What does Psalm 50:16 mean?
ESV: But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?
NIV: But to the wicked person, God says: 'What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?
NASB: But to the wicked God says, 'What right do you have to tell of My statutes And to take My covenant in your mouth?
CSB: But God says to the wicked: "What right do you have to recite my statutes and to take my covenant on your lips?
NLT: But God says to the wicked: 'Why bother reciting my decrees and pretending to obey my covenant?
KJV: But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?
NKJV: But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, Or take My covenant in your mouth,
Verse Commentary:
In the prior section, God noted that Israel performed required sacrifices (Psalm 50:8), but He rejected them (Psalm 50:9). The Lord began by noting that He did not "need" to be given what was already His (Psalm 50:10–13). The sacrifices were hollow, rather than sincere (Psalm 50:14–15). Now, God expands His complaint by comparing Israel's depraved conduct to their claims about a covenant relationship.

This passage follows a biblical pattern of rebuking religious dishonesty. Later verses note the sins in which Israel was wallowing (Psalm 50:17–21). To act in such ways, while hypocritically saying they were God's people, was especially offensive. Jesus brought a very personal application to this idea. He frequently scolded the religious leaders of His era for following God only "with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:8, quoting Isaiah 29:13). It is hypocritical to have a mouth full of Scripture but a heart full of sin. The apostle Peter opposed hypocrisy along with sins like jealousy and slander (1 Peter 2:1). James describes heavenly wisdom as "impartial and sincere" (James 3:17).

Asaph wrote this psalm (Psalm 50:1), and expressed frustration with his own culture in other songs (Psalm 73:2–3; 74:10).
Verse Context:
Psalm 50:16–23 closes with strong criticism for hypocritical worship. Israel is being judged by God (Psalm 50:7) for offering sacrifices (Psalm 50:8) but doing so while participating in blatant sin and disobedience. Mere performance of rituals does not buy God's forgiveness. The Lord condemns the ungodly attitudes of the people and warns of dire consequences for those who do not change.
Chapter Summary:
Asaph depicts God as an unimaginably glorious judge, calling the entire world to hear a divine verdict. Israel has offered sacrifices, but God ignores them. The nation rejects His laws. It is pervaded with blatant sin, even while they claim to be God's chosen people. The Lord's patience does not mean He does not notice. Those who continue ignoring Him will be "torn apart" without any possibility of rescue. Those who respond to God with sincerity will be rescued.
Chapter Context:
This psalm, written by Asaph, addresses the Lord's intended connection between religious rituals and daily behavior. When the people offer sacrifices, but blatantly reject God's laws, they invite judgment. This passage notes national sins mentioned directly in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14–16). In other writings, Asaph expresses frustration over Israel's continued rebellion and God's delayed response (Psalm 73:2–3; 74:10).
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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