In addition, one should give a witness to the gospel by sharing Christ with friends, acquaintances, and relations. A local church where the word of God is preached should be sought as a vehicle for Christian service to the body of believers.
Q4. WHAT IS THE LORD’S REBUKE AGAINST UNGODLY LIVING?
In verses 16 through 23 of Psalm 50, the Lord rebukes the wicked and ungodly. He was displeased with the wicked because their religion was a “lip” one, instead of a “heart” one. “What rights have you to recite my laws or take my covenants on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.” (vs 16-17). Then, in the subsequent verses, the Lord catalogs the practices which constitute this lip service – they join with the thief, support the all adulterer, use the lips for evil, deceit, and slander, etc. Apparently, the wicked thinks that the Lord is ignorance of his ways, but he is sure to receive God’s judgment, “consider this, you forget God, or I will tear you to pieces with none to rescue.” (vs 22) these verses should be instructive to all whose ways displease the Lord. God’s patience should not be interpreted to mean ambivalence but a show of love intended to bring the sinner to repentance. When he does not send hail and fire from heaven on the sinner, it does not suggest that the license to sin has not expired. It has long expired and the Lord is very displeased. Sometimes the Lord rebukes the ungodly through others. “whoever says to the guilty, you are innocent peoples curse him and nations will denounce him” (Prov. 24:24) although the moral compass the world is faulty, there are times when the Lord instigates people to rise up against the wicked. Just as the Lord used and an ass to speak to Prophet Balaam (Numbers 22:28), so also the Lord sometimes rebukes the ungodly by a group of people. Here the rebuke is directed at all who justify the wicked, cover of those in crime, and acquit the wicked of wrong doing. These are things that take place regularly in our country. What comes to mind here is that God is not pleased with such ways. God’s displeasure at on ungodly living makes the individual to be overtaken with a deprived mind or a mind that levels with that of an animal (Rom. 1:24-32). What happens with such individual is that he continues with his wicked ways at a cost of enormous horn to his body. Depravity of mind is the outcome of refusal to heed repeated rebuke from the Lord against sin. When an individual refuses to pursue the measure of truth of the Word revealed to him, he becomes disposed to a flood of lies from the devil that soon overtakes and governs his life. We cannot miss this point which is that, even now, the Lord distinctly review the ungodly with a strong desire that he seeks God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Q5. HOW CAN WE BE SHOWN THE WAY OF SALVATION?
The way of salvation will be shown to us when there is a desire to honor the Lord. “he who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” (Ps 51:23) When we refrain from making empty sacrifices but seek to make sacrifices to honor the Lord, then the way of salvation in Christ Jesus is shown to us. We come into a relationship with Him; one that affects every facet of our lives; one that now determines our spiritual, emotional and material well-being. Throughout Scripture we see persons to whom the Lord was revealed because their hearts yearned for Him. A good example is Cornelius in Acts 10. The way of salvation was shown to him through Apostle Peter. That is the portion of all those who seek to honor the Lord.
DAILY LIVING APPLICATION
Religion can be full of activities but empty in its impact. We see this all around us. It is religion whose activities are about the Maker, yet void of the majesty and splendor of the Maker. It is the kind of religion that seeks to make up for sin and disobedience by an increase in religious activities. Until we address the sin problem and return back to the Lord in true repentance, asking for cleansing by the blood of Jesus Christ, we will continue with the routine of dead and empty religion. We must realize that it is not because God is “broke” and threatened with bankruptcy that we need to rescue him out with our donations and offerings. It is the ungodly that is “flat broke” morally and spiritually and in dire need of a savior. That savior is Christ the Lord. If we genuinely see Him today, our lives will be radically transformed into the glorious image of Christ.
1 Samuel 15:22 “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of rams.”
DAILY DEVOTIONAL GUIDE
Mon: Salvation comes with God’s majesty. Psalm 18:4-16
Tue: People who fear the Lord. Malachi 3:16-18
Wed: The way back to pure and undefiled religion. Isaiah 1:10-20
Thu: It is not more sacrifices but more obedience. 1 Sam. 15:15-23
Fri: The Lord rebukes the ungodly. Romans 1:18-32
Sat: Paying heed to the message of salvation. Hebrews 2:1-9