God is worthy of praise for all the things He has done. First, the writer praises Him for His past works among men—“He turned the sea into dry land” (v. 6). This is just one example of how God demonstrated His superiority to all other gods. He controls the elements, makes the way straight for His people. He sees all, is watching the nations, and is aware of events on a global scale (v. 7). But then the writer takes a more personal approach. He begins to praise God for what He has done in his own life—“keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow our feet to be moved” (v. 9). Life itself is a gift worth praising God for, both spiritual and physical.
Look at what the writer says in verses 10-12. He acknowledges God’s testing, refinement, and discipline as a necessary and worthwhile experience. He seems to foreshadow Hebrews 12:11, “No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” So, the psalmist writes, why not praise God because of it? Isn’t it then a good thing to be refined by the Lord? For he says in the end that the Lord “brought us out to rich fulfillment” (v. 12). As painful as discipline and refinement may be while it is occurring, in the end God is working events for our best, to bring us to experience greater things than were possible before.
Part of the results of these hard times appears to be evident in verses 13-14. The writer says that “I will pay You my vows, which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble.” The writer found himself in a more committed position to the Lord than in the past. And here is the key: even though the hard times had passed (during which he had made his vows), he was still concerned about and intent on following through with his commitments to God. They were not hasty vows, but sincere, and now he found himself in an even deeper and closer relationship with the Lord. Many times believers go through hard times in life, only to find themselves in a greater, deeper, and more trusting relationship with God! The issue is, when those hard times come, we must choose to trust the Lord, we must choose to be obedient and faithful to Him through it all—only then can we experience His blessings.
The writer cried out to the Lord and was heard. Notice verse 18, which calls for holiness and purity in our requests to the Lord—“if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” As believers we have a responsibility to keep our hearts and minds pure before God. He won’t bless a half-hearted Christian; He will not bless sin in our lives. Whatever sin we may have must be confessed with a humble and repentant heart before God can honor our requests, for it is only then that we have the ability to ask “according to His will”—when our hearts are set wholly on Him.