This psalm, called a prayer, is attributed to David.
The psalmist petitioned YHWH to grant him a listening ear, answering his plea for aid. In his distress, he spoke of himself as being “poor and needy” or in a helpless state.
David prayed to have his “soul” or life safeguarded, doing so on the basis of his godliness and his being God’s servant with complete trust in him. The intensity of his appeal to be a recipient of divine favor or “mercy” (LXX) is evident from his having cried out to God all day long. Confident that he would be heard, he did not cease to pray for aid.
For the Most High to make David’s soul rejoice would mean to free him from the distressing situation. As God’s servant, David “lifted up” his soul to him, looking heavenward as if placing himself in his presence to make his plea for assistance.
David acknowledged YHWH as being “good” (“kind,” LXX) and “forgiving” (“forbearing,” LXX), abundantly compassionate to all those calling on him. This calling would be in sincerity, with complete trust in the Most High. Again focusing on his personal distress, David pleaded for YHWH to give ear to his prayer and attention to his supplications or his intense appeals for aid. Not doubting that YHWH would answer his prayers, David called upon him in the “day” or time of his trouble or distress.
Among the gods other peoples revered, not one of their deities proved to be like YHWH. He is without equal, and their gods are nothing. YHWH alone has performed “works” that none of the deities could rival. These works would include his saving acts and creative activity.
All the nations are indebted to him for life, for he has made them. This would be because all are descendants of the first man whom God created.
David looked forward to the time when people of all the nations would humbly bow down in adoration before YHWH and glorify his name or honor him (the one bearing the name). This would be on account of their witnessing his saving acts, which would prompt them to acknowledge YHWH as the true God. As the psalmist continued, “For great are you, and you do wondrous things. You alone are God.” YHWH’s acts of deliverance prompted wonder or amazement, confirming that no other god existed.
In the circumstances in which he found himself, David wanted YHWH to teach him his ways, making it possible for him to see the manner in which he should conduct himself. According to the reading of the Septuagint, he asked to be guided in God’s way. To walk in God’s truth would mean to live in the way he reveals as true or right. David prayed for a unified heart or that, in his inmost self, there would be no division in his loyalty to and love for God. This would make it possible for him to fear God’s name or to have reverential regard for YHWH. According to the Septuagint, he wanted God to let his heart rejoice to fear his name. This could mean that, in his inmost self, he wanted to be joyful when showing reverential regard for the Most High.
With all his heart or his deep inner self involved, David determined to praise, give thanks to, or acknowledge his God and to glorify him (his “name”) for all time to come. In word and deed, he desired to bring honor to YHWH.
David appreciated the great compassionate concern, steadfast love, or “mercy” (LXX) YHWH had shown him, delivering his “soul” or life from the lowest part of Sheol or from a descent into the grave. This is what moved him to thank and glorify God.
Insolent or “lawless ones” (LXX) had risen up against David. They were a “band of strong ones” (LXX) or, according to the Masoretic Text, persons who would terrify others. They were ruthless men, seeking David’s soul or life, and did not set God before them or had no regard for the Most High. The reference to their not setting God before them revealed that they did not consider themselves as being accountable to him for their actions.
David described YHWH as a merciful God and gracious (“compassionate and merciful,” LXX), slow to anger and abundant in compassionate concern, abiding love, or kindness and truth (the ultimate in trueness, dependability, or trustworthiness). Then, on the basis of these admirable attributes, the psalmist petitioned God to turn to him, extending his favor and granting him strength. David referred to himself as God’s servant and the “son of [his] handmaid,” thereby identifying his mother as a slave of the Most High. As the son of God’s handmaid, the psalmist asked to be saved or delivered from the then-existing peril.
He asked for a “sign” that would reveal God’s goodness. This would have been a token that those hating him could readily identify as indicating his being a recipient of divine goodness or favor. This would then cause his enemies to be ashamed, with their hateful objective having been frustrated. Either with reference to what God had done for him in the past or would yet do for him, the psalmist concluded, “For you, O YHWH, have helped me and comforted me.”
Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.