Although this psalm has no title indicating authorship, the writer of Hebrews says that it was written by David (Heb. 4:7). The psalm is a call to worship God for his greatness and for his grace, but it also contains a warning for any who refuse to worship him.
In verses 1 and 2, David mentions an important feature of true worship – it includes communal joyful singing of psalms from grateful hearts. He also reminds us where such worship is offered – in the presence of God himself. In Old Testament times in Israel, the place where God’s presence was known was in the tabernacle or later in the temple. Today we are in his presence in a similar way when we gather in public worship.
David also says why we should worship God (vv. 1, 4-5). The psalmist provides two reasons: first, the Lord is the rock of our salvation and, second, he is the Creator of the world. In calling God a rock, David wants us to think of a high rock which people would ascend in order to be safe from their enemies. We too have spiritual enemies, but if we trust in the Lord we are safe from their attacks.
The world around us should also cause us to worship God because it tells us about his control over all places, his power to govern the sea, and his creative skill in forming the dry land. One of the stupidest of sins is the failure to see God in his creation.
In the second section of the psalm, David begins by indicating that bodily posture is involved in the worship of God. In verse 6, he mentions bowing and kneeling, actions which reveal that the worshipper realises he is in the presence of a King. We should not despise any who use this bodily posture in public worship, although it is not the only one mentioned in the Bible. The obvious aspect is that our posture often indicates what we think of God, and others take note of it.
The reason for submissive worship is that God’s kingly rule is like that of a shepherd (v. 7). Rulers liked to be thought of as shepherds of their subjects, although some of them were more like wolves. The Lord, however, is always acting like a shepherd when he deals with his people. His rule is designed for their benefit in a wide variety of ways, whether it is in what he does in providence for them or in what he reveals to them about his requirements and promises in his Word.
Strangely, those for whom he does the most can refuse to worship him (vv. 8-11). The children of Israel, who had experienced God’s mighty deliverance from Egypt and supernatural provision in the desert, hardened their hearts and persisted in rebelling against him. They paid a terrible price because that generation did not enter the Promised Land. Their failure to worship him with thankful hearts led to divine judgement.