So often evangelicals encourage each other to expect the Lord to bless them materially by saying, “After all, our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” This remark alludes to a verse fragment in Psalm 50. They imply (if not outright declare) that they have unfettered access to material abundance because they claim God as their Father.
Some Scriptures, such as Matthew 6:25-33, assure us that our Heavenly Father will provide the things we need. The Lord indeed takes care of His own, sometimes even giving us much more than we actually need. For example, as I type this article, I’m looking at two of the three blouses my sister sent me as an Easter gift (I wore the other to church yesterday). The Lord definitely blesses His children.
But let’s look at how Psalm 50 uses the clause about God owning the cattle on a thousand hills. Back up to verses 1-6, in which Asaph draws a picture of the majestic Lord summoning His people to stand before Him. We get a wonderful sense of His splendor that almost obscures the fact that He comes as a righteous Judge. Yes, ladies, Psalm 50 is about God’s judgment.
Then God opens His mouth:
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 beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” ~~Psalm 50:7-15 (ESV)
Since the remainder of the psalm goes on to rebuke those who don’t belong to God, I’m going to park on the passage I just quoted. Here, the Lord confronts His people with the superficial nature of their burnt offerings. Technically, they fulfill His requirements by presenting bulls and doves for sacrifice, but they fail to accompany those sacrifices with hearts of thanksgiving.
In verse 10, God points out the irony of supposing that bulls — in and of themselves — could satisfy the Lord. He almost laughs at the absurdity of their thinking. He already owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Why would they be so foolish as to think that He would need their bulls when He could easily provide food for Himself.
Twisting Psalm 50:10 exposes an immature approach to Scripture at best, if not a self-centered method of interpretation. Only by reading the verse in context do we realize God’s real meaning.