We have come a third of the way through the psalms but in lesson 49 we arrived at the same choice we have always had. Do we believe according to what we see or according to what we believe? For the doubter, no proof is good enough and for the faithful no trial is too hard. The honest seeker may be either but always only we can decide what to trust and what to ignore.
We have been through seven cycles of seven and we have arrived at a very high place on the path: this is written in the first person as the voice of God.
50. God Speaks to the Saints and the Wicked
The Mighty One has spoken; the Lord called and the whole earth heard, from the sun’s rising to its setting. Out of his holy city, Zion the beautiful, God has shined. He shall come and not keep silent, a devouring fire goes before Him and his presence is a whirlwind. He shall call down the heavens to the earth that He may judge his people.
“Gather my saints together around me, those who by their labors have made a bond,” the heavens will declare. The righteous will be judged by God himself, so listen carefully.
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak. Israel, I will speak against you, for I am your God. I do not need your sacrifices or your burnt offerings that are continually on the altar. I will take no young bull out of your house or goat out of your fold; for every beast is already mine and all the cattle on a thousand hills.
"I know every bird in the forest and all the wild beasts that live. If I were hungry, would I tell you? The world is mine and everything in it. Will I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer instead to God your thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in your day of trouble and I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.”
God also speaks to the wicked: “What must you do before you see the truth and make a covenant with me? It is plain that you won’t be instructed, that you throw my words out like trash and go your own way. When you saw a thief, you consented to what he did and you made adulterers to be your friends. You give your mouth to evil and your tongue to lies. You sat there and spoke against your brother, you slandered your own mother’s son.
"These things you have done and I have kept silent, you thought I was just like you. But I will correct you and I will set in order your evil friends right before your eyes. Remember this, you that have forgotten God, or I will break you into pieces so small there will be nothing left to save. Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; I will show my salvation to those who learn to speak well and keep order to their conversation.”
This is the reason we have been on this path, to get to the place where we can be near our God. The seventh psalm of each of the first six cycles have been visions of the city of our hopes and here we stand at the gates of Zion. We were told that our God is Lord of all, the faithful and unbelievers alike, and our path has brought everyone to where we can hear God’s voice. The word Zion means a guiding light and monumental pillar, and here we find a devouring fire and a whirlwind where the heavens touch the earth.
God gathers his saints around for judgement and calls them Israel, a name which means God perseveres, because they have also persevered through much hardship. But they are not unblemished and their fault is pointed out. God does not need our sacrifices, we cannot buy his influence by what we give of our riches: the earth and all that is in it already belongs to Him. He wants our thanks and loyalty.
God also speaks to the wicked, to those who do not believe as if they might listen and change their ways. We see this place as a vision of what will happen on the doorstep when there will be no chance to turn back, but right now as we read this there is still time. I doubt if there are many unbelievers who have read this far and will be swayed by the arguments, they are somewhere else reading other things. If they are to be reached, if we love them as family and fear for their safety, it is we who must reach out to them and prepare the ground that the truth might take root.