David here is engaged in private worship because there is no suggestion that someone else is with him. Yet his description of how he worships is full of lessons for us.
The first detail to note from this psalm is that David’s thanksgiving involves all his heart. What does it mean to do something with all one’s heart? It means an undivided heart. Jesus said on one occasion that it is impossible to serve two masters. Similarly it is impossible to worship God if our heart has divided loyalties. In order for worship to occur, there has to be a devoted heart.
Furthermore David has an undistracted heart. Perhaps that is why he is by himself. He has gone somewhere where his thoughts and his affections will not be diverted even by legitimate things. This does not mean that the devil will not attempt to disturb David’s worship. But for David to pray with all his heart indicates he has taken steps to ensure he will not be distracted. If he had possessed a mobile phone, he would have switched it off.
When he worships, David is obviously at a distance from God’s temple. Yet he is aware that others, whom he calls gods, can see him. Who are these gods? They are not likely to be pagan deities, so I assume he is referring to heavenly beings, to the angels. It is a fact of the Christian life that angels are around us, sent by God for various reasons. They will expect us to be thankful when God answers our prayers, and to express our thankfulness.
Moreover, David when he worshipped was conscious of where God revealed his glory in the most profound way, so he even bowed down facing the tabernacle (although the verse says temple, it does not mean the temple that David’s son erected). Where should we face when we worship? Heaven is the answer to that question. I think it is interesting that Jesus looked up when he prayed (John 17:1). His physical posture indicated where his heart was. When we worship, we should be conscious of heaven, the place where God’s glory is revealed in the most profound manner, especially in connection with the exaltation of the Saviour. David may have thought of the sacrifices and the songs taking place at the tabernacle; we think of the living Saviour and of the songs of the redeemed around his throne as we worship privately.
David, as he prayed on this occasion, focused on two divine attributes – God’s covenant love and God’s faithfulness to his promises. In a sense, they are both entwined with one another, although it was useful for David to think about them separately. David realised that God’s character and promises are very important to God, which is why he has made them the most important realities in existence. Since the Lord thinks they are so important, so should we.
It is a question to ask ourselves regarding what we think about God when we worship in private. There are many ways in which we can do so profitably such as thinking about him as the powerful Creator or the sovereign Lord of providence. Yet we should aim higher at times and think about his holy character and his gracious promises. Worship becomes more reverent when we think about his character and it becomes more intimate when we think about his promises. In this way reverence and intimacy both flourish.