This psalm is generally considered to have been composed to be sung at a royal wedding, though we can only speculate about what king it may have been written for. Considering the words addressed later in the psalm to the king’s bride, she may have been a royal daughter from another kingdom, married to the king of Israel to seal an alliance.
We are accustomed to psalms addressed to God, praising Him for His goodness and greatness. We may find it disconcerting to read this psalm of unalloyed praise directed toward a human king. But this human king would have been seen by those in his own time as having been anointed to his position by God, given all his beauty and strength by God, and representing God in his just rule over his people.
Some translations begin verse 17 referring to “every good gift,” while others say “every generous act of giving.” Either way, whether we think about gifts we receive or those we give, the gift and the giving have their source in God.
Remembering this can help us follow the instructions James gives next. Awareness of the ways in which we have been gifted for giving leads to patience with others and generosity toward those in need.
While we generally consider it important to wash our hands before eating, it is for reasons of health rather than ritual purity. It is hard for us to understand the idea of being “defiled” by ritual impurity or why the people in Jesus’ time cared so much about it.
To us in a society with strong Christian traditions (even if many people no longer recognize their source), it may seem obvious that the more meaningful “defilement” is by our evil actions rather than what we eat or drink. That doesn’t mean it’s any easier for us than it was for Jesus’ original audience to live holy lives. Our hearts also are corrupted by evil thoughts, immorality, coveting, pride, deceit, etc., and apart from God’s grace we are just as defiled as those rebuked by Jesus.