This Psalm is listed as written for instructing [Maschil] the sons of Korah, who were of the priestly tribe of Levi. Its movement are divided up into four sections with (v.1-8) developing their Confidence in God. Then (v.9-16) unfold the Calamity from God with (v.17-22) recording their Case in Chief. The Psalm ends with their Cry unto God (v.23-26) emphasizing five significant requests from the Lord.
In the first eight verses the Psalmist gives testimony to God’s working in the past history of the nation of Israel: ‘We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How Thou didst drive out the heathen with Thy hand, and planted them; how Thou did afflict the people, and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but Thy right hand, and Thine arm and the Light of Thy countenance, because Thou had a favor unto them.’(v.1-3)
This brief record covers the conquest of the land under Joshua showing that ‘our fathers’ recognized and relayed the fact that God was fully responsible for purging and providing the nation of Israel with the promised land just as He said He would. It was the miraculous working of the LORD that accomplished it all and they are here giving Him the glory for His working.
Then, the Psalmist declares: ‘Thou art my King O God: command deliverances for Jacob’. This statement and ensuing request sets the tone for the remainder of the Psalm for present deliverance is needed, and based on the past record of God’s working (v.1-3) He is able to do it again, and therefore the request is made here somewhat abruptly and up front so to speak.
The statement of confidence in God continue in (v.5-7) with the past, present and future tenses utilized to show God’s complete ability to deliver Jacob: ‘Through Thee will we push down our enemies: through Thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But Thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us.’
These statements of confidence parallel the previous record of God’s great deliverance of the land of promise when He did it then, and now He is called upon to do it again. This demonstrates the writers ability to present a sound and compelling request based on past history of the LORD’s willingness and power to perform. He caps this section with a meaningful declaration of devotion to the LORD: ‘In God we boast all the day long, and praise Thy name forever. Selah’. He directs His words to the LORD and ends with the word Selah showing a musical notation that calls for meditation upon what was just recorded.
But, just as their confidence in God seemed to be at its highest point, suddenly Calamity from God enters, and the tone and tenor of the Psalm takes a sharp dive into darkness and despair as a multitude of downward and depressing statements of calamity are clicked off in almost military fashion with an accusing finger pointed at God Himself:
This sudden turn of events which the Psalmist puts squarely into God’s realm of responsibility shows his ability to discern the facts of God’s full control over the events that enter the life of His people. Yes, His sovereign control over the entire universe is a fact that should give us great peace in time of sudden calamity. However, it does not end there, the marvelous testimony given in (v.17-22) despite the wretched circumstances of the Calamity from God in (v.9-16) show the Godly response of those who suffered in this trying situation: ‘All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten Thee, neither have we dealt falsely in Thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from Thy way; Though Thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.’
In spite of the desperate situation, there was no forgetting God, or falsehoods, or turning back, nor decline in their faithfulness to God even though they recognized the Lord was indeed in charge of their dire circumstances. This section closes with the ultimate in affliction: ‘Yea for Thy sake are we killed all the day long; we counted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Being put to death for God’s sake demonstrates not only the ultimate affliction, but it also show the full devotion to God’s will just as the Lord Jesus Christ said as He went to His death for God’s sake: ‘Not My will but Thine be done’ showing the highest form of worship ever when He gave Himself a ransom for many so that God could be just and the justifier of an ungodly sinner like me.
In conclusion, the Psalmist gives five pointed requests of the Lord:
These requests show the Psalmists enduring faith in his God as he calls out to Him for help and fully expects the Lord to hear and answer, basing it all upon the eternal mercies of God. This sure foundation of the mercy of God demonstrates the Psalmists wisdom as he appeals to God for His deliverance, an appeal which the Lord will answer because He is the God of everlasting mercy to His children.