Dealing with wickedness
Psalm 50 (NRSVA)
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.Selah
7 ‘Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt-offerings are continually before me.
9 I will not accept a bull from your house,
or goats from your folds.
10 For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the air,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
12 ‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and all that is in it is mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High.
15 Call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’
16 But to the wicked God says:
‘What right have you to recite my statutes,
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18 You make friends with a thief when you see one,
and you keep company with adulterers.
19 ‘You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your kin;
you slander your own mother’s child.
21 These things you have done and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one just like yourself.
But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.
22 ‘Mark this, then, you who forget God,
or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
23 Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honour me;
to those who go the right way
I will show the salvation of God.’
Now here is a word that we seldom use in our daily vocabulary. It’s a word we have inherited, but don’t like using. But we are dealing with it every day. Somehow it’s as though, certainly in our UK culture, people don’t want to admit that wickedness is real. So there has been an attempt to rehabilitate its meaning to suggest it refers to something that is cool and edgy and worthy of praise and adulation. So the phrase “that’s wicked” no longer points to evil doing.
Yesterday we were thinking about a man who faced up to his “real wickedness” in other words his deliberate moral lapses and he began to try to make amends. Reading today’s passage Psalm 50, we discover that God is in the business of looking at our motives not our actions. It’s not what we say that makes the difference, it’s how we behave. God is not looking for religious gestures. He is looking for just practices to be at the heart of our lives.
The good that I want to do
I end up not doing
And the selfish things I don’t want to do
I end up doing
I’m truly afraid
To think too much about this
Because, If I do
I might end up doing
The good that I want to do
Or should I say the good that
I don’t want to do.
Help me face my complexities
Help me sort out my motives
And give me the courage
To deal with them.