Commentary on Psalms (42 - 89)
© by Francis Foulkes
& Cyril Okorocha


"1. Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
2. O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.
3. When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,
you forgive our transgressions.
4. Happy are those whom you choose and bring near
to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
your holy temple.

5. By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
6. By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
7. You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
8. Those who live at earth's farthest bounds are awed by your
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout
for joy.

9. You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10. You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11. You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
12. The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
12. the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy."

This psalm begins with the words "Praise is due to you, O God", and as we go through the psalm we certainly see many reasons why we should praise God. We can think of them under the three headings of pardon, power and provision.

Pardon (verses 2-4)

God is addressed as "you who answer prayer". So God has been to "all flesh", to all people, who have put their trust in him all down the ages and all over the world. Yet as sinful people we have no right to come to God. Our sins are a barrier between us and God, but all through Scripture, and above all in Jesus Christ, we are shown that God is willing to forgive those who turn to him. So we need never continue to think that "deeds of iniquity overwhelm us". God pardons us and sets us free from the failures and wrongs of the past. We may choose to trust God and to pray and to ask forgiveness; but before that God has chosen us (verse 4), and has drawn us, so that we might desire to live close to him (see John 15:16). For the people of Israel in Old Testament days, the temple on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem was God's "holy temple" or dwelling place. As they thought of that, devout Israelites could say, "we shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house". Now we know that we can meet God in any place, and, as we have seen before in our study of the psalms, God seeks to make our bodies and the fellowship of Christian people his temple (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and 2 Corinthians 6:16).

Power (verses 5-8)

In many ways we can know God's power. We praise "the God of our salvation", because he not only forgives but also saves us from the power of sin. Then often people have felt overwhelmed by strong oppressors, but history records the fall of one oppressor after another. This is God's work, the "awesome deeds" by which he delivers the weak and poor at the time when he chooses to do so (see Psalms 45:4, 47:2-4, and 76:7-9). God's power is seen also in creation. He has made and established the mighty mountains. God controls the wild sea as he also controls wild people (verse 7). From one end of the earth to the other people feel a sense of awe at God's "signs". They are signs of power at work in creation and in human history, but also signs of wisdom and love.

What are "the gateways of the morning and the evening" described in verse 8 as shouting for joy before the Lord? Perhaps the worship of people at first light in the morning and last light in the evening. Perhaps sunrise and sunset in their great beauty. Perhaps the fact that God in wisdom gives us day and night, the day to work in and the night to rest. The New International Version has, "where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy". Perhaps it is that people in furthest east and furthest west alike bring their joyful praise to God.

Provision (verses 9-13)

What would the earth be without rain? Whatever land we live in, we know the blessing of the rain. Without it our crops could not grow, and none of us could live. Those who live in countries where there are months of dry weather know best the transformation that comes to the earth when the rain comes. When God gives the rain as from a heavenly "river", the ploughed earth is softened, plants are able to grow, and so in due time there are the crops that God gives us to enjoy. God's "bounty" crowns the year in the sense that we know the blessing of the passing seasons, according to the promise of Genesis 8:22, "seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter". Verse 11 also pictures it as if God passes over the land in a chariot in the clouds, and wherever he passes his "tracks overflow with richness". Where there had been wilderness or desert before, there are rich pastures. The fields with their sheep, the valleys with their crops, are like people dressed in great beauty for a happy celebration. The psalmist thinks of them, and feels almost that the fields are shouting and singing their praise to God. As all nature praises God, how much more should we! There is beauty, as there is praise, in a life that is committed to God in faith and love through Jesus Christ. "The boundless riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8) belong to such a life.

Meditation: What difference should it make to us and the place we give to prayer in our lives that we can say to the Creator and Lord of the universe, "O you who answer prayer"?

For further thought and study

a. Verse 8 speaks of people all over the world being "awed" by God's "signs". What signs of God's presence and power and wisdom and love in the world give you a sense of awe?

b. James 4:8 says, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you". With this is mind, and what verse 4 says about God bringing people near, what do you think is God's part, and what is our part, in our being brought to live close to God?


  1. This psalm is often used in harvest thanksgiving services today. It may have been written for one of the Hebrew festivals where there was thanksgiving to God for the harvest, perhaps the festival of Unleavened Bread or of Tabernacles. On the other hand there may have been a drought, and people prayed and made vows to God, and then experienced the blessing of rain, as described in verses 9-13. It is also possible to read verses 9-13 as prayers for rain and for God's blessing on the land. In this way it might have been used at the beginning of the rainy season rather than at the time of harvest.
  2. On the meaning and importance of vows in Old Testament times see notes on Psalm 61.