Ashrei: General Introduction
It is difficult to pinpoint in this psalm exactly whom King David is describing as praising God. There are times when David is referring to himself, “I will exalt,” and “I will bless You every day”. Other verses describe an anonymous third party as singing God’s praises; “In every generation he will praise Your actions”. The same verse ends in the third person plural; “They will tell over Your mighty deeds”. The psalm then switches to the first person singular, and then back to third person plural, and so on.
The beginning of the psalm is speaks of how King David, or the anonymous “he”, or the “they” will praise, glorify and bless. There is little actual praise. It seems that the psalmist wants to first introduce us to the idea of how an individual and community can empower each other to join in praising the Almighty.
The individual, in this case, King David, desires to glorify the Creator, and he begins. He soon experiences the frustration of attempting to describe his passionate feelings, his awe of God and his fervent love. How can a human being, who is finite, adequately praise the Infinite Being? Where will he find the words to express all of his fervor? So, he turns and listens to another who is praising God and he joins with him. Two people are still limited. Their words fall so short of all they want to say. They turn to the community. They join with countless others to burst forth with song. The individual is empowered by the prayers of the community and can rise to new levels, only to again feel the need to join with a community in order to feel that his words are satisfactory to him and to God.
This psalm provides the instructions for those who are searching for the proper words to express their passion. This paragraph is an introduction to the next five, the final five chapters of Psalms, chapters that describe the praises sung by the entire universe glorifying the Creator.
This is an opportunity to empower our prayers, to reach beyond ourselves and connect with the song of all creation.