Although the author is unknown, this is a psalm which begins by focussing on God’s people as a whole worshipping God and finishes with the psalmist giving his own personal worship to God. Their worship is heartfelt because God has answered their prayers.
Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.
1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.
2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.
3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.
4. How it was used.
The heading tells us that this psalm is a song, for the director of music. Some commentators believe that the ‘director of music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.
The psalmist begins by asking the earth, that is Israel, to shout for joy, sing the glory of God’s Name and make glorious praise, Luke 15:6 / Luke 15:9.
The psalmist then goes on to tell Israel how to praise God, they tell them to ‘say to God, how awesome are your deeds’, Psalm 65:1. When we think about God’s awesome deeds, we can’t help but tell God personally how awesome they are.
Because God’s deeds are awesome His enemies cringe before Him, that is, His enemies are brought to submission. God had the power to subdue His enemies and His enemies would have no choice but acknowledge His awesome deeds and submit to His reign, Deuteronomy 33:29 / Psalm 18:44 / Psalm 81:15 / Job 31:28 / Philippians 2:10-11.
The psalmist says that all the earth bows down to God, they sing praises to His Name. the earth does this because they recognise that only has the right to be worshipped and only He is the only One worthy of praise, Psalm 22:27 / Isaiah 45:23 / Romans 14:11.
The deliverance of Israel from captivity was evidence to all the world that God was working with and for the Israelites in order to bring them forth as a nation. As a result, the world should rejoice in the fact that God’s work among men was manifested in His deliverance of Israel.
You may notice at the end of verse four, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.
We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate God’s awesome deeds and how the whole earth will submit to His rule.
The psalmist invites everyone to come and see what God has done, not only for Israel but for all of mankind, Psalm 46:8. The psalmist uses Israel’s exodus from Egyptian captivity as the illustration of God’s deliverance of His people.
This was the time when God demonstrated His power to bring Israel through the Red Sea, Exodus 14:21 and, or the time He led His people through the River Jordan, Joshua 3:14-17.
The passing through the Red Sea is mentioned eight times throughout the psalms, Psalm 18 / Psalm 66 / Psalm 74 / Psalm 77 / Psalm 78 / Psalm 89 / Psalm 106 / Psalm 136, and it was certainly a time when they rejoiced, Exodus 15.
God rules forever by His power and He keeps an eye on the nations, and they would be rather foolish to rise up against Him, Psalm 11:4.
You may notice at the end of verse seven, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.
We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate God’s awesomeness and wonder if anyone would be stupid enough to go up against God’s power.
The psalmist now repeats what they said earlier in asking all people to praise God, notice they say, ‘our God’, that is, the God of Israel. It is God who preserved Israel’s lives and kept their feet from slipping, in other words, it was God who gave them life and kept them secure.
Despite God leading His people into the Promised Land, Israel was tested by God, especially when they fell into sin. They were refined like silver, Isaiah 1:25 / Isaiah 48:10 / Zechariah 13:9 / Malachi 3:3 / 1 Peter 1:7.
There was a time when Israel enjoyed freedom, Psalm 9:15 / Lamentations 1:13, but then they lost that freedom and became burdened with afflictions, Deuteronomy 33:11 / 1 Kings 12:10 / Job 40:16.
God permitted people to ride over their heads, that is, they faced heavy defeats in battles, and were no longer victorious, Psalm 44:5 / Isaiah 51:23. The words ‘fire’ and ‘water’ are used as metaphors to speak about exasperating trials, Isaiah 43:2.
The psalmist acknowledges it was God who was doing all these things, they acknowledge that God allowed Israel to experience all of these difficult times.
God not only allowed them to go through those trials but He also brought Israel to a place of abundance. In other words, there was a purpose for their trials and suffering, Deuteronomy 8:7 / Exodus 3:8 / Leviticus 20:24 / Numbers 13:27.
Notice how the pronouns in this section change from the plural to the singular. Because God has performed so greatly, the psalmist brought their offerings to the Lord in thanksgiving, Isaiah 1:11 / Isaiah 5:17 / 2 Corinthians 4:15.
It appears that the psalmist had promised God that they would offer burnt offerings in gratitude for what God had done for them personally when they were in some kind of trouble.
These vows were made in the time of trouble, Leviticus 3:1-17, and were kept in thanksgiving for God’s deliverance. The psalmist has a lot to be thankful for, as seen in the many sacrifices He promises to offer God, Psalm 22:13.
You may notice at the end of verse fifteen, that some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.
We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate how best to express their gratitude to God for helping them in their time of trouble.
The psalmist now calls upon everyone who fears God to come and listen to what God has done for them personally. They tell those who came to listen to them that they cried out to God and praise was on their tongue, in other words, they offered a sacrifice of praise for what God has done for them, Romans 9:1-3 / Romans 10:1.
Notice they say that if they had cherished sin in their heart, God wouldn’t have listened to them. If they had held sin in high regard in their lives, their route of prayer to God would cease, Job 27:9 / Job 31:27 / Proverbs 15:29 / Proverbs 28:9 / Isaiah 1:15 / Isaiah 15:1-9 / Isaiah 58:3-7 / Jeremiah 11:11 / Jeremiah 14:12 / Zechariah 7:13.
However, God did hear their prayer and the result was simply praise, John 9:31. God was moved not to reject their prayer but He chose instead to show the psalmist how much He loved them.
The psalmist praised God for helping them in their time of trouble, they made a vow and were determined to fulfil those vows by offering not only many physical sacrifices but also verbal sacrifices of praise. As Christians, we no longer offer animal sacrifices but we still have to offer sacrifices, Hebrews 13:15-17.
We all must offer the continual sacrifice of praise to God because our praise is now our offering to God. The first sacrifice we’re to offer God is ‘the fruit of our lips’, our sacrifice is praising God with our lips. our sacrifice is the confession of our lips of who He is.
Are we making our offering? We still need to come to God with our offerings. But are we remembering to offer worship with the fruit of our lips? Are we confessing Him to people we know? Are we acknowledging Jesus to the world?
The fruit of our lips must not be filthy, improper words. We must have lips that offer the sacrifice of praise.
The second sacrifice we must offer is ‘doing good and sharing the things we have with others’. These are sacrifices that please God. Are we offering these sacrifices? Are we doing good toward others? Are we giving the possessions and wealth that God has so generously given to us?
Our possessions are not for us to spend on ourselves selfishly, we have things to do good for the kingdom of God and to share with others.
The third sacrifice we must offer is to, ‘obey your leaders and submit to them’. I believe these leaders are the shepherds of local congregations, they are watching over our souls, which fits Paul’s instructions in Acts 20:28.
They have to give an account in regards to their charge and shepherding over us and it’s our responsibility to yield to them and to obey them. We need to let them shepherd us with joy, not with pain and groaning.
Shepherds are to help us, they are an advantage for our souls. Why would we want to treat them badly or ignore their guidance and instructions? We need to work together with our shepherds for the goal of expanding God’s kingdom in the hearts of the people.