The Expository Files

 “You Thought I Was Just Like You”

Psalm 50:16-21

There are some things in which we are like God. This is not surprising, because we are His offspring and have been created in His spiritual image (Genesis 1:26,27; Acts 17:24-29). We can think, love and make moral decisions. We have a spirit and God is spirit.

But, there are also huge differences between ourselves and God. There always have been and always will be. It is those differences that man sometimes forgets, and that leads to careless living.

The Psalmist talked about this. He wrote:

“But to the wicked God says, "What right have you to tell of My statutes, And to take My covenant in your mouth? For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you.
When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, And you associate with adulterers. You let your mouth loose in evil, And your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother's son. These things you have done, and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you, and state the case in order before your eyes.“
(Psalm 50 :16-21).

In this passage, the Psalmist links unrighteous behavior with the mistaken concept that “God is just like we are.” This would mean that if I make excuses for my own failures, He will too. If I see the need to practice deceit or to be negligent, then God will see it the way I do and not hold me accountable. If we think that way, we are wrong.

This is because God is different than man. He hates sin when man often does not. He is perfectly and absolutely righteous when men are less than than perfect. He sees everything just as it is but man often sees only what he wishes to see. The Lord said, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9). Consider some ways in which God is different than man.

You Can Hide From Man, But Not From God
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8).

The attempt to hide from God is as old as sin. It never has been successful and never will be. God is all knowing. There is no place to hide. Jonah boarded a ship to flee from God and his responsibility, but God was already present where he was fleeing from, where he was heading and every place in between.

“Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, And art intimately acquainted with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:2,3; cf. vss 1-12). Sometimes, when men hide from men, they can be successful. But no one can be successful in hiding from God.

You Can Deceive a Man, But Not God
“The Lord knows the thoughts of man, That they are a mere breath.” (Psalm 94:11).

We cannot cause God to believe something that is not so. One may be a good enough liar to fool most of the people most of the time, or even fool some of the people all of the time, and there might be a few who can fool all of the people all of the time, but no one can fool God even once. You simply cannot fool One who can read your heart and thoughts.

Suppose, for a moment, that a man was able to concoct a perfect lie and to repeat it so perfectly that there is not a glimmer of evidence that he is lying. No twitch, no hesitance, no failure to look you in the eye. He still could not deceive God. The Bible says that even before the first word of the lie is spoken, God already knows exactly what will be said and will know it is not true. “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all.” (Psalm 139:4).

God is never mocked. He sees all things clearly and will judge us all accordingly. Nothing will be hidden (Galatians 6:7,8; Hebrews 4:13).

You Can Bribe a Man, But Not God
We have nothing of value to offer God except our sincere worship and obedience. We cannot bribe Him into accepting less than that.

To attempt to bribe God with lip service is vain. Jesus said, “This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." (Matthew 15:8,9). The Lord simply will not accept empty ritual in the place of daily love and dedication.

In Amos' day, the people had gotten quite elaborate with the trappings of ritual. The Lord responded to them, “I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:21-24).

A man may live wickedly and occasionally do some good thing thinking this will take care of his misdeeds. While the “good deed” accomplishes some good, it does not satisfy the Lord. Only genuine repentance and conversion will do that.

You Can Excuse Sin, But God Will Not
We began by looking at a passage in the Psalms when people were thinking that God looked at sin as lightly as they did (cf. Psalm 50:16-21). Today there are many who have adopted the same attitude and expect that God will judge us as righteous in spite of our sins because He really does not hate sin at all. Fornication, for example. It is so common that it ought not to be regarded as a sin any longer. If we do not regard it as such, then the Lord won't either, many think. They forget God's past judgments (2 Peter 3:3-7;9). They forget His Son dying for sins. They forget that God is not just like us.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 17.6; June 2010