The Lord’s Case
Against His People

a brief study of Psalm 50, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 11 April 2008

Psalm 50 in one of the most interesting of the Psalms. It is written like a lawsuit and may be entitled, “The LORD’s case against His people.”

It is a suit against His people primarily. But as the apostle Peter reminds us:

“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1Pt 4:17).

God’s judgement against Jerusalem and Israel is a figure and harbinger of His judgement against the world.

This Psalm is therefore a passionate call, given by the King of the Church and the Judge of the World— to the church and to the world to wake up from our slumber and to live for the LORD. For who is the judge, but the Lord Himself: “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” says our Lord (Jn 5:22).

This Psalm begins with a picture of the courtroom in which the charges are filed (v. 1-6). This is followed by the charges against God’s people who are still willing to listen to Him but have grown complacent (v. 7-15). And finally, there is a charge against those who have grown hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (v. 16-23).

Let’s look at these 3 parts.

1. The Courtroom Scene

As we enter into this Psalm, we enter into a courtroom. Let us read the introduction to the case being heard:

1 The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.

The case being heard concerns the entire world. The charges are directed against the church. But the world,—as it lies from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof,— must take heed.

Judgement will proceed from Zion, but the Judge is the God of glory before whom all the world should tremble:

2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. 3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.

This is the Judge, great in glory, mighty in power. As the Judge enters into the courtroom, let us bow in humble adoration and fear. Listen, the Judge is calling the court into Session:

4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.

This is a courtroom of cosmic proportion. It is a case of cosmic implications. Who are the plaintiff and the defendant?

Here are the defendants:

5 Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.

God’s covenant people are the defendants. Who are those who have made a covenant with Him by sacrifice? It is all who were circumcised in the old covenant. So the defendants are the visible people of God. Today, the visible people of God are the church—believers and their children, bearing the sign of the covenant, which today is baptism.

Who is the plaintiff or complainant? Who is filing the lawsuit against the church? Verse 6—

 6 And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself.

God is the judge! So the heavens are the plaintiff. The heavens are bringing the charges against the people on behalf of the Lord.

Of course, this is a metaphorical picture. The idea is that God has a very serious charge against His people. He is bringing this charge against them in a former way.

Let us consider first, His plea of charge against the complacent:

2. A Plea to the Complacent

What is the LORD’s charge against the people who have become complacent?

7 Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. 8 I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me.…

The charge is that the people had become legalistic and superstitious in their relationship with God.

Consciously or unconsciously, they had begun to relate to God as if they are doing Him a favour when they worship Him. They are feeding a hungry god, with their sacrifices, they seem to think.

But every beast of the forest belongs to God and He owns the cattle upon a thousand hills (v. 9-11). All that the people offer in sacrifice belong to Him. How foolish for the people to think that they are doing God a favour. And how foolish for them to think that God needs them. God does not get hungry. He has no need. God is being sarcastic when He says “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee…” (v. 12).

Beloved brethren and children, I wonder how many of us have this false notion about God—that He needs our worship or our money or our talents.

Make no mistake. God does not need us. He does not need you. Neither does He need me. He does not need our talents, or our money, or our time. Let none of us entertain this false notion that we are doing God a favour when we serve Him.

No, no; when we serve Him, it is a privilege.  And let none of us entertain this false notion that we need to pay for God’s blessing by serving or by giving our tithes.

No, no; that is not the Christian life. This is precisely what God is seeking to correct in His suit against Israel and against us!

God wants us to serve Him gratefully as a people who love him and cheerfully keep our vows unto Him. Look at verse 14—

 14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: 15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

God is pleased with those who serve Him and who return their tithes and offering to Him, but His pleasure is not in their giving or service. It is rather in their gratitude and love for Him. Paul says:

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2Cor 9:7).

God will bless. He will deliver us out of trouble that we may glorify Him not because He owes us anything and certainly not because we can do Him any favour.

He will bless us in His love. He will reciprocate our love for Him. For indeed, we love Him because He first loved us.

Let us, dearly beloved brethren and children, disabuse our minds of the idolatrous notion of a God who needs us. Let us rather serve Him gratefully and cheerfully as a privilege rather than as a favour to the Lord.

But is there anyone who does not even care about the LORD? Is there anyone who says in his heart, there is no God? Is there anyone who is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin?

Listen to His plea to you.

3. A Plea to the Hardened

16 But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? 17 Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.


What is the charge? The charge is that those who are the wicked amongst God’s people are simply hypocrites—whited sepulchres. They speak about the law of God. They proclaim to be in the covenant or being God’s people. But in reality they hate biblical instruction and cast God’s words behind them.

I trust that if you have a mind to read up to this point that you probably do not have such an attitude. But if you have somehow gone off-tangent and you perceive that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, then you must wake up from your slumber.

If you despise the instruction from the Word of God, if like the Thessalonians, you reject the Word of God, and cast it behind you, or let it fall to the ground, then you must seriously go to the Lord in humble repentance.

Do not continue to fool yourself. You may fool man, but you can never fool God. He sees the depth of your heart. He is not blind to your hypocrisy. The fact that He has not dealt with you does not mean that He is unaware or that He does not care.

In fact, this is precisely what the LORD wants you to know. The fact that your sin does not bother you does not mean that God is not concerned about it. Do not think that God is like you.

You may see someone stealing something and it does not shock you. In fact, you may even join him if the opportunity arises (v. 18). Or you hear someone speak about his fornication and adultery and instead of being shocked, you indulge in the story. Or you may use deception and slander freely (v. 19-20).

You may imagine that since God did not deal with you for these, that He must think like you that these are inconsequential.

But this is far from the reality:

21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.

The wicked, especially among professing believers who are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, tend to create an idol in their mind. They begin to imagine how God must view their sin according to how they themselves view it with all their excuses.

But the day will come when God will set them straight. That day may be too late for repentance.

Therefore, let us, while there is yet time for repentance wake up from our slumber and remember God:

 22 Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.

If you love not the Lord, and therefore do not serve Him with gratitude, you must fear Him for His wrath, for He will call you to account for your life one day. May this thought shut you up to Christ to seek salvation in Him.


The LORD has spoken. His charge sheet has been read. The heavens bear testimony of what has been spoken.

What shall we do?

Have you, beloved brethren and children, become complacent?  Is your Christianity an outward religiosity, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof? Is your worship and attendance at the ordinances formal and mechanical?

Will you not humbly examine your heart once again? Are you serving to please men? Are you doing what you do as a believer only because it is expected of you? Are you doing what you do in the hope that God will overlook your secret sins?

Or are you serving Him out of gratitude and love? Oh will you not take time to be alone with the LORD, to ask the LORD to change your perspective and attitude. Don’t allow yourself to continue to serve the Lord legalistically when you can truly enjoy serving Him with joy and gratitude.

And is there anyone of us, hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and living a hypocritical life? Oh will you not repent of your hardness and unbelief? Will you not disabuse your mind of the idol that you have made God to be? God is not like you. He is great and holy. He will not tolerate sin. But He is full of compassion and mercy. How else can we interpret God’s provision of His Son to suffer and die for our sin that we might enjoy His Fatherly fellowship? God is not like us. He will not overlook sin. In order that He might forgive us and receive us into His fellowship, He paid for our sin. Mercy and justice kissed each other at the cruel Cross for our redemption.

Shall we not, beloved brethren and children, seek to serve Him with our lips, our hearts, and with our lives? This Psalm ends beautifully with the words:

23 Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.

Those who worship the LORD in sincerity, and live for His glory will know the salvation of God. They will persevere unto the day of everlasting rest when they will glorify and enjoy God without any hindrance of sin or sinners.

May the Lord grant us the help of His Spirit to offer praise in our lips, our hearts and our lives. Let us by His grace, seek to live gratefully for Him in imitation of and in gratitude towards Him whose body was broken and blood was shed for us. Amen.

—JJ Lim