Draw Closer to God
Psalm 50 calls us to draw closer to God.
Verses 7-9 stress that drawing closer to God is not found in religious hypocrisy: “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your folds.”
We easily fall for the false assumption that religiosity will bring us closer to God, but we never draw closer to God simply by going through the motions or by trying to fulfill some laws or rituals.
Verses 14-15 point to two practices that are far more effective in drawing us closer to God: Turning to God with thanksgiving and turning to God with our pleas for help: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
When we make it a practice to present to God our thanksgiving, we build into our lives the habit of remembering God’s care for us and his presence with us. Such remembrance draws us closer to God. When we express to God our pleas for his help, we open up our hearts to God, and we stand before God anxious to receive from him. Such openness to God draws us closer to him.
Verses 16-20 call us away from sin and wrongdoing: “But to the wicked God says: ‘What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. you make friends with a thief when you see one, and you keep company with adulterers. You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your kin; you slander your own mother’s child.”
It is impossible for us to draw close to God when we are violating God’s ways, when we are harming others or cheating others. We draw closer to God when we follow in his ways. We draw closer to God when we go about acting toward others in ways that match his love for others. Then we are in alignment with God rather than striving against him. This is why verse 23 (the final verse of the psalm) stresses, “Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
Psalm 50 counsels us that the way to draw closer to God is through the practice of thanksgiving, and by opening up to God about our need for his help and for his presence with us, and by walking faithfully in his ways.