What does Psalm 50:21 mean?
ESV: These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
NIV: When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you.
NASB: These things you have done and I kept silent; You thought that I was just like you; I will rebuke you and present the case before your eyes.
CSB: You have done these things, and I kept silent; you thought I was just like you. But I will rebuke you and lay out the case before you.
NLT: While you did all this, I remained silent, and you thought I didn’t care. But now I will rebuke you, listing all my charges against you.
KJV: These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.
NKJV: These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, And set them in order before your eyes.
Verse Commentary:
God, acting as a judge (Psalm 50:1–7) has criticized Israel for hypocritical, shallow worship (Psalm 50:8–9). They claim the Lord as their God, but participate in blatant, deliberate sin (Psalm 50:16–20). This echoes other Scripture in denouncing insincerity and arrogance in one's relationship to the Lord (Matthew 15:8; Hosea 6:6; Proverbs 8:13). Despite this, God has not been quick to punish the nation. This also reflects the Lord's depiction elsewhere in the Bible. The traditional term "longsuffering" is frequently used to summarize this part of His character (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15; 1 Peter 3:20). In Isaiah 42:14 the Lord says, "For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself."

This verse also makes a crucial point about God's nature. In the original Hebrew, the phrase "that I was one like yourself" uses similar terminology to Exodus 3:14, where God refers to Himself as "I ᴏʀᴅ." Translators note the phrase here could be rendered as "you thought that the 'I ᴏʀᴅ' was like you!" The people of Israel were acting as if God was merely a human ruler or politician, who might not even notice their corruption (Psalm 10:3–4, 11). Yet God is not exactly like us—certainly not subject to our flaws and errors (Isaiah 55:8–9).

The Lord's temporary patience with blatant sinners can be frustrating; the writer of this passage (Psalm 50:1) made comments to that effect in his other works (Psalm 73:2–3; 74:10). Wicked Israelites in Asaph's time wrongly assumed that because God's judgment had not fallen yet, it never would. Of course, this is a serious error. First John 1:5 declares, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." That He delays judgment expresses His grace and mercy, not His weakness or indifference (2 Peter 3:9–13). That God has not acted instantly should not be interpreted as His approval of sin. The sinner's response to grace should be to recognize a prime opportunity to turn in faith to God. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:2: "Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
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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