Weds 17th May - Psalm 138
1 I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
3 When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.
4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
when they hear what you have decreed.
5 May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.
6 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
8 The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
Meditation on Psalm 138
This psalm is the beginning of the end! Psalms 138-145 are the final psalms of David.
Psalms 138 and 145 are songs of praise to God while Psalms 139-144 are prayers to God.
- PRAISE FOR THE PAST Verses 1-2a
The NIV names the ‘LORD’ In verse 1 but in the original Hebrew the name of the LORD is not mentioned. It’s as if David is so taken up with praise and thanksgiving that he doesn’t need to mention the name of the LORD. This is a personal ‘I’ to ‘You’ conversation as David praises the LORD.
We, too, can get up close and personal in our relationship with the Lord as we praise Him.
This is not a half-hearted relationship. It’s ‘with all my heart.’ In Psalm 4:7 David asks the LORD to ‘fill my heart with joy.’ The ‘heart’, in biblical language, is the centre of the human spirit, from which thoughts, emotions, motivations, courage and action spring. Proverbs 4:23 says, ‘above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’
This means that all I am praises the Lord for all that He is and all that He has done for me.
David makes it clear that he will praise the LORD ‘before the gods’. These ‘gods’ may be false gods, such as idols. They may be kings or rulers who think they are god.
Psalm 82:5-7 says, ‘The gods know nothing; they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “you are gods, you are all sons of the Most High. But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other leader.”’
Jesus quoted verse 6 when He was speaking with those in the Temple.
David is not afraid nor ashamed to honour the one true God.
When David says that he will ‘bow down toward your holy temple’, he is referring to the tent he set up for the ark of God to be the place of worship for the Israelites. 2 Samuel 6:17-18 says, ‘They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it……After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty.’
David, having praised the LORD; having sung His praise, now he ‘will praise your name.’
- THE REASON FOR PRAISE Verses 2b-3
Time and again through the psalms we read of the reasons for praising the LORD. Here is no exception.
- your unfailing love
- your faithfulness
- your word (decrees in the NIV)
- your hearing my calls
- your answering me
- your boldness you give to me
Time and time again we sing of these characteristics of God.
However short or long the time may be as far as our relationship with the Lord is concerned, we just rejoice in these characteristics of that relationship.
Here is the Creator of the heavens and the earth in relationship with you and me.
Each of these is good reason to praise Him.
- THE REASON FOR PRAYER Verses 4-6
We know from the verses above why we praise the Lord.
Now David prays for the kings, encompassing all the rulers of the earth.
He longs that they will be challenged by the word of the LORD and by the worship of the LORD.
Think of Nebuchadnezzar. He thought he was the god of all gods but he had to learn a lesson the hard way when he was grovelling around, ‘living with wild animals, eating grass like the ox.’
How did he respond?
Daniel 4:34-35 tells us.
At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honoured and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
David longs that these rulers will sing a new song – not ‘I did it my way’ but ‘I’ll do it His way’. As David says, ‘may they sing of the ways of the LORD for His glory is great.’
That’s why we need to pray for Kings and Queens, for Presidents and Prime Ministers and for all those in authority that they will listen to the word of the Lord and that they will sing of the ways of the Lord.
There is coming a day when, as Paul writes to the Philippians, ‘at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’ (Philippians 2:10-11)
Humility is not always a hallmark of the wealthy and proud and David makes the contrast clear as to how the LORD sees them.
We know from our New Testament scriptures that the Lord Jesus is the champion of those who are poor, downtrodden, helpless, lonely, weak, worn and sad.
David points to the Lord when he rejoices that He ‘looks kindly on the lonely’.
But he is also scathing about those who think themselves ‘lofty’.
- CONFIDENCE FOR THE FUTURE Verses 7-8
The past has had its ups and downs.
The present has its dangers and challenges.
The future has its ‘unknowns’.
One thing is sure in the midst of all this - The LORD is faithful.
He is on our side. He will be there for me.
He will preserve my life.
He will save me.
How can I be so sure? This brings us back to the beginning of the psalm.
We can be sure because of the love of the Lord – ‘your love, LORD, endures forever.’
Therefore, I come to the Lord and say – “don’t give up on me Lord”.
As an African commentator writes, ‘there is no chance of his ultimately abandoning his faithful servant.’
Praise the Lord.