God’s Rightful Praise
(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of David, a hymn. (1) To you praise (is) due in Zion, O God, and to you shall vows be performed. (2) To you who hears prayer, to you shall all flesh come. (3) When iniquities prevail against me, you make atonement for our transgressions. (4) Blessed is the one you choose and bring near to dwell in your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple. (5) By awesome deeds you answer us in righteousness, God of our salvation, the confidence of all the ends of the earth and the farthest sea. (6) (You are) the one who established the mountains by your strength, girded with might. (7) (You are) the one who quiets the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.
Two repeated phrases, one found at the beginning and the other at the end of this segment, gave the psalm its distinct flavor. First, we find the phrase, “to you,” at the start of each of the first two verses, distinguishing this as a praise psalm. Later, we find two occurrences of “(you are) the one” (vss. 6 & 7), confirming that this is a psalm addressing God directly with the praise that is due him. In between, three of the four sentences have “you” (God) as the subject (“you make...you choose...you answer”) while the fourth speaks of “your house...your temple” (vss. 3-5).
David cites three reasons for his praise. First, God is a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God (vss. 2 & 5). Secondly, he is the God who forgives our transgressions and welcomes us into fellowship with himself (vss. 3 & 4). Finally, he is the one who by his great power establishes and upholds everything that exists (vss. 6 & 7). What a great and awesome God we serve!
I. To you praise is due for hearing our prayers. (1 & 2)
II. From you we receive forgiveness and fellowship. (3 & 4)
III. You, our creator, are the God of our salvation. (5-7)
God, our creator and sustainer, who hears our prayers and forgives our sins, is worthy of our highest praise.
Total depravity is a theological concept that can easily confuse us. This doctrine does not teach that all human beings are completely evil. We know that some who refuse to acknowledge God do good works and live in exemplary, admirable ways. Total depravity rather means that none of us is capable of pleasing God with even our best efforts. We can never by our own exertions become good enough or do enough good works to satisfy God’s perfect standard of holiness.
One statement that can help us reach an understanding of total depravity is David’s use of the phrase, “when iniquities prevail against me” (vs. 3). This effectively describes the human dilemma. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we can never overcome our sinfulness to become as holy as God requires. The only remedy available is found in the second part of the same verse: “You make atonement for our transgression” (vs. 3).
In Israel, the high priest offered an annual sacrifice of atonement, a covering for the nation’s sins, on the Day of Atonement. His solemn duty was to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice over the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. This sacrifice had to be repeated year by year because one sprinkling was never enough to secure a permanent cleansing of sin. Only God himself could provide an atonement for sin that would cleanse us completely. How God would do this was not fully disclosed until Jesus died on the cross.
When our Savior cried out “It is finished” or “paid in full” just before he died, he signaled that this once-for-all atonement had been accomplished. By offering himself as the spotless Lamb of God, he paid the price for the sins of all humanity. That is why John could say, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). However, this payment for sin will only be applied to those described by David in verse 4. Only those whom God has chosen to forgive on the basis of their faith in Christ’s finished work will spend eternity in fellowship with him, dwelling in his courts. What a great salvation is ours! We who possess the forgiveness accomplished by Christ Jesus should never tire of praising the one who has shown us such undeserved favor, such amazing grace!