PSALM 138

 

Psalm 138 is pre-eminently a Psalm of future praise, which transports the reader from the days of it’s human penman David (inspired under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) to the coming age when nations shall fall down and worship the Son of God.  It speaks of the time to come when at the mention of the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord to the glory of Yahweh and his Holy Name (Phil. 2:10-11).  It describes the praise that shall ascend before the Lord of all the earth: firstly, through Israel His Chosen race, and secondly the nations who shall submit themselves to the righteous reign of Christ.  Whilst, doubtless, the Psalm echoes the experiences of David, it reaches beyond his life to the reign of his Greater Seed, and the praise that will be given to him.

The Psalm begins by expressing the intention to praise:

“I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the Elohim will I sing praise unto thee” (Psa. 138:1)

This foreshadows the future praise that Israel shall give.  Jeremiah also prophesied of those days: “I will give them an heart to know me, that I am Yahweh: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:7).  There will no longer be a half-hearted worship, but a full commitment to devote the entire Being in service.  As Messiah answered: “… thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength …” (Mark 12:30).

The second part of this verse reads in the King James translation: “before the gods will I sing praise unto thee”, but the word translated “gods” is the Hebrew “elohim” which can denote the judges of Israel (Psa. 82:6, Eccl. 5:6), the idols of the heathen that Israel worshipped (Psa. 96:4, 5), or the mighty Angels who do Yahweh’s will (Psa. 8:5, cp, Heb. 2:7).  We suggest that the context indicates that it is these mighty Angels who are being referred to.  The book of Revelation describes the praise of the Redeemed in that day.  Speaking of that great multitude that no man can number who stood before the throne and before the Lamb, we read that they “cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.  And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne upon their faces, and worshipped God” (Rev. 7:9-11).  So, in this vision it is “all the angels” who shall witness the praise expressed with a joyous loud voice in the age to come.  Indeed, there is a certain appropriateness about this: the angels are “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14) who minister to the heirs of salvation during the time of their mortal lives.  These angels will be present at the approval of the saints at the judgment seat, as we are told: “he that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev. 3:5, see also Lu. 12:8).  It is only appropriate therefore that they will be also present when the immortal choir shall vocalise their deep appreciation of what the Lamb has done for them, singing of their salvation with a “loud voice”, out of the depths of their hearts.

WORSHIP TOWARDS THE TEMPLE

Psalm 138 continues:

“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy Name” (Psa. 138:2).

The allusion here, is to the prayer of Solomon at the inauguration of the Temple as recorded in 1 Kings chapter 8.  Here, in 7 verses, we have the prayer expressed that those who prayed toward the Temple would be heard.  One such instance is verse 48, but beginning at verse 47 for context:

“if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried away captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; and so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house that I have built for thy Name: Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee …” (1 Kings 8:47-50)

Our Master, Jesus the Christ is both the one in whom the Father has placed his Name and he is the antitypical temple:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?  But he spake of the temple of his body” (Jno 2:19-21)

The requirement in times past to pray towards the temple and be heard in heaven, pointed forward to the time when prayer would be required to be directed through Jesus to be heard in heaven. What an exhortation is therefore provided for us by Daniel:

“All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellers, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Dan. 6: 7-10).

Daniel risked his life to continue in prayer in the appointed way. Is it not prudent for God’s servants today to exercise the same diligence as he did?

THE REASONS FOR WORSHIP

Psalm 138 continues to describe the reason why such worship would be given:

“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psa. 138:2).

The stated reason, for a continuance of worship and praise, is “for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth”.  The disciples of Messiah are pre-eminently lovers of Truth.  They delight in the law of Yahweh in the inward man (Rom. 7:22), and worship Yahweh in the appointed way for Truth’s sake. But by contrast, those who lead men astray “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10).  This can be seen in the present age, when men scorn the concept that there is such a thing as absolute Truth.  Messiah in his prayer stated, “thy word is truth” (Jno. 17:17), and lovers of Truth therefore are lovers of the Word.  And it logically follows that to love Truth is to hate Evil.  We must “hate the evil, and love the good” (Amos 5:15).  The principle is expressed by the Psalmist: “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Psa. 119:104).  By contrast to those who claim that our understanding of the Scriptures is open to individual interpretation, and that there is therefore none who can claim to “have the truth”, the Scriptures teach that we must learn the difference between good and bad: “solid food belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).

Yahweh loves those who love Truth, and answers their prayers.  The Psalmist continues: “In the day when I cried thou answerest me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul” (Psa. 138:3).  We see this exemplified in Messiah, who was the Word Made Flesh.  He cried, his voice was heard, and he was strengthened.  Matthew chapter 26 recounts how our Master cried three times to his Father for the cup of suffering to be removed: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mat. 26:39, see also verses 42, 44).  And Luke describes how an Angel was sent to “strengthen” him “with strength” in his soul: “there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Lu. 22:44).  The episode is summarised by the Apostle speaking of Messiah thus:

“who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him out of death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were as Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered …” (Heb. 5:7-8).

Yahweh’s approval upon His Suffering Son was seen in his subsequent resurrection, and glorification: “wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow …” (Phil. 2:9-10).  And it is this exalted status of Jesus that the Psalmist continues to show, that nation, kings and princes will bow before him:

“All the kings of the earth shall praise thee O Yahweh, when they hear the words of thy mouth” (Psa. 138:4).

The kings of the earth shall praise Yahweh in the exaltation of His Son, set as King over all the earth.  As David expressed it elsewhere:

“they that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.  The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.  Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him” (Psa. 72:10-11).

But we are not to assume that when Christ initially takes up his Throne, that the nations of the world will voluntarily submit to him.  They shall praise Yahweh “when they hear the words” of His mouth.  There is, therefore, a period of instruction, with words being spoken to be learned.  So Psalm 2 describes those who will initially rebel:

“the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us …” (Psa. 2:2-3).

But then comes “the words” of his “mouth”:

“Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.  Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion … thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.  Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.  Serve Yahweh with fear, and rejoice with trembling …” (See Psa. 2:5-11)

HUMILITY AND ACCEPTANCE

Psalm 138 tells us that the nations will show themselves to be wise, and be instructed, as they serve Yahweh with fear and trembling.

It is a principle of Scripture that Yahweh delights in those who humble themselves before Him and despises the proud who refuse His Ways.  So it will be in the future: “Though Yahweh be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off” (Psa. 138:6).  Again, the Proverb has it: “Surely he scorneth the scorners, but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Prov. 3:34).  The principle is expressed by the inspired Apostle:

“… ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

By it’s wisdom, the world cannot know about Yahweh, or His plan and purpose with the earth.  Such knowledge can only come by revelation, through hearing the Word preached.  But men of the world are not good listeners, and so “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).  The Gospel preached and believed is the means by which the Almighty has chosen to extend salvation to mankind: but for the most part, it is disbelieved and rejected of men.  Those humble folk who would believe the Gospel message are those with whom Yahweh shall accomplish His Purpose, something which Jesus’ own mother recognised:

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name” (Lu. 1:46-49).

It so pleased the Almighty to choose a woman of “low estate” to be the mother of His Only Begotten Son, and it so pleases Him to call others of like humility to be partakers of His grace and tender mercies.

We saw earlier that it was through “suffering” that Messiah learned obedience, and so it is that the Chosen ones of Yahweh are not spared difficulties in this life.  On the contrary, “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:6).  So it is that troubles will come: “many are the afflictions of the righteous: but Yahweh delivereth him out of them all” (Psa. 34:19).  And Psalm 138 continues to describe how that Yahweh delivered his Son: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me” (Psa. 138:7).  Christ walked in the midst of trouble, with adversaries on every side.  His troubles were so great that he was put to death by the most barbaric and painful method of execution known to man – yet even in the midst of his sufferings, Yahweh was with him.  Though he died, yet the promise was that “thou wilt revive me”, and so we read of his later glorification: “for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom. 14:9).

The revival of Christ from the dead was the signal of Divine approval of all that he had done.  And it was subsequent to his resurrection that he was physically “made perfect”.  The Psalmist wrote that “Yahweh will perfect that which concerneth me” (Psa. 138:8).  Jesus himself recognised this, saying: “… behold, I cast out demons, and I do cures today and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected” (Lu. 13:32).  And Paul continues: “and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9).   So it is that we look forward to being “made perfect” also, when Messiah shall “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:21).

Our Master is the author of eternal salvation: he shall change us into his own image, fashioned in his likeness.  He is therefore, the creator of a New Creation, with the saints being the work of his hands.  Psalm 138 gives the cry of the prophet: “forsake not the works of thine own hands” (Psa. 138:8).  And Paul leaves us in no doubt as to what those works are: “… we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).  It is this new creation that we read in Revelation chapter 7: “and every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 7:13-14).  That creation will not be forsaken, but shall be perpetuated throughout the boundless ages of Eternity according to the Truth of God’s Word, and the humble acceptance of the Gospel message by those meek folk that Christ will exalt in due time.

Christopher Maddocks