These 2 Psalms, like some many others, again exhort us to praise the Lord. There are a few things about the nature of God the writers want to acknowledge as worthy of praise. First of all, there is the love of God. He loves everything and everyone He has created. In love He has provided a means by which mankind is granted salvation and, in addition, the entire world is redeemed. This is the means by which the Lord can enjoy fellowship with mankind and vice versa. Therefore all the earth, all peoples, not just Israel should praise the Lord. The Lord is also worthy of praise because He is righteous and just. He punishes iniquity but also grants mercy.
The Lord chooses and calls into His service those who are imperfect and continue to be this way even after they have entered into relationship with Him. The Lord is true to us even when we do not remain true to Him. We do not deserve to be forgiven yet because He has entered into covenant with us, He continues to forgive and grant mercy. This does not mean that He does not punish us or that sin has no consequences. When the Lord punishes those He loves it is with the goals of growth in godliness and deeper and closer fellowship with Him. The punishment that falls on the wicked, however, does not sanctify or cleanse them. In fact to those who do not surrender their lives to the Lord, His punishment has no positive value.
These 2 psalms both focus on the reign of our Lord God, Yahweh. Yahweh is eternal, ever existing. He has created all that exists. He controls all the elements of the natural world, the sun, moon, stars, planets, galaxies, the weather, the seas, rivers, and earthquakes so that all these operate only at His command. He reigns over the entire universe.
There are no other gods. What pass for gods are merely lifeless idols or demons. The Psalms tell us that because Yahweh is Almighty, all human beings ought to acknowledge that He is God. They ought to praise and exalt Him. In addition, because the Lord is a God who is just and right, he judges with equity. Because of His justice then, all human beings ought to obey what He commands.
In ancient times and in primitive societies, men worshiped the forces of nature rather than the one who created them. Our modern culture is too sophisticated for that. Instead, the world worships many other idols: celebrity, wealth, power and science. Scientists have become the new priests of this contemporary idol. These scientists seek to control the forces of the created world, even to creating life as well as taking it. And we silly, naive human beings look to them to explain life and solve all of life’s problems and cure all the world’s ills and diseases. Yet scientists cannot tamper with the forces of the Lord’s universe without suffering serious repercussions both for themselves as well as the rest of us. Those who try to explain the world apart from God’s revelation have no hope of solving anything.
This is a Psalm about worship that opens with a great exhortation to help us realize that worship is about God and not us. He is the subject not us. We are exhorted to praise the Lord with singing, the best way to freely and openly express our love, joy and thankfulness. We express these feelings by telling Him how great He is. We enumerate His mighty deeds as well as the glorious and holy attributes that make up His total being. The greatness of our God means that He is superior to all other things and entities that men have worshiped or named as “gods”. Our God is alive and active. Most important, He is a God who loves and cares for us.
Yet all our worship, music, singing and expressions of emotion can be nothing more than a useless sham. The Psalmist notes that Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because of sin and disobedience at both Meribah (Exod. 17:1-7; Num. 20:2-13) and Massah (Exod. 17:1-7). They may have said they trusted God and worshiped Him with great emotion, but they did not really believe in Him. The Psalmist uses example to warn against false worship, praise that is high sounding and grand yet mere hypocritical lip service rooted in a heart that is not right with God.
In today’s churches this is still a danger. Many churches put on a great show but miss the mark of worship. Worship is not limited to music or singing as many evangelical churches seem to think. All of our grand and dynamic music and songs often mask a rebellious heart that embraces sin and covetousness. If we want our singing to really exalt the Lord we must realize that worship begins with obedience. Worship means we walk in righteousness and shun our own way and our own desires in favor of doing God’s work and His will even when it costs us.
The theme of these 2 Psalms is the almighty power of God. He is in control of the whole universe as well as the whole earth and all that is in it. When we contemplate what the world calls “the forces of nature” such as storms, earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunamis as well as scientific predictions of possible doomsday caused by global warming or by a collision with an asteroid or large meteor we might tend to think that all is chaos; that all events are random. There is either no God at all, or if there is, He has limited control and influence over what happens.
Similarly, when we consider the deceit and violence of the wicked who seem to prosper at the expense of the righteous, we might think that there is no God in heaven or that if there is, he or she or it does not care or is unjust and cruel. These Psalms tell us otherwise.
God made everything. He makes order out of chaos. He is in control of all things that happen and nothing will take Him by surprise or accident. These Psalms give us comfort for if we know that God is Almighty, we will also know that He is able to protect us as well as take up our cause and defend us from all enemies. He is also able to grant justice and uphold righteousness in every situation. He does not compromise or make deals. He punishes those who disobey Him but grants mercy to those He loves. We may think the wicked are getting away with their evil unscathed, but this is not the case. God is able to recompense all human beings for their sins. The ones who are truly blessed have their sins atoned for by Jesus who paid the price for all mankind on the cross.
This Psalm celebrates the goodness of God demonstrated by the good things He has done for His people. The Psalmist notes that God makes promises of blessing and is always true to His word. The wicked remain unconvinced because they do not know God. They see their prosperity as evidence that while God may be good He is not interested in justice or righteousness. They fail to see as the righteous do, that prosperity achieved apart from God will not last. They will never see God but those who put their trust in Him will benefit from His wisdom, strength, and comfort which here produces the added blessing of a long life.
In contrast to wicked who are like the grass that is burned up, the Psalmist likens the righteous to two trees that were highly desirable in the ancient near east: the palm tree as well as the cedar. The first provided refreshing fruits that sustained life. The believer is thus to be fruitful in leading a life that honors the Lord and that brings His refreshing love to those who are spiritually hungry and thirsty. The cedar is highly resistant to bugs and decay and can last for generations unless stripped or destroyed by human hands. The cedar represented the purity and strength that the believer derives from a close relationship with the Lord. It also represents the blessing of a long life. The goal of the life of a believer is to give glory to the Lord just as those trees delight the heart and enrich physical life.
Here is a Psalm that gives us great comfort because it speaks of the integrity and trustworthy nature of God. He is the one in whom we find security. He protects and shelters the righteous from all enemies both human as well as those in the natural world, created as perfect and good by God but now fallen and corrupted by sin. He also protects us from the snares of Satan who is constantly trying to trap us into sin. The Lord defends us from troubles and harm allowing us to go the offensive and hit back at our enemies, here mentioned as the lion and the cobra both images of Satan. We believers will be invincible as we go into the world to preach the good news. Nothing can touch us except what the Lord permits. The Lord also appoints angels to watch over and protect His loved ones.
We note that when Satan tempted the Lord Jesus in the wilderness, he quoted verses 11 and 12 of this Psalm. Satan’s idea was to force Jesus to interpret this promise literally, but Jesus declined to deliberately place Himself in a dangerous situation just so God would miraculously deliver Him. The Psalmist wants to assure us that as we go about the Lord’s business we should not deliberately place ourselves in perilous situations. That would be tempting God. The general idea that the Psalmist wants to teach is that the Lord does indeed protect and guard those whom He has chosen as we go about His work and live for Him. He may grant us success and long life. Yet, in this world of sin, we will all suffer pain and death. The ultimate deliverance our Lord will grant us lies beyond the grave.
This psalm was written by Moses sometime during the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. He exalted the Lord while contrasting His eternal nature and almighty power with the weakness of man and the brevity of human life. Moses acknowledged that from God’s eternal perspective 1,000 years are as a day. This seems to indicate that God is not bound by our perspective of time, which is the instrument we use to mark the progression of our lives. The years seem to pass by so quickly and are filled with trouble and sin and are ended with death. This is because of sin.
In the light of the brevity of life, Moses asked the Lord for wisdom for his people so that they may not waste their lives in pursuit of sin or vanities. He asked the Lord to grant them wisdom so that their lives would be fruitful and righteous so that He would be exalted. Moses also asked the Lord to bless His people with compassion and forgiveness for their sins. He asked for strength and power for them so that their lives might be filled with joy and gladness as well as the knowledge that their lives made a profitable contribution to the Kingdom of God.
These words of prayer are helpful for all of us as we age and suffer various infirmities, setbacks and problems. In the world success is determined by the amount of fame, money and power one has amassed. Those who fail to achieve the world’s ideals often feel empty and unhappy even though the things of the world never bring lasting joy or peace. So as we believers contemplate our lives and look back at what we have done, even if we have accomplished little and our names are not known, we can experience such joy in the knowledge that we have sought to do the eternal work of the Lord. All else will not survive.