O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (v1)
This statement of effusive praise brackets both ends of the psalm. The verses sandwiched between offer some of the most overlooked words of encouragement. The psalmist poses and answers the question that elicits the praise:
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. (vv 4 – 5)
Humankind is not some kind of nuisance creation, destined to corruption and rebellion against their creator. No! Humankind was created specifically to be close to God, dependent on His presence for their security, perseverance, and satisfaction. Men and women were created with purpose, not to merely live out their days in empty pursuit of experience. David looks to the immeasurable complexity and glory of the heavens and compares the insignificant speck that is humankind. The Lord reveals to him that as much care went into the creation of man as in the laying out of the stars. The heavens look in on humans with envy because the people are much, much closer to God than the sky.
The joy of God’s eyes, the creatures that he will one day sacrifice His Son for, cry out,
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (v9)
The psalmist expresses his innocence against all charges in this prayer by casting his fate completely into the hands of the Lord. We are not told what the charges are, but they must rise above the level of even human judgment. David cries out his appeal;
O Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands – if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe – then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust. (vv 1-5)
Only the pure of heart can make this bargain for we who approach the throne must know that God searches our hearts and knows what a human judge could not decipher without proof. This becomes even more critical if we follow the psalmist in crying out for satisfaction in judgment against our accuser.
O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. (v 9)
Before this becomes our prayer, we too must walk the path of light. If any portion of us remains in the shadows we will be tempted to hypocrisy in accusing others of similar guilt. The Spirit searches us day and night and, if we listen, will exert a pull to us out of the dark and convict us when we choose to stay. We are thankful for the imputed righteousness that we have received as believers but our task is to be transformed so that we reflect to a higher and higher degree the source of the righteousness.
I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (v 17)
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? (vv 2-3)
Waiting on God for relief, for an answer, for direction, for anything is difficult because we measure time in the finite scope of minutes and hours and days. With each turn of the calendar or tick of the clock we see our patience tested as our agony continues. The psalmist give us the most personal psalm we have encountered yet in the collection. He is expressing the pain of his condition personally rather than as the voice of all people. His words express the personal relationship with his Lord in which he views himself. He knows that Yahweh will hear his personal plea amidst the voices of all of the people. This confidence encourages him to pray,
Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
The psalmist expresses his assurance that his condition will be addressed based on God’s love, his unfailing, unbreakable, unceasing love. Modern theology diminishes this aspect of God’s character but without the omnibenevolence, the other parts of His character can become lifeless. Knowing and expressing confidence in His unfailing love can lead us also to a new experience, becoming a psalmist ourselves. The love of God and His love for us is not fossilized in the pages of the psalms. You too can create psalms of your own, whether it be from deep personal agony as in this example or from the heights of praise that we see elsewhere. God is interested in hearing your prayer no matter what the source.
How many times have our prayers started with a pleading before the throne?
Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. (v1)
A silence in response to our plea can be interpreted as God not hearing our prayers. Our inclination is to look to God and wonder why He ignores us. Shouldn’t we look within first? Is our relationship such that God is inclined to hear from us? Are we living in rebellion and in expectation that God hears us? Before we bank on his righteousness, that is, His promised response to those who love Him, we should be first concerned with the state of our relationship.
David speaks to his enemies in hopes that God hears the travails that he faces. They attack his reputation and disdain his God and still David tries to proclaim the truth to them.
Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him. (v3)
And he beseeches them to put their trust in the right place, to understand that their anger is misplaced in the king. If they search their hearts, David’s enemies can trust that God is willing to reach out to them.
In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord. (vv4-5)
David closes with a cry to God to show His glory, to light the world. Seeing this glory would certainly change one’s perspective, how about yours?
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. (vv 6b-7)
David closes with a smile, knowing that he will rest peacefully. God may be momentarily silent, but He has things well in control.
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
This beatitude is placed intentionally at the beginning of the Psalter to invite us, the billions who have read and recited this short psalm, to drink deeply of God’s word. We are blessed in making his way our way, to meditate daily on it so that it becomes who we are. As we are transformed internally, we become rooted in the kingdom, anchored to the nourishment of Life. We are blessed!
But not so the wicked, they are without roots that can enable them to stand against the buffeting of life. They are blown this way and that by everything that the world offers them. Jesus speaks of these adrift souls in Matthew (7:24 – 27) in the parable of wise and foolish builders. Those who anchor themselves survive the wave, those who place their faith in the shifting sands are lost. We lash ourselves to the Lord and nothing will buffet us.
Could it be clearer?