Psalm 138 - Praise With Your Whole Heart

INTRODUCTION: More than seventy of the one hundred fifty psalms in the collection of Psalms are attributed to David. This psalm is in an interesting numerical order following Psalm 136 which is a praise psalm that lists blessings in the period when Israel was moving toward the Promised Land, and was given the lands of King Sihon and of King Og by the LORD's victory for them. Then Psalm 137 was composed by musicians who were in captivity in Babylon. The first period was centuries before David's birth, and the second was centuries after his death. Thus reading these three psalms in numerical order does not follow historical chronology. There is nothing specific in this brief psalm to reveal when David would have written it because he faced various trials throughout his life. This psalm begins a series of eight psalms as the last ones attributed to David in the collection of Psalms. The AKJV does not include the inscription in the text identifying David as the author.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the American King James Bible.


A - YOU HAVE MAGNIFIED YOUR WORD

Psalm 138 "1 I will praise you with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise to you. 2 I will worship toward your holy temple, and praise your name for your loving kindness and for your truth: for you have magnified your word above all your name."

COMMENTS: Even though the psalmist knew that many people all around him held belief in false gods, he was moved so much in his heart that he willingly offered a song of praise to the true and living God. This was the attitude shown in another psalm by David. Psalm 9 "1 I will praise you, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will show forth all your marvelous works." He would bow in worship to the one whose symbolic dwelling is far superior to all others, because it represents the God who has an abundance of truth and loving kindness that is forever worthy of praise. In David's lifetime the focal point for worship was the tabernacle, and the first temple building was constructed during the reign of Solomon. But temple was not an inappropriate term for David to use to designate his direction of worship. After the Jerusalem temple was completed, Solomon acknowledged the fact that God does not dwell in that which is made by the hand of man. 2 Chronicles 6 "18 But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you; how much less this house which I have built!"

In another psalm David expressed similar thoughts about the uniquely superior God that he worshipped and served. Psalm 86 "8 Among the gods there is none like to you, O Lord; neither are there any works like to your works. 9 All nations whom you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord; and shall glorify your name. 10 For you are great, and do wondrous things: you are God alone. 11 Teach me your way, O LORD; I will walk in your truth: unite my heart to fear your name. 12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify your name for ever more." The holy scriptures teach the truth about the LORD God to engender praise from the believer that will magnify and exalt the name of the LORD.

The New Testament also speaks of believing with the whole heart. Acts 8 "36 And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what does hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him." Paul wrote about confessing with the mouth and believing in the heart about Christ. Romans 10 "9 That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. 10 For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation. 11 For the scripture said, Whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed."


B - GREAT IS THE GLORY OF THE LORD

Psalm 138 "3 In the day when I cried you answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul. 4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, when they hear the words of your mouth. 5 Yes, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD."

COMMENTS: What a wonderful thing it is to receive strength in our inner being from the one who can preserve that soul forever! The LORD can provide in the physical realm to strengthen our faith in him. In verse three above, the psalmist does not describe his specific circumstance, but much earlier Israel saw a powerful example when the Egyptians pursued them after the LORD had led them out. Exodus 15 "9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied on them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. 10 You did blow with your wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. 11 Who is like to you, O LORD, among the gods? who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?"

David could express his confidence in the LORD because of his faith in the only true God. It is good to Return to a previously cited psalm for some similar thoughts about the soul and about future worship by many nations. Psalm 86 "4 Rejoice the soul of your servant: for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. 5 For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you. 6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. 7 In the day of my trouble I will call on you: for you will answer me. 8 Among the gods there is none like to you, O Lord; neither are there any works like to your works. 9 All nations whom you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord; and shall glorify your name."

The Holy Scriptures provide instructions for those who will apply them to their lives. Psalm 2 "10 Be wise now therefore, O you kings: be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." Another psalm declares that the future will bring complete subjection to the LORD. Psalm 22 "27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is the governor among the nations."


C - O LORD, FORSAKE NOT THE WORKS OF YOUR OWN HAND

Psalm 138 "6 Though the LORD be high, yet has he respect to the lowly: but the proud he knows afar off. 7 Though I walk in the middle of trouble, you will revive me: you shall stretch forth your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand shall save me. 8 The LORD will perfect that which concerns me: your mercy, O LORD, endures for ever: forsake not the works of your own hands."

COMMENTS: A few generations before David, Hannah, the mother of Samuel knew that the LORD preserves his saints, though they may be in low positions, and casts away unbelievers who depend upon their own strength. 1 Samuel 2 "6 The LORD kills, and makes alive: he brings down to the grave, and brings up. 7 The LORD makes poor, and makes rich: he brings low, and lifts up. 8 He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and he has set the world on them. 9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail." All of this is done for the glory of the name of the LORD, and Samuel knew the same truth as did his mother that the LORD will not forsake his saints. 1 Samuel 12 "20 And Samuel said to the people, Fear not: you have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; 21 And turn you not aside: for then should you go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. 22 For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it has pleased the LORD to make you his people."

Psalm 138 ends with a clause asking the LORD to not forget the works of his own hand. It is made by confidence in his everlasting mercy. Another psalm of David is more direct about that matter. Psalm 34 "17 The righteous cry, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivers him out of them all." Though Israel finally fell as a nation in their own land, the prophet knew that the LORD holds on to those humble ones who are truly his own. Isaiah 57 "15 For thus said the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Jesus gave this summary statement after teaching with a parable. Luke 14 "11 For whoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted." In his letter, James spoke of God's grace for the humble in spirit. James 4 "6 But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Because the LORD changes not, even Job knew that his own works could not save him, but he was among the works of God's own hand. Job 14 "14 If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. 15 You shall call, and I will answer you: you will have a desire to the work of your hands."

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord Jesus, may I give you praise with my whole heart even as I live in a generation with so many unbelievers all around. Your loving kindness to me and the truth of your Word has magnified your name before me as your Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to see the magnificence of your name which is above all other names in earth and in heaven. In the day when I cried out to you with only the smallest amount of faith, you received me by your grace that I might have the sure hope of eternal life. I know from your Word that as you opened the way of life to the Gentiles, your Word became clear to kings outside of Israel who were among the works of your hand. Regardless of their standing among men, only those who have a humble and contrite heart before you receive your mercy, LORD, and that mercy endures forever. The proud who refuse to humble themselves before you, LORD, will find their eternal end far from you. If the time comes upon me in this life that I am in the middle of great trial because of your enemies, I know that my ultimate salvation is secure in you, LORD. I believe you will not forget the works of your own hand! Hallelujah and amen!

Published 1 April 2014