Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.
This great historical psalm begins with a call to praise YHWH and not to be silent. God is not weak nor insecure, he does not need our praise, but we know ourselves that gratitude is characteristic of a mature human being. And that grateful worship is not to be kept to ourselves but is to be extended, an invitation to others to join with us. That’s what evangelism is, calling others to join with us as a community and praise God together, both in our words and in our works.
A central feature of biblical worship is ‘remembering’ and this psalm focuses on what God has done for his people in days gone by. This is not distant history, though, it’s part of our family history (Galatians 4:28f). The psalmist gives us a sweeping epic panoramic view of Israel’s history from its beginnings and up to its entry into the Promised Land.
That history began with God calling Abraham and making a covenant (a binding agreement) with him. It was, as Paul makes very clear in his letters, a call that had nothing to do with Abraham’s merit and had everything to do with God’s grace. The psalmist focuses on the giving of the land to Abraham, but of greater significance and unmentioned here was the promise God made to bless all the nations of earth through Abraham’s descendants, a promise that found its ultimate fulfilment in Jesus (Galatians 3:16).
Israel’s history was long and tortuous. There must have been many times of bewilderment and confusion when God’s promise looked like it would go unfulfilled, times when it would have been very easy to have dismissed the ancient promise as wishful thinking or as make believe, ‘Did God really says that?’ The promise must have seemed far away, particularly in the dark days of slavery in Egypt (vv. 24, 25), but throughout the years YHWH remained committed to what he had said (v. 8). There may be times in our own life when we would like God to ‘hurry up’ and ‘get a move on’ but the psalm encourages us that God is faithful, even if we have to wait.
The God who is steadfast in keeping his promises is the God who judges evil – as demonstrated in the plagues which forced Pharaoh to let the slaves go free. And the God who liberates is also the God who guides (v. 39) and provides, not only for his people’s physical needs, (v. 40–42) but for their needs as a community so that they can live and flourish together.
The remembrance of the Exodus was central to Jesus as he grew up – not least in the annual celebration of Passover, and that remembrance of God’s actions undoubtedly shaped Jesus’ ministry and what he believed his Father was calling him to do. In Jesus we see the God of the Exodus in the flesh, we see that God listens to the cries of those enslaved by sin, death and Satan. In Jesus we see that God has acted decisively to rescue us from the grip of that unholy trinity and he calls us to journey together, guiding us along the way and being present with us by the Holy Spirit, to witness to who he is and all that he has done and will do.