God is greatly to be praised. He is worthy of all honor and praise. Our ability to praise Him falls short of necessity, and yet we are still summoned to it. But unlike the failures of sin, there is a glorious failure in praising God. Who can even begin to do it justice?
Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise . . .
This psalm is an exuberant and robust expression of praise and adoration to God. The first section (vv. 10-3) is an invitation to the righteous—praise Him. In the meat of the psalm we have a number of reasons given for praising Him. Praise is not just offered in a generic way; praise loves to be specific. We first praise Him for His excellent character (vv. 4-5), for His greatness in creation (vv. 6-9), and for His wisdom in providence (vv. 10-11). Because of what He is like, the people who belong to Him are greatly blessed (v. 12). We celebrate His omnipotence (vv. 13-19). Because of what God is like, and our recognition of this in our praise, it is then possible for us to wait on Him patiently. We know that He will deliver us (vv. 20-22).
First, praise is comely for the upright. Praise and thanksgiving are central duties for us. But God hates it when we discharge the duty externally while cherishing corruption internally. Praise is comely for the upright (v. 1). It is inappropriate for the righteous to not praise, just as it is inappropriate for the unrighteous to praise Him. The righteous want to be loud in their praise, and so it is not long before they seek out the reinforcements that instruments provide (v. 2). We come before the Lord with a renewed or fresh knowledge of His grace. We sing to Him a new song (v. 3), and we are called to offer our praise skilfully. And so we learn here what our praise to God should be like. Praise should be righteous, robust, loud, fresh, and skilful. And we ought to be careful not to substitute any one of these attributes in for another—skill for righteousness, say, or loudness for skill.
The world is full of goodness. Whatever God speaks is right (v. 4). Whatever He does is done in truth (v. 4). God is never a hypocrite; there is never a division between His words and actions. Notice also that this is stated differently than we might want to speak of human actions. We would tend to say that our words are truth and our actions are right. But here it says that God’s words are right and His actions are truth. There is no division between them. God loves righteousness. He loves discernment and judgment (v. 5). The world is full of His goodness (v. 5). Look anywhere.
Creation is a foundational truth. The heavens and earth are here because God spoke them into existence. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made. The stars and galaxies are the very breath of God (v. 6). Just as you breathe out a cloud on a wintery day, so God with one puff of His breath caused all that is to spring into existence. The creation of all the heavens and the earth, ex nihilo, was nothing for God. It was easy. The scale of everything in the universe staggers us. A tiny fraction of it staggers us. Look at the Pacific Ocean and you have some idea of the immensity of eternity. And God keeps the Pacific Ocean in a small jar in His pantry (v. 7). The doctrine of creation overwhelms us, and it is most necessary for us to be overwhelmed in this way.
But certain things follow from the doctrine of creation, and those things are what give the theory of evolution all its “attractiveness.” Let all the earth fear the Lord, let every man stand in awe (v. 8). The sinful heart doesn’t want to do that. But all God has to do is speak, and the immensity is done and stands fast (v. 9).
But God does not just create and then walk away. He brings the counsel of the heathen down to nothing. All their ingenious devices blow up on the launching pad (v. 10). Compare the counsel of the heathen to the counsel of the Lord. The counsel of the Lord standeth forever (v. 11), and it is His counsel with regard to earthly affairs. We are talking about His counsel over against the counsel of the heathen. The thoughts of His heart extend to all generations, which incidentally, would include our generation. For this reason, the nation that serves Him is blessed (v. 12).
The next section emphasizes the eyes of God. He looks from heaven (v. 13), He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth (v. 14). He considers all our works, being aware of them (v. 15). The eye of the Lord watches those who fear Him (v. 18). Always, all the time, everywhere, day or night, God is watching. The biblical doctrine of God is an in-your-face doctrine. Beware of any doctrine that seeks to make this a little more “comfortable.”
The heart of the beggar and the heart of the emperor are alike fashioned by the Lord (v. 15). No king is saved by the might he is able to muster or command. The might of your armored cavalry is a vain thing to hope in (v. 17). Napoleon marched off to Russia with half a million souls, and what happened to him? Man proposes; God disposes. And how does He dispose? His eye is on those who fear Him (v. 18). Hope in His mercy, and you will never be disappointed. He will deliver you from death and from famine (v. 19).
So wait in patience. God delivers in the course of the story (v. 20). He is our help and shield, but this is not a static reality. We have to wait for that moment of deliverance, and this is how our faith grows. But we pray, “Lord, I want patience and I want it now.” We have already rejoiced at what God has done in the creation and governance of the world; the time will come when we will rejoice at what God will do for us in the future (v. 21). He will be the same in the future as He has been in the past—which is to say, faithful. And so we compose ourselves, and we compose our spirits. With that heart, we pray, “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us.” We ask for this in accordance with our hope in Him (v. 22). We wait patiently—but note that we cannot wait patiently without robust praise for God’s character as evidenced in the gifts of creation and providence.