From My Soul Waits
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (v. 1)
The psalmist’s joy is so full that he is determined to do two things: praise God at all times, and get as many others as possible to join in. Then, once he has the attention of his listeners, he invites them to live their entire lives to the glory of God.
The poet begins: “I will bless the Lord at all times,” the Lord’s “praise shall continually be in my mouth.” The praise of God should never cease, because the love of God never ceases. Nothing weakens in God’s commitment to bless his people; should anything weaken in their whole-hearted gratitude for his kindness?
The superscription of the psalm (“A psalm of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away”) refers to events recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-22.2. Fleeing from Saul, the young David futilely seeks refuge in the Philistine city of Gath, from which he narrowly escapes after pretending to be insane. He hides out in a cave, where he is joined by upwards of four hundred equally desperate friends and family. The psalm title seems to indicate it may have been composed and sung in the presence of David’s fellow fugitives.
The opening half of the psalm contains the psalmist’s personal testimony to the goodness of God (vv. 1-11). He recounts the wonderful ways that God has already heard and answered him when he was in trouble: I sought and God answered; I cried and God heard; I feared and God delivered. The psalmist cannot say enough about how faithfully and repeatedly God has come to his rescue. It is a natural step then, to rally everyone around him to join in giving thanks.
He summons them to more than sharing a joyful song, however. Praise offered in the temple or a synagogue (or a cave), if genuine, can come only from genuine righteousness lived in the home and among neighbors. The second half of the psalm contains the psalmist’s succinct description of a life that is full of praise: telling the truth, doing good, seeking peace, (vv. 12-22).
In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul writes that all who have put their hope in Christ have been “destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory, (Ephesians 1:12). Both the Old and New Testaments teach that the praise of God is best expressed through the lives, not only the lips, of God’s people. Pursuing what is good, standing against what is evil, speaking what is true, humbling the heart, trusting in the Lord – these are the ways to praise and thank the Lord “at all times.”
From The Fathers
The Lord loves thankful people. They never cease to praise him, and they regularly thank him. In both good times and bad times they offer praise and thanksgiving to God. They worship the Lord, the God of all times, without regard to what the times are like. (Athanasius)
Father, if I offer the kindling—just a few sticks and a bit of brush—
Will you help me set a fire of praise in my heart?
One tongue of flame is all I need.
And all you need is something to burn.