God’s Promise To Honor And Complete His Work

VERSE OF THE DAY

Psalm 138:8 (New International Version)

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The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.

The lord will clear me white and snow; for your love lord is everlasting. Do not abandon the plans you work so hard to create

The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever– do not abandon the works of your hands.

Psalm 138

Psalm 138 – God’s Promise to Honor His Word and to Complete His Work

This psalm is titled A Psalm of David. Several commentators mention that it was fittingly placed next to Psalm 137, which described the inability of the psalmist to sing before the heathen. Psalm 138 is a declaration that even the kings of the nations will praise Yahweh.

“This Psalm is wisely placed. Whoever edited and arranged these sacred poems, he had an eye to apposition and contrast; for if in Psalm 137 we see the need of silence before revilers, here we see the excellence of a brave confession. There is a time to be silent, lest we cast pearls before swine; and there is a time to speak openly, lest we be found guilty of cowardly non-confession.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“There is a fine blend of boldness and humility from the outset: boldness to confess the Lord before the gods, humility to bow down before him.” (Derek Kidner)

A. Declaration of praise for the past.

1. (1-2a) The declaration of praise.

I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name

a. I will praise You with my whole heart: David began this song with a bold declaration – that he would hold nothing back in his praise to God. It would be done with all his being, with his whole heart.

i. My whole heart: “We need a broken heart to mourn our own sins, but a whole heart to praise the Lord’s perfections.” (Spurgeon)

ii. “‘With the whole heart’ leaves no room for mixed motives of divided devotion.” (Morgan)

b. Before the gods I will sing praises to You: We can’t imagine that David meant he would praise Yahweh in the actual presence of idols and images of other gods. There are three ideas about what David meant by his singing praise before the gods (elohim).

· Perhaps it was a declaration of allegiance to Yahweh and Him alone, and the gods represent the idols of the heathen.

· Perhaps gods (elohim) in this context refer to angelic beings, as in a few other places in the Hebrew Scriptures.

· Perhaps gods refers to kings or judges, such as are spoken of later in Psalm 138:4.

i. “A witness against the impotence of idols…. Praise belongs to the Lord alone and not to the gods of the nations, whose kings will have to submit to the Lord.” (VanGemeren)

c. I will worship toward Your holy temple: Even when David was not at the temple, he recognized it as God’s appointed place for worship and sacrifice. He would worship according to God’s direction.

i. “Wheresoever I am the face of my soul shall turn, like the needle of a dial, by sacred instinct, towards thee, in the ark of thy presence, in the Son of thy love.” (Trapp)

2. (2b-3) Reasons for praise.

For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul.

a. For Your lovingkindness and Your truth: David’s praise was not empty adoration. It had reasons behind it, which were a basis for it. He thought of the great lovingkindness (hesed) of God toward him, and God’s firmly established truth. Meditation on those gifts from God gave David a basis for his spirit of praise.

b. For You have magnified Your word above all Your name: Having mentioned God’s truth in the previous line, now David considered the main way God’s truth is communicated to us – through His word. God has such a high estimation of His word that He has magnified it above His very name, His character.

i. This is a stunning and remarkable statement, showing the incredible regard God has for His own word. He holds His word in greater esteem than His very character or name.

ii. “It would be as if God is saying, ‘I value my integrity above everything else. Above everything else I want to be believed.’ The verse does not have to mean that God’s other qualities are moved to second place.” (Boice)

iii. Charles Spurgeon explained his confidence in complete, God-spoken, inspiration of the Bible: “We believe in plenary verbal inspiration, with all its difficulties, for there are not half as many difficulties in that doctrine as there are in any other kind of inspiration that men may imagine. If this Book be not the real solid foundation of our religion, what have we to build upon? If God has spoken a lie, where are we, brethren?”

c. In the day when I cried out, You answered me: David also had very practical reasons to praise and thank God. The LORD had answered and rescued him many times. When David’s strength failed, God made him bold with strength in his soul.

i. We notice an important pattern in the reasons David gave for his praise. It is important to praise God for who He is, even more than for what He has done for us.

· First he gave God praise for who He is – a God of lovingkindness and truth.

· Then he gave God praise for His revelation – the word, magnified above His very name.

· Then he gave God praise for what He had done – God’s response to David in a time of crisis.

ii. Made me bold: “The psalmist uses a remarkable expression, in saying that Jehovah had made him bold, or, as the word is literally, proud.” (Maclaren)

iii. “If the burden was not removed, yet strength was given wherewith to bear it, and this is an equally effective method of help.” (Spurgeon)

B. Declaration of confidence for the future.

1. (4-6) Praise from the kings of the earth.

All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD,
When they hear the words of Your mouth.
Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
For great is the glory of the LORD.
Though the LORD is on high,
Yet He regards the lowly;
But the proud He knows from afar.

a. All the kings of the earth shall praise You: David was king of Israel and gave praise to the LORD, but he also knew the day would come when all the kings of the earth would praise Him. They would praise Him in response to hearing the words of His mouth from those who proclaim.

i. Morgan saw a connection between the answered prayer of verses 2-3 and the praise of kings described here: “The reason of praise is next declared to be that of lovingkindness and truth as already proved. The effect of praise is to be that of the revelation of God to others, who if they come to know Him, will also praise Him.”

ii. When they hear the words of Your mouth: “It probably means when those who know God declare his words to them. In other words, the psalm is acknowledging the need for the people of God to be missionaries.” (Boice)

b. They shall sing of the ways of the LORD: The kings of the earth would not only praise Yahweh with words, but also in song. This was in response to their understanding that great is the glory of the LORD.

c. Yet He regards the lowly: David understood that God is great in glory and on high, yet He holds the lowly, the humble, in high regard. On the other hand, God keeps His distance from the proud.

i. “Infinitely great as God is, he regards even the lowest and most inconsiderable part of his creation; but the humble and afflicted man attracts his notice particularly.” (Clarke)

ii. “Unto the lowly; unto such as are mean and obscure in the world; to me, a poor contemptible shepherd, whom he hath preferred before great princes, and to such as are little in their own eyes.” (Poole)

iii. David’s statement that God regards the lowly, but the proud He knows from afar is another way of saying a truth from Proverbs 3:34 that is repeated twice in the New Testament: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).

iv. “Low things he looketh close upon, that he may raise them higher; lofty things he knoweth afar off, that he may crush them down lower. The proud Pharisee pressed as near God as he could; the poor publican, not daring to do so, stood aloof off; yet was God far from the Pharisee, near to the publican.” (Trapp)

v. “Proud men boast loudly of their culture and ‘the freedom of thought,’ and even dare to criticize their Maker: but he knows them from afar, and will keep them at arm’s length in this life, and shut them up in hell in the next.” (Spurgeon)

2. (7-8) David’s firm confidence for the future.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
You will stretch out Your hand
Against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.
The LORD will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

a. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me: As David considered the greatness of God and His kindness to the humble (Psalm 138:4-6), it gave him confidence that God would revive him in his present trouble. Understanding God’s greatness and kindness builds our faith.

b. Your right hand will save me: When God’s help came, it would come with all His skill and strength (Your right hand). God would defend David against the wrath of his enemies.

i. “Thou shall strike them with thy left hand, and save me with thy right.” (Trapp)

ii. “Adversaries may be many, and malicious, and mighty; but our glorious Defender has only to stretch out his arm and their armies vanish.” (Spurgeon)

c. The LORD will perfect that which concerns me: This was David’s confident declaration. He knew that God had a plan concerning him, and this God of greatness and goodness would absolutely perfect that plan.

i. “This is the language of utmost confidence…. The hope is based, not upon the determination of the singer, but upon Jehovah.” (Morgan)

ii. This is another way of stating the great promise of Philippians 1:6: being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

iii. David could think of the particular promise (2 Samuel 7) that God had made concerning him – that his descendants would rule forever, especially fulfilled in the Messiah. The principle is true for every believer regarding the promise and course of life God has appointed for him.

iv. Maclaren noted the connection between the phrases the LORD will perfect and Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever: “Because Jehovah’s lovingkindness endures forever, every man on whom His shaping Spirit has begun to work, or His grace in any form to bestow its gifts, may be sure that no exhaustion or change of these is possible.”

d. Do not forsake the works of Your hands: With confidence in the never-ending mercy (hesed) of Yahweh, David knew that God would never forsake him, who belonged to God by creation and redemption.

i. “Look upon the wounds of thy hands, and forsake not the works of thy hands, prayed Queen Elizabeth 1. And Luther’s usual prayer was, Confirm, O God, in us that thou hast wrought, and perfect the work that thou hast begun in us, to thy glory; so be it.” (Trapp)

ii. “His creating hands formed our souls at the beginning; his nail-pierced hands redeemed them on Calvary; his glorified hands will hold our souls fast and not let them go for ever.” (Burgon, cited in Spurgeon)

(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – ewm@enduringword.com

Categories: Old Testament Psalms

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Commentary on Psalm 138:1-8

<img src=”https://www.workingpreacher.org/wp-content/uploads/profile_images/01q8ugiZU3n0F9am820pvmf9SNdgK6nDuEDaOzyQNZacBnaCbgQ.jpg&#8221; alt=”Author Headshot”/>

Nancy deClaissé-Walford

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Psalm 138 is classified as an Individual Hymn of Thanksgiving, a psalm in which a single voice praises God for goodness to or on behalf of that individual, usually for deliverance from some trying situation.

Hermann Gunkel, one of the great fathers of psalm studies, describes hymns of thanksgiving in this way: “A person is saved out of great distress, and now with grateful heart he [sic] brings a thank offering to Yahweh; it was customary that at a certain point in the sacred ceremony he would offer a song in which he expresses his thanks.”

In eight brief verses, the singer of Psalm 138 gives thanks to God in the presence of three groups: the gods (verses 1-3); the kings of the earth (verses 4-6); and enemies (verses 7-8). Second-person pronouns abound in verses 1-3, occurring eleven times as the psalmist addresses God directly.

In verse 1, the psalmist gives thanks to God, making music in the presence of the gods. Psalms 135 and 136 also mention “the gods.” In Psalm 135:5 the singer declares “great is the LORD, our God, our Lord, more than all the gods.” And in Psalm 136:2-3, the psalmist says, “Give thanks to the god of gods … give thanks to the lord of lords.” Such phrases are common in the Old Testament, expressing God’s sovereignty over any claimants to the appellation “god.”

In verse 2 of Psalm 138, the psalm singer continues the words of thanks, this time to the “name (shem)” of god, because of God’s “steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness (‘emeth).” “Name” was an important concept in the ancient Near East. Names reflected the natures and characters of the person who bore them and were conceptually equal to the essence of ones being. The name “Jacob” means “he usurps,” because he grabs Esau’s heel at the birth, attempting to be the first-born twin (Genesis 25:26). He indeed usurps Esau later in life when he coerces Esau into selling to him his birthright and when he tricks Isaac into giving him the blessing.

After wrestling at the Jabbok, God changes Jacob’s name to “Israel,” which means “he has struggled with God” (Genesis 32:28). During Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush in Exodus 3, Moses replies to God’s command to return to Egypt with a seemingly simple request. “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I tell them?” (3:13).

Moses asks for God’s name in order to fully understand and then convey to the Israelites who this God was. In Exodus 20, God commanded the Israelites that they not “make wrongful use of” God’s name. And the book of Deuteronomy tells us that God’s name will dwell in the place of God’s choosing in the promised land (Deuteronomy 12:5; 14:23-24; 16:2).

The word “steadfast love (hesed)” occurs some 245 times in the Old Testament, 127 times in the book of Psalms. One Jewish scholar defines hesed as “a free-flowing love that knows no bounds.” Hesed is most closely connected conceptually with the covenant relationship between God and children of Israel. Genesis 17 records these words of God to Abram, “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now alien … and I will be their God” (verses 7-8).

In Exodus 19, God says to the children of Israel, “If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples … you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (verses 5-6). In each instance, God calls the Israelites into a special relationship centered around a covenant.

Hesed is often used in conjunction with “faithfulness (‘emeth). Both are self-descriptive words used by God in the revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34:6-8). The Hebrew verbal root of ‘emeth is ‘aman, meaning “be firm, be reliable, be permanent,” and is the root from which the word “amen” is derived. The psalmist thus gives thanks to, makes music to, and bows down toward God because of God’s name, covenant commitment, and firm reliability.

In verse 3, the psalm singer states what has prompted these words of thanks to God. The first begins in most English translations with the words “On the day that I called,” suggesting a particular point in time when the psalmist cried out. In Hebrew, however, the phrase has a broader temporal frame of reference, best understood as “whenever.” Thus, the psalmist thanks God for answering whenever the psalmist cries out.

In verse 4, the venue of thanks and singing to God shifts from the realm of the gods (verse 1) to the earthly realm of kings. The reason that kings ought to join the psalm singer in giving thanks and singing to God is three-fold: 1) The kings have heard the words (verse 4b; 2b); 2) The glory of the Lord is great (verse 5b); and the Lord is exalted, seeing and knowing the states of the lowly and the haughty alike (verse 6).

The venue shifts once again in verse 7, this time to the realm of the midst of “trouble (tsarah) and the wrath of my enemies (‘oyeb).” The two words “trouble” and “enemies” are often used in parallel constructions in Hebrew poetry (Psalm 42). The psalm singer refers to the hand of God three times in the closing verses of Psalm 138.

God stretches out a hand (verse 7); God’s hand delivers (verse 7); and the psalmist asks God not to “forsake” the “work of your hands” (verse 8). The word translated “forsake” is rapah and means “be slack, be loosened, be weak.” The psalmist has experienced God’s upholding hands over and over in the past and petitions God to continue to uphold and protect.

Psalm 138 celebrates the name, the steadfast love, the faithfulness, and the intimate care of God in the myriad places in which we find ourselves in life — our sanctuaries of safety; our chaotic social, political, and economic world; our daily trials and troubles. The psalm singer reminds the faithful that their God is a God who remembers and cares; that their God is a God worthy of thanks and worship; and that their God is a God above all gods.

About the Author

<img src=”https://www.workingpreacher.org/wp-content/uploads/profile_images/01q8ugiZU3n0F9am820pvmf9SNdgK6nDuEDaOzyQNZacBnaCbgQ.jpg&#8221; alt=”Author Headshot”/>

Nancy deClaissé-Walford

Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages

McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University

Atlanta, GA

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The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands.

Psalm 138:8

Related Topics: Purpose, Lord, Love, Eternal, All Topics…

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

God has a purpose and plan for each of our lives. The greatest thing we can do is to find that purpose and live it out. We can trust his purpose for us because it is based on his wisdom and love. As long as we seek his will, we’re not going to do anything that can ultimately mess up his purpose for us. Yes, we may at times stray from the perfect channel he wants us to travel, but we never get totally out of the main channel. As long as we do not abandon him, and remember he will never forsake us, he will use us for his purposes.

My Prayer…

O Sovereign God, help me discern today what my life is intended to fulfill in your plan. Thank you for loving me and promising to walk beside me every step of my life. I live trusting that you will never forsake me and committed to never forsaking you. In the name of your faithful Son, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

The Thoughts and Prayer on Today’s Verse are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to phil@verseoftheday.com.

Author: J. Palmer

Living under the wings of God and the angels around me keeping me going and safe. Sharing the love of Christ.

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