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



"1. Be pleased, O God, to deliver me,
O LORD, make haste to help me!
2. Let those be put to shame and confusion
who seek my life.
Let those be turned back and brought to dishonour
who desire to hurt me.
3. Let those who say, 'Aha, Aha!'
turn back because of their shame.

4. Let all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation
say evermore, 'God is great!'
5. But I am poor and needy;
hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O LORD, do not delay!"

This psalm is almost the same as the last five verses of Psalm 40. We have seen something of the way that psalms were used and collected as we noticed that Psalms 53 and 14 are almost exactly the same (see on Psalm 53). There are in fact a number of things that can be learnt about prayer and worship in Old Testament times as we study the similarities between different psalms.

Prayer and praise in the Psalms

There are some words of praise and prayer that we find again and again in the Psalms. "Hear my cry, O God", "be gracious to me, O God", "do not hide yourself from me", "I am poor and needy", "O God , I put my trust in you", "make a joyful noise to the Lord", "let all peoples praise you", "sing to the Lord a new song", "his steadfast love endures forever". Sometimes there are whole verses that are almost the same in different psalms. "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage" in 27:14 is almost the same as 31:24. Psalm 98:9 has the call to all the earth to rejoice "at the presence of the Lord; for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity", and 96:13 is almost the same. There are many more examples of this. Then there are instances like this psalm being almost the same as 40:13-17, where a whole section of a psalm is the same as a section of another, as 71:1-3 and 31:1-3, and 57:7-11 and 108:1-5.

It is not hard to imagine, especially of times when there were no printed books, that these prayers and praises would have been in people's minds and memories. Sometimes the exact words of a psalm would be recalled and repeated. At other times there might be small differences as we find between Psalm 70 and Psalm 40:13-17. There is a difference in the names used for God, slightly different words in the Hebrew used for "help" and "salvation", and a few other little differences. It says to us how valuable it is to have hymns and songs and psalms in our memory, to recall them in prayer and praise in all sorts of different situations in which we find ourselves.

Prayer and praise in this psalm

This psalm, like the last one, is a prayer to God out of a situation of great need. The psalmist prays urgently to be delivered, "O Lord, make haste to help me" he cries. There are those around him who are mocking him, trying to hurt him, even to take his life. He has no help but in God. To God alone he can say, "You are my help and my deliverer". Yet the psalmist's plea is not just a prayer that he will be helped in his time of need, and find relief and comfort from God. He wants people to see and to confess that "God is great". And he wants it to be seen that those who seek God and rely on him can "rejoice and be glad", and that in the end those who seek evil and to harm others are put to shame and frustrated in what they try to do.

Meditation "Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:19-20).

For further thought and study

a. Study carefully the small differences between this psalm and Psalm 40:13-17. What do you think may be the explanation of the differences? b. In what way do you think that the attitude of the writer of this psalm is like that of the kind of person that Jesus describes in Matthew 5:3 as "poor in spirit"?


1. In the heading of this psalm we have the words "for the memorial offering", or it might be translated (as by the Revised Version) "to bring to remembrance". One of the offerings made regularly in the temple was called a 'memorial offering'. The thought may be that it was to be a reminder to God of the offerer and of the offerer's need. Isaiah 62:6 speaks of prayer to God as "reminding" him, not that God forgets, but in prayer we express our dependence on God, bringing before him constantly our needs, the needs of others, and our concern for the work of his kingdom.

2. It may be that this psalm was composed for a time of a person's special need, and then it was thought appropriate to add it to what was the earlier part of Psalm 40. On the other hand, Psalm 40 may have been composed first, and the last five verses taken and used as a prayer on its own in a time of need.