A person who does not have much experience studying the Bible is likely to think that a well-known passage must be easy to elaborate. "It must be easy to teach John 3:16, the twenty-third Psalm or the Christmas story,” he might say. Actually, the well-known passages are the hardest, and some seem almost impossible to expound.

"You shall not commit adultery” (v. 18). The second reference is to the seventh of the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20:14 and Deuteronomy 5:18. It concerns sexual relations with another person's wife or husband. But it is also broader than that, since it embraces all kinds of sexual sins, including the outward sin of fornication and the inner sins of impure thoughts or lust. Jesus said that "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28).

With verse 16 there is an unmistakable movement to a second class of people, since the verse begins, "But to the wicked, God says." However, it is important to see that even here we are not in the presence of the heathen but rather still with the alleged people of God. Derek Kidner calls these "the nominally orthodox," "hypocrites" and "hardened characters."5

As soon as we begin to think that we are doing God a favor by our worship we dishonor God and slide into a false religion of works righteousness. This is why what is emphasized in the psalm as the right approach to God is thankfulness and honor (vv. 14, 15, 22), and not faith. Thankfulness embraces other items, but it is stressed here because it emphasizes what God has done and not what we imagine ourselves as being able to do.

The universal scope of the impending judgment. The next important element in this opening summons to judgment is the scope of the call itself. It extends to the whole "earth, from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets" (v. 1). Indeed, it is even greater than that. For having traversed the earth from east to west in verse 1, the psalmist then looks up and down as he refers to God summoning "the heavens above, and the earth" in verse 4. All are included. None are left out. We seem to be on the very verge of God's final judgment of the ungodly.