There’s a brilliantly funny commercial showing an “offline over-sharer.” She’s created a wall of photos–quite literally a wall with photos taped to it. And she’s showing them to her two friends. When she makes a claim about how quickly she saved money on her car insurance, one of her friends claims to have saved more in half the time. The first lady then “unfriends” the person who argued with her causing her unfriended friend to say, “That’s not how this works; that’s not how any of this works.”
It plays on our implicit assumptions that rules get set up and people are supposed to follow them. Of course, the rules change–as evidenced by the women’s literal interpretations of “posting to your wall” and “unfriending” friends. Claiming “that’s not how it works” implies that somewhere along the line an agreement was made that things were to work a certain way. In a much more complete and serious sense, the Bible calls these enduring agreements about how things are to work between God and God’s people–and between them people themselves–covenants. A covenant is a formal agreement.
Psalm 50 assumes covenantal language and agreements. The Psalm comes in two parts. The first part consists of Psalm 50:1-15. Here the covenant concerns the covenant people have made within the context of ritual sacrifice and worship (Psalm 50:5). God puts the sacrificial system in perspective reminding the people that God God’s self does not need to eat and if God did, God would consume one of the millions of creatures God has made. The sacrifice covenant depends on a grateful spirit–there needs to be an alignment of attitude and practice (Psalm 50:14). This is the covenant of sacrifice.
The second part of the Psalm–Psalm 50:16-23–becomes more accusatory. Here, the wicked are called to account. Psalm 50:16 connects the two parts as God questions the right of the wicked to participate in the worship life. Having rejected God’s truth with their behavior, they have forfeited their integrity to participate in worship.
They are guilty of four specific sins:
(1) an unwillingness to heed God’s instruction (Psalm 50:17), (2) theft (Psalm 50:18a), (3) adultery (Psalm 50:18b), and (4) slander (Psalm 50:19-21). Each of these sins is a violated covenant. The resistance to learning and instruction violates the covenant a person has with one’s self and God. Theft violates the covenant to respect one’s neighbor. Adultery violates the covenant of marriage. Slander violates the covenant we make with truth. While we may find the harsh tone of Psalm 50:22 uncomfortable, indeed those who tear up these covenants–with God, self, neighbor, family and truth–will find their lives torn apart by the inevitable consequences. Psalm 50 is a divine, “That’s not how it works; that not how any of this works.”