1 The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
2 From Zion, perfect in beauty,
3 Our God comes
4 He summons the heavens above,
5 “Gather to me this consecrated people,
6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
7 “Listen, my people, and I will speak;
8 I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
9 I have no need of a bull from your stall
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
15 and call on me in the day of trouble;
16But to the wicked person, God says:
17 You hate my instruction
18 When you see a thief, you join with him;
19 You use your mouth for evil
and harness your tongue to deceit.
20 You sit and testify against your brother
and slander your own mother’s son.
21 When you did these things and I kept silent,
you thought I was exactly like you.
But I now arraign you
22 “Consider this, you who forget God,
23 Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me,
This psalm gives great insight to God and the true worship that is offered toward the Holy God while it addresses the lip service that some of the Israelites were offering to God. There is also an important structure that Asaph, the writer of the psalm and a musician during the time of David, sings and praises to God.
Verses 1-6 are astounding because they describe the character and nature of God. God is the Mighty One; He is all powerful and controls all things. Everything on this earth happens at the command of God such as the rising and the setting of the sun. Can we truly begin to imagine the greatness of God where the God of the universe who is enthroned above all powers and kingdoms and rulers? This is the God who is not only all powerful but in verse 2, He is perfect in beauty. He is the God who speaks—He is not silent to the crises in the earth, but He speaks to His people. He is the true judge, and so every person will bow under the judgement of the One enthroned in the Heavens, not one will escape the judgement of God. And He is perfect in executing His justice and righteousness, and He cannot be bought and bribed like politicians nor does He turn a blind eye to the wickedness that continues to take place. All of these descriptions are marvelous in describing the nature and character of the God of the universe, who is majestic and powerful. The way that Asaph elevates God is truly astounding as God is exalted for who He is. Too many times, we worship God for what He does (and obviously we should praise Him for His wondrous deeds upon His people), but do we take time in meditating on who God is and how He is above all things and fall in love with God because He is God?
We understand in verse 5 that the same God of the universe who is so limitless in power and ability is also the same God who gathers His people, continues to maintain His covenant promise with His people, and instructs and speaks to them. Our God is one who corrects His people because He takes ownership of us. When we are astray we have the full assurance that the Great Shepherd calls His people and gathers them together in true practice. He is our God and His actions toward us are to correct and discipline when we are in error, and that includes in how we worship God.
In the next set of instructions, God admonishes His people regarding their worship practices. The Israelite practice of worship included sacrifices and burnt offerings, and while there is the righteous remnant that God doesn’t bring any charge because they honor God with correct and righteous thank offerings, there are those that lip service to the Most High, thinking He is pleased with empty rituals. God owns all of the animals of the forest, so He doesn’t need any of it. Because while offering these offerings, their lifestyles do not reflect as God’s holy and righteous covenant people.
The wicked are described in contrast to the descriptions of God. While God is described as righteous, just, beautiful, and compassionate on human beings allowing the sun to rise and set for us, but the wicked are described in opposite terms. The wicked are perverting the justice of God, slandering their neighbors, stealing from others—if all the earth belongs to God, then they are stealing from God—and they are in complete opposite to the nature of who God is. In verse 16,it is God who says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? This is an important question as God’s covenant people when reading the Law must obey its commands: the commands for purity, holiness, justice, compassion, and imitating the nature of God. “Be holy as I am holy,” says God.
The same is true for us! We can offer lip service to God: empty praises, rituals practiced, traditions that have very little value on our lifestyles, and all of the practices of American Christianity that continues to elevate programs, entertaining music and the hip, trending songs, fashionable clothes, and empty sermons that teach people on humanism rather than the character and nature of God like Asaph so eloquently sings and teaches in the psalm. There is indeed a wrong way to worship God, and there were Israelites who were doing so.
The true worship is of obedience to God! The righteous offer true sacrifices to God, they do not forget God, and they obey the whole Law of God and its requirements. For believers, we should worship God rightly by obeying Him and being holy. Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Let us be people that acknowledge that we belong to God, we are His, exalting God rightly as He is, and worshipping God rightly as His people in accordance with His word. No longer with lip service, but to obedience and in holiness to God.