This psalm gives praise to God for His greatness in blessing His people and urges others to praise Him as well, starting primarily with the priests. The Psalmist notes that what worshippers need focus on and praise is the sovereignty of the Lord. He is the one who created all things including the laws by which the universe runs. He is the one who controls all things. Unlike the gods of the pagans, God does everything and does it as He alone sees fit. He also controls the history and course of all nations, so that what goes on is all at His bidding. The gods the pagans worship are totally powerless because they are nothing.
What we modern believers should note is that we are God’s servants and as such it is our responsibility to give Him praise for His sovereignty, for all that He has done in creation and in history. We ought to praise Him too for the great work He has wrought through Jesus in effecting the salvation of all mankind, for truly what He has done is a great mystery beyond the scope of our understanding. And then too we ought to exalt Him for the miracles He works in our hearts and the hearts of every believer every day. There is truly no god but our God.
Here are two Psalms that are offered to God in deep and heartfelt humility. The first Psalmist acknowledges his own sinfulness and weakness. He needs God’s help. He is not able to help himself. He cannot argue with God or bargain with Him. He cannot build up a case for himself by blaming others for the troubles caused by his own sins. He can never make a claim that he is not so bad because others are worse. He has no right to say anything but admit his faults, for, compared to Yahweh, he cannot even stand in His sight. Yet He knows the Lord to be kind and merciful so he trusts Him knowing that his prayer will be answered. Deliverance is his because of God’s faithfulness to those who so trust Him.
The second Psalmist is King David. He expresses a similar humility as he compares himself to a weaned child. He is not proud or haughty or so impressed with himself that he thinks such a comparison, such an admission is beneath him. Again, compared to God there is nothing he can say that will make his case, nothing that will make God think he is such a great man deserving of His favor. Thus he knows when to be quiet and cease pleading with God. This tells us that when we pray the same prayers over and over again this could indicate our fervor and zeal but it could also be a sign of fear and lack of trust in the Lord. We should pray and wait on the Lord for if we believe He has heard us, we must trust and realize that He will act on our behalf.
This psalm is one of lament. The image of the furrowed and plowed backs of the people is quite graphic as it describes the pain they have endured at the hands of their oppressors as well as the fruit which will spring forth from the seeds sown by that tribulation. The Psalmist calls on his people to praise God who has helped free them of deep and painful bondage and who has given them the strength to persevere through the many tribulations that marked her history. Yet the people need to continue to pray for ongoing deliverance. The prayer is for the Lord to cause His enemies to wither and lose all strength, and to be deprived of the slightest blessing or help from anyone especially Him.
In Israel as in many cultures both ancient and modern, it is customary to greet others by wishing God’s blessing on him or her. This means that we want the Lord to grant them all blessings and prosperity. For we contemporary Christians it means that we want them to experience God’s salvation as well. This is a prayer that may bring trials and tribulations upon them but, in the end, will bear the fruit of righteousness. So we pray for blessings for those who oppress us. And so it seems odd that we would be asked by God not to do so. Perhaps this is due to the fact that for those who have hardened their hearts against the Lord, such a prayer for blessing may be useless. At some point God will not honor it, or if He does it may not be for the reason we ask.
These Psalms, though written by different authors, both give praise to the Lord for His help in times of great trial. In the first, the Psalmist asks the Lord to intervene as Israel’s enemies were ridiculing her for depending too much on Yahweh. Yet he finds this dependence to be his strength and salvation. After all, he realizes that he is but a servant and needs to wait on his master in order to act. In the second Psalm, David also praises God for protecting him and all Israel from their enemies. He too realizes the strength that he finds in dependence on God, for without His assistance Israel would never have been victorious over her foes and would have ceased to exist.
On a practical basis, worshiping, serving and submitting to Yahweh is the only sane option a person can choose. After all, our Lord God is the one who made the heavens and the earth and controls all that happens in them. No matter how many people slander His name and ridicule us for worshiping Him, He is still the only God, still the only one who can deliver us from the enemies of our faith, still the only one who does what is right and good for all mankind. Those who choose not to serve him will find that self-reliance will lead them into chaos and destruction, while those who do serve the Lord will find Him a constant help as He enables them to persevere through trials.
David wrote this Psalm as he too made his pilgrimage up to Mt. Zion. This journey made by so many of his people has been made a safe one because of what the Lord has done through him. Hence he exhorts the people of Israel to continue to worship the Lord and to pray for His peace upon the city. As long as there is such peace, the people can continue to honor God. As they do so, they will be blessed. God is certainly worthy of praise and thanksgiving for all good things come from His hand.
Sadly, as we know from the Scriptures, the people of Israel abandoned the Lord and fell into sin even when they were in times of peace. And we see the same thing in our own world. When there is prosperity and peace, people get complacent and fat. This affects the Church as well as secular society People forget that God has given them blessings and that with those blessings comes responsibility. We must honor God through thanksgiving and praise. In addition we must honor Him through obedience to His commands. If we forget where our blessings come from we wind up thinking that what we do does not matter to God. And let us never forget that today around the world many of our Christian brothers are suffering and dying for the name of Jesus. We must not forget to pray for them and at the same time preach the gospel to those in our own local world.
The next several Psalms are called “Psalms of Ascent” because the people of Israel sang them as they traveled from their homes all over the land to go up to Jerusalem, to Mt. Zion for the annual feasts. The two we focus on today are Psalms which call on God for encouragement and help. The psalmist asks for deliverance from deceitful people who slander him without cause, as well as people who are bent on violence. The nations mentioned, Meshech and Kedar ,were peoples who periodically harassed the Israelites. These were the very people who were making life difficult. The Psalmist prays for them but also warns them of the consequences of their behavior.
As this psalmist traveled on up to Mt. Zion, he meditated on the Lord as the source of His strength and his deliverance from such bloodthirsty and malicious neighbors. He knew that God would keep him safe on this journey and every one of his journeys through life. God is always on the job. He never stops working or takes a rest for we are on His heart and He cares for us. We may often doubt that God is so caring; and we may often feel He has deserted us so it is very important for us to bear in mind the words the Psalmist imparts to us. In spite of the perils of our journey, we can always trust in the Lord. He is not too great to care, and we are not so small that He does not notice us.