The psalm begins by stressing a most wonderful reality, a reality which is also the basis of great confidence. This reality is that the Lord reigns in an active manner. Because he rules with complete sovereignty over everything, it means that everyone can be glad. If others had such power, it would be a cause for trepidation because they would use it for other reasons than God’s glory.
His power is seen in the natural world. It is difficult to know if the psalmist is alluding back to the giving of the law on Mount Sinai in verses 2-6 or if he is describing a terrifying storm. It would seem to be the latter because its effects are visible to other nations (v. 6). At the very least, the psalmist’s example here challenges us to think of God’s attributes when we find ourselves in the middle of events we cannot control. God could use the storm to destroy his enemies (v. 3), an action which only those who know him could recognise as coming from his sense of justice (v. 2). In the storm, he controls everything – the lightning is his lighting (v. 4). Compared to God’s display of power, the usually impressive mountains seem weak (v. 5). The psalmist uses these phenomena in an evangelistic sense as he reminds people that in fact they are seeing God’s glory during the storm. So a challenge comes to us: what aspects of God do we think about when a storm comes along? After all, God has sent it so that we can think about him.
The psalmist contrasts the idols of the nations with the Lord. These idols cannot even cause a ripple whereas the Lord can disturb the whole world. There is no point in worshipping an idol that can do nothing. It is actually dehumanising to worship an idol, or as the psalmist says, it is a shameful thing to do. Those who worship transient things are boasting in useless items. Instead they should worship the Lord (v. 7).
In contrast to such pagan ideas, the people of God rejoice when God reveals himself. His actions in the storm, by which he dealt with his enemies, brought deliverance to his people, and they praised him for remembering them. Both the capital city (Zion) and the rural villages (daughters of Judah) participated in the praise (v. 8).
In verse 9, the psalmist gladly confesses that the Lord is the only sovereign. This awareness has consequences for his people. They should love him for preserving and delivering them (v. 10), and an important aspect of loving God is to hate evil. Indeed the more that they love God the more they will hate sin. From God’s good dealings with them they can deduce that prosperity and joy will come to them (v. 11). So even now they can rejoice as they anticipate by faith the good things that he will provide for them in the future and so continue to be thankful to him in the present (v.12).