In this psalm, the author encourages God’s people to praise him because of his dealings with them. Such praise of God is performed in a twofold way: one is that they call on God’s name and the other is that they tell to others what he has done (v. 1). The basic reason for praising him is gratitude for his mercy and such praise will be marked by strong rejoicing (the psalmist prays for strength in order to behave appropriately in God’s presence), which indicates that muted words are not an acceptable way to praise God (vv. 1-4). The last clause in verse 4, ‘seek his presence continually,’ expresses the desire of one who loves to be with God.
The way the psalmist engages in God’s praise and simultaneously encourages other believers is by looking back to what the Lord did in the past for his people. He goes right back to the beginning of their history as a nation, to the time when God made a covenant with their forefathers Abraham and Jacob in which he promised to bless their descendants in a special land (vv. 5-11).
By the time the psalm was written, the Lord had done so, even although there had been many obstacles to it taking place. They had been few in number to begin with and then they became captives in Egypt of the people whom their ancestor Joseph had helped. Yet the Lord miraculously delivered them through the plagues he sent under the leadership of Moses and Aaron, and the psalmist records the effects of these plagues in detail. The outcome was that the Israelites left Egypt loaded with treasure (vv. 12-38). God then led them through the wilderness, providing for them in different ways that were as miraculous as the way by which they had been delivered from Egypt (vv. 39-41). Because they were the Lord’s, their experience was one of seeing God doing great things for them in sequence all along the path on which he led them.
All this took place because the Lord had kept his promises to Abraham. God had a destiny in mind for them, which was that they would rejoice in his deliverance, live in the land of his providing, and there obey his commandments (vv. 42-45). The goal of Israel’s salvation was service, and the only service God would accept from them was obedience to his revealed will. It is the same with us. We are saved from a greater bondage – the bondage of sin – in order to serve God. In the gospel God promises to forgive us and to place us in a land of blessings. He always keeps his promises and the least that those who now live in the land of blessings can do is to serve him gladly.