The opening verse is the source for the words of Jesus on the Cross. Verse 8, the taunts of those who mocked Jesus. Verse 18, the actions of the soldiers who gambled for his garments. Apparently no psalm is quoted more frequently in the New Testament than this one.
The suffering of verses 1-18, turns to a prayer for strength and the assurance, “he has not hidden his face… but has listened to his cry for help.” and there is further assurance that all will be well. Verse 27 is but one reference in Scripture to the fact that God rules over all the nations and that all will bow down to him and acknowledge his kingship. It is the hope, the certainty, that God’s kingdom will indeed come in all its glory. It’s what sustains God’s people in times of persecution and suffering.
“Teach me your way, LORD. Lead me in a straight path” could well be a daily prayer and more profitable to our well-being than many things we often pray for. It leads on to more good advice… “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
As in Psalm 22, Jesus is recorded as having quoted from this psalm, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” It affirms that God knows the anguish of his people (v7) and elicits hope and trust with, “My times are in your hands; deliver me…” (v15) and, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” (v24).
Confession, they say, is good for the soul. And the psalmist agrees…
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Guilt is both a perception and a reality. We are guilty before God and we bear its burden emotionally and psychologically. God deals with both burdens as we confess our sins to him. I find that many people do not think of themselves as sinners these days. They reserve that title for the worst of criminals. But John’s first letter reminds us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1:8-9).
10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
The psalm reminds us that the power and authority of God stretch beyond Israel. In its context, back then, it probably referred to the nations’ plans against Israel as God’s people, who were seeking to fulfil God’s purposes in the world. But it can also be said that despite the rise and fall of empires, the establishment and replacement of rulers, God’s overall plan for humankind continues to be played out. The plans of humankind, without the prayer, “Teach me your way, LORD,” are doomed to ultimate failure unless God allows them to flourish.
The opposite from human plans is expressed in verses 23-24
Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
when he delights in our way;
though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand.
4 “Lord, let me know my end,
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
While it isn’t healthy to morbidly dwell on death, it is helpful to recognise our own mortality and the frailty of life. As well as providing us with some perspective on our relationship to God, it also encourages us to live our lives to the full, with eternity in mind. Only the things we do for God will be of eternal worth. The rest will evaporate like the morning dew on a summer’s day.