This psalm was apparently used in the ancient church as a prayer to be recited over the midday meal (largely because of vv. 15-16). Its title has but one word: "Praise" (found only here in the psalter). It is also an acrostic (see Introduction to the Psalms).
A. The Person and Work of God
1. Who God Is
a. His Name (vv. 1-2)
"Name" points to the character or intrinsic nature of a person. A person did not merely have a name; a person is his name.
b. His Greatness (vv. 3,6b)
Unfortunately, the word great has become a commonplace in our society and means very little. We use the word great to describe everything from deodorants to athletes.
Historically, many have taken the adjective Great and made it part of their name: for example, Alexander the Great, Peter the Great, and in our own day the comedian Jackie Gleason simply went by the title, The Great One). NO! God is alone and infinitely The Great One!
Furthermore, his greatness is unsearchable (v. 3). No one ever has or ever shall fully fathom the depths of his greatness. Not all the minds of all the ages using all the best scientific equipment can capture all that God is. He is beyond and past finding out.
c. His Majesty (v. 5)
He is not only majestic, his majesty is characterized by a glorious splendor!. There is a great light or luster or spiritual brilliance that emits from the magnificence of his majesty.
d. His Goodness (vv. 7a,9a)
Try to envision living in a universe in which the one true God were bad rather than good! Thank him for his goodness.
See Luke 12:32.
e. His Righteousness (v. 7b)
To say that God is righteous is not to say he conforms to human standards of right and wrong. It is to say he conforms perfectly to the standards of his own perfections.
But if he is wholly and holy righteous, how can unholy and unrighteous people like you and me enter his presence? It is because of the next two qualities of his character . . .
f. He is Gracious (v. 8a)
g. He is Merciful (vv. 8a,9b
See Ps. 103:8 and Exodus 34:6
h. He is Longsuffering (v. 8b)
God has a holy temper, but he has a very long fuse! Even those who deny and blaspheme his name are recipients of his patience and long-suffering. He permits his enemies to live, to spew forth their horrid blasphemies, all the while blessing them with food and air and earthly pleasures. Why? See Romans 2:4-5.
i. His Lovingkindness (v. 8b)
This is the translation of the Hebrew word hesed, elsewhere rendered by such terms as mercy, merciful, goodness, merciful kindness, loyal love, and occasionally by the word grace. It's primary emphasis is on God's covenant love, his steadfast commitment to his people.
God's Loyal Love: A Biblical Illustration
Hosea may have lived 2,700 years ago, but his idea of marriage wouldn't have differed greatly from ours. Like most other men, he wanted a wife who was faithful and pure and gentle and loving. He didn't get one.
Hosea married a whore. Sorry, but there's no reason to tone down the language. Hosea's wife, Gomer, was a whore, a prostitute. She was unfaithful, ungrateful, unbelieving, and unloving. Why, then, did he marry her? Because God told him to.
"Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord" (Hosea 1:2).
Hosea was to represent God. Gomer, his wife, was to play the part of Israel. Instead of simply telling His people how sinful they were and how He was determined to love them anyway, God brought Hosea and Gomer center-stage to dramatically act it out.
So Hosea married a harlot. He adopted the children she had conceived because of her immoral trysts (cf. Hosea 1:2). She then bore Hosea three children whom God also used to illustrate the depth of Israel's sin.
When God named the offspring of Hosea and Gomer, his decision was shaped by the lesson he wanted to teach Israel. Thus, the firstborn, a son, was named Jezreel, which means "God scatters". This clearly pointed to the judgment that would befall Israel. The second child was a daughter, Lo-Ruhamah, which means "not pitied." And the third child, another son, was called Lo-Ammi, "not my people."
Marriage and motherhood did nothing to temper Gomer's promiscuous passions. She cheated on Hosea. She turned her back on him, spurned his love, and committed adultery.
Love, so we are told, like most everything else, surely has its limits. So who would dare speak ill of Hosea for divorcing Gomer? But he didn't. God's love, symbolically expressed in the action of Hosea, unlike everything else, shatters the mold. Indeed, it stretches the limits of credulity.
How can I even begin to describe a love so deep that it would pursue a chronic fornicator even as she seeks illicit pleasures in the arms of her paramour? Yet that is precisely what God told Hosea to do!
"The Lord said to me, 'Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.' So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, 'You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you'" (Hosea 3:1-3).
Hosea, playing the part of God, was to purchase back to himself his wayward and wanton wife. Gomer, playing the part of unfaithful Israel, is redeemed by the relentless love of her husband.
Moreover, the threats implied in the names of their children are graciously transformed into blessings. Such is the power of God's love that Jezreel no longer means "God scatters" but "God plants" (Hosea 2:22). Lo-Ruhamah becomes Ruhamah, "pitied." And Lo-Ammi becomes Ammi, "My people."
Make no mistake. The redemptive love of Hosea for Gomer, that is, of God for Israel, was a foreshadowing of God's love for the church, for you and me. Let me be blunt: you and I are spiritual fornicators. We are worthy of eternal divorce in the depths of hell. But "this is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God [any more than Gomer loved Hosea], but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).
Gomer was redeemed by Hosea for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethek of barley. God redeemed us through the precious, spotless blood of His dear Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Peter 1:18-19)! Indeed, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8; cf. John 3:16; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2).
Merely sending Jesus into the world could hardly be construed as an act of unparalleled love. But sending him to die as the redemptive price for the souls of scurrilous spiritual adulterers like you and me is love beyond degree.
2. What God Does
a. He works (vv. 4,5b,6a,9,12a)
Here we read of God's works, his mighty works, his wonderful works, his awesome acts, and his merciful works!
b. He rules (vv. 11-13)
God is in office for life! See Daniel 4:3,34. There is no transition team to move from one heavenly administration to another. There are no inaugural ceremonies (God has always been on the throne). There is no concern over the qualifications of a Vice-God should the Almighty be unable to serve out the full extent of his term. There are no tearful good-byes to the staff, no waving "so-long" from the steps of a helicopter, no cleaning out of the desk in the heavenly oval office to make way for his successor.
In English history especially, we see James I and James II and Charles I and Charles II and Charles III, etc. Not in the heavenly kingdom! God is first and last! See Isa. 9:6.
c. He sustains (v. 14)
Read this verse in connection with v. 13 and "admire the unexpected contrast: he reigns in glorious majesty, yet condescends to lift up and hold up those who are apt to fall" (Spurgeon). See Isa. 66:1-2.
d. He supplies (vv. 15-16)
See Psalm 147:9; Luke 12:24; Heb. 4:16.
e. His ways are righteous (v. 17a)
That is easy for us to believe when things are going well. But God is righteous in all his ways, not just in the ways that favor us. Nothing is more difficult to acknowledge when we are in trouble, or when he afflicts us, or when we feel he has been unfair.
f. He is kind in all his deeds (v. 17b)
God is both righteous and kind in what he does. It may be difficult for us to balance the two, but not with God. We swing to one or the other extreme and find it difficult to be both righteous and kind in any particular situation. But God is perfectly both. This was revealed most perfectly in the person of Jesus, who was . . .
high, yet humble
strong, yet tender
righteous, yet gracious
powerful, yet merciful
authoritative, yet tender
holy, yet forgiving
just, yet compassionate
angry, yet gentle
firm, yet friendly
g. He answers prayer (vv. 18-19)
He is nearby not simply by virtue of his omnipresence but because of his love and sympathy for those in need. He is especially nearby to hear our prayers. God is not only transcendent, above all, but he is also immanent, nearby, close at hand. Those who call on him "fear him" and therefore won't ask for what they know they shouldn't have. True godly fear gives direction and places limitations on our prayers. It keeps us from praying rashly for things contrary to God's will.
h. He preserves the righteous (v. 20a)
i. He destroys the wicked (v. 20b)
B. The Praise and Worship of His People
1. What We Do
a. We extol (v. 1a)
Literally, "to be high"; God is high and we acknowledge and declare it so. To extol is to exalt above all others, to set as pre-eminent over every other thing.
b. We bless (vv. 1b,2a,10b)
c. We praise (v. 2b)
d. We declare (v. 4b)
e. We meditate (v. 5)
f. We speak (v. 6a)
g. We tell (v. 6b)
h. We eagerly utter (v. 7a)
The NIV translates this "celebrate" but it literally means "to bubble over"!
i. We shout joyfully (v. 7b)
j. We give thanks (v. 10a)
k. We make known (v. 12)
2. How We Do It
a. Forever and ever (vv. 1a,2b,21b)
See Ps. 104:33; 146:2. Simply saying "forever" wasn't enough for David, so he added "and ever"! He permits no loopholes. One day we shall cease praying, we shall cease hoping, we shall cease watching, we shall cease waiting, but we shall never cease praising.
"Through all eternity to thee,
A joyful song I'll raise;
But oh, eternity's too short
To utter all thy praise." (Adam Clarke)
A heart full of thoughts about the splendor of who God is and what God does can no more conceive of an end of praise than it can conceive of an end of God!
b. Every day (v. 2a)
That means on both good days and bad days.
* Note well the personal pronoun I (4 times in vv. 1-2). David will not allow praise by proxy! He doesn't say, "I will go to the Temple (church) and watch and listen while others praise God".
c. Highly, greatly (v. 3a)
Our praise and worship are to be in proportion to their object: High and Great! Great praise for a great God. "No chorus is too loud, no orchestra too large, no Psalm too lofty for the lauding of the Lord of Hosts" (Spurgeon).
d. From generation to generation (v. 4a)
He envisions a living chain of praise; a holy relay, as it were, in which one generation passes the baton of praise on to the next.