I sought the Lord, and he answered me;

    he delivered me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to him are radiant;

    their faces are never covered with shame.

6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;

    he saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,

    and he delivers them.

Verses 1-3 I’m entitling ‘Praise’ (Derek Kidner entitles the entire psalm ‘Thank God!’), and verses 4-7 ‘Prayer.’

But before we get into the detail of 4-7, I want to make a couple of observations:

  1. This psalm is an acrostic. So each verse begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. However, it appears that one letter is missing and another is used twice. I think it’s important to point out (although the thought is not original to me) that life in a fallen world is not always neat and tidy. It is regularly disorderly and messy and unpredictable. That was David’s lived experience, and he invites us to share his joy and learn from his life. We have the same God;
  2. Therefore we can say with some legitimacy, I believe, that this psalm provides us with an ‘ABC of prayer in a crisis’. Kidner points out that a substantial quotation and some further distinct echoes of the psalm in 1 Peter 2 and 3 (and in other epistles) illustrate the indebtedness of every generation to this psalm. He also says that one of its best known legacies is the hymn, ‘Through all the changing scenes of life.’

“1 Through all the changing scenes of life,

in trouble and in joy,

the praises of my God shall still

my heart and tongue employ.

2 O magnify the Lord with me,

with me exalt his name;

when in distress, to him I called

he to my rescue came.

3 The hosts of God encamp around

the dwellings of the just;

his saving help he gives to all

who in his mercy trust.

4 O taste his goodness, prove his love;

experience will decide

how blessed they are, and only they,

who in his truth confide.

5 Fear him, you saints, and you will then

have nothing else to fear;

his service shall be your delight,

your needs shall be his care.

6 To Father, Son and Spirit, praise!

To God whom we adore

be worship, glory, power and love,

both now and evermore!”