These significant verses lie within a hymn of praise, an alphabetical acrostic, that extols and blesses God whose "greatness is unsearchable" (v. 3).
Verses 8-9 repeat what is perhaps Israel's fullest confession of faith (see Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; Jonah 4:2), a credal statement that becomes virtually a definition of God. True, the Old Testament and the entire Bible speak also of God's judgment and anger, but this is finally not who God is. God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God's gracious favor is not based on merit or human performance, but solely on God's own nature. God remains fully committed to God's people and all creation.
Based on who God is, the psalm praises what God does: The eyes of all creatures look to God, and God gives them their "food in due season" (vv. 15-16). "Food in due season" is similar to the "daily bread" for which Jesus teaches his followers to pray (Matthew 6:11); it includes actual food, of course, which has made these psalm verses a frequent table prayer, but it also includes all that we need. For God to satisfy human desires does not mean that God is on call to provide every want. The term is used of God's "favor" or God's "good pleasure" as well (Psalm 30:7; 51:18). When human desires correspond to God's desire, good things will certainly be in store.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011