Lesson 7 –
Psalm 50:1-6 NRSV
1 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.
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!”
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge.
In Psalm 49, the writer speaks about the futility of storing up one’s treasures here on Earth. In the other parts of Psalm 50, the writer speaks about the consequences of betraying one’s family and people. Throughout this chapter, the writer includes reminders of just how important sacrifice is to be in relationship with God. And yet, God says that “I know all the birds of the air, all that moves in the field is mine.” In your own devotional period, read this psalm while meditating on this thought: If God knows all that exists, what makes a sacrifice meaningful? How can you surprise the one who has everything? What kind of gift do you give God, who knows and has everything?
Today’s lesson will focus on a love letter for the creator. Read the scripture out loud together. How do you know that you love someone?
What’s happening during this passage?
The writer talks about a “mighty God.” This God is the one who makes the Sun rise and set. God “shines forth.” God “comes and does not keep silence.” God is unbothered by the storms or fires. God calls across the Heavens and across the entire globe to speak to the people. God calls the people close and says, “gather to me my faithful ones!” The heavens recognize God as righteous.
How is God described here?
God is described as mighty. Shining. Present. Impervious to the dangers of nature (like storms and fire), and even the architect of nature. God is described as a judge. God is, in every sense of the word, Great. But God also somehow feels distant. There are major power differentials in this passage, perhaps as it should be with the Divine. In this section, God feels close but not intimate.
Why is this the passage that the Lectionary uses?
If you read the rest of the chapter, you will notice something fascinating. When the architects of the Lectionary (the preselected schedule of scriptures that denominations all draw from each week) chose this passage, they also left out some key concepts. If you only read these few verses, you will miss what God is saying. God says in the rest of the chapter, “I will not accept a bull from your house… I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine.” God also says to those who are wicked, “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?” God says, “You make friends with a thief!” “Your tongue frames deceit!”
The six verses that we read today speaks of a God who is worthy of sacrifice. But the chapter in its entirety says, “don’t just throw sacrifices at me if you aren’t going to live right!” Or, as we might hear others say, “don’t butter me up!” Or “keep my name out your mouth!”
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
Connection to Today’s World
After being inside for the better part of a year, we might have a warped sense of what kind of affection and care is healthy. Therapists and relationship counselors warn against a very dangerous dynamic called “love-bombing.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. According to an article on Healthline, love-bombing is when someone “overwhelms you with loving words, actions and behavior as a manipulation technique.” It is means of winning “your trust and affection so that they can meet a goal of theirs,” which often includes investment in the relationship. This can happen in romantic, platonic, familial or professional relationships. Signs of this dynamic include being draped in gifts, obsessive compliments, bombardment with calls and messages, pressure to offer undivided attention, pressure to offer commitment before the appropriate time, or spirals when boundaries are set. It may look like a boss giving you a ton of compliments before asking you to stay past your usual quitting time… AGAIN! Or a friend guilting you into leaving your house and breaking your Covid-boundary because they “love you so much, you’re my best friend, I miss you, I need to see you.” Or a romantic partner buying you a bunch of gifts when you say you want to take a break.
Gifts and fancy words do not make up for the meat of a relationship. Actions and words have to be consistent. In this passage, the psalmist is calling out the hypocrisy of throwing gifts at God all while refusing to be in right relationship.
If you feel like you are in this sort of dynamic, you can head to https://www.loveisrespect.org/
Journal: Are there some authentic, honest ways you can talk to God? Without the “thee’s and thou’s,” how do you express yourself to God?
I love you, I love you, I love you Lord today
Because you care for me in such a special way.
That’s why I praise you
I lift you up
and I magnify your name
that why my heart is filled with praise
You love us. Beyond our offerings, beyond our prayers, beyond our ability to give or volunteer. You love us because we are yours. There is nothing we need to do to earn your love.
We are surrounded with pressure to prove our love to you without many incentives to show you our love. We sometimes offer empty worship or careless prayers. But you know all that exists in the world. You know when we are being earnest and when we are not.
Redirect our energy, God. Keep us from empty gestures of praise and show us how to demonstrate our genuine love for you. Push us to show our love for you through our fellow humans. Don’t let us be so heavenly minded that we ain’t no earthly good.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.