God has placed His people on trial. On Friday, the trial date was set and witnesses were called. Today, we hear the charges that God brings against His people.
Please read Psalm 50:16-21.
In Romans 9, Paul makes a bold claim: he says, “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children… it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children” (Romans 9:6-8). This is a radical claim that seems to go in the face of everything that Israel believed! They believed that they were saved, they were chosen by God, because they are Abraham’s descendants. They are the physical descendants of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, so they must included in God's covenant to them, right? Yet, Paul says, “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” What does this mean?
It means the same thing that is meant in Psalm 50. When God says “what right have you to… take my covenant on your lips?”, the Israelites would have responded: “we are sons of Abraham! You made a covenant with Abraham and his children; we are those children!” The logic is sound: they believed that they were included in the covenant because they were biological descendants of Abraham.
But the concept of ‘sonship’ in the Bible is more than just a biological one. People were called “sons of God” when they acted like God, and “sons of Satan” when they told lies and acted murderously; “sons of the prophets” when they prophesied, and “sons of Korah” when they were part of that group of hymn-writers; one disciple was called “son of encouragement” because of his attitude, while other men were called “sons of wickedness” because of their actions. You were not someone’s son purely because you were descended from them biologically; you were truly someone’s son when you imitated their character. That was Paul’s point in Romans, and that is God’s point in Psalm 50.
Israel was claiming God’s covenant because of their biological descent from Abraham, but their spiritual descent was non-existent. This isn’t true of all of Israel, but God addressed His accusation “to the wicked”; to those who “hate discipline,” “cast my words behind you,” are pleased with thieves and adulterers, “give your mouth free rein for evil,” speak deceit and slander, and even speak “against your brother.” These people weren’t honoring God at all, yet they claimed to have a part in His covenant. God makes it clear that He is nothing like them—He has nothing to do with them, which means they aren't true sons of Abraham. And now He rebukes them for their actions and puts them on trial before heaven and earth.
The Christian should read these verses with a holy fear. Abraham was chosen by the grace of God. His descendants were included in the covenant by the grace of God. None of them did anything to earn their salvation, it came through faith in God’s Word, which was demonstrated by obeying His command. Likewise, Christians can do nothing to earn our salvation: it comes through faith in God’s Word regarding Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on our behalf. BUT, just like Israel demonstrated their faith through keeping the law, so too should Christians demonstrate their faith by obeying Jesus’ commands.
We have a pandemic in the church today—not a physical one, like COVID, but a spiritual one. Far too many people call themselves Christians, but fail to follow Jesus’ commands. We claim to be sons of God, but don't back this claim up by imitating God. When we come to Jesus in faith, we surrender to Him as Savior and Lord. If we do not do what Jesus calls us to do, then we are not His disciples.
Of course, none of us will follow Him perfectly in this life. We constantly need to repent and come back to Christ in faith, receiving the forgiveness that He offers at the cross. But, our general walk of life should be in the light of His commands. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7). Let us walk in the light, out of gratitude for Christ’s great sacrifice on our behalf--then we are truly sons of God. If we walk in the dark, even if we do so while claiming to be Christian, we may one day find ourselves on the same kind of trial as Israel does in Psalm 50.
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