New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

Psa 138:1

By David-
According to the LXX titles, there were certain Psalms which were written for the dedication of the rebuilt temple, and others written by Haggai and Zechariah. They include: Psalms 96,138,147,148. These all seem to speak as if the time of a glorious temple was to be the time of God’s Kingdom; this was the possibility, and it was the prevailing hope in the minds of the faithful minority. But the Psalms had to remain prophecies of the future day of Zion’s glory, for the temple was not rebuilt by the returned exiles according to the specifications of Ez. 40-48. This psalm originally by David was reused and reapplied to later contexts.

I will give You thanks with my whole heart. Before the mighty ones I will sing praises to You-
David spoke of seeking and praising God's grace with his "whole heart" (Ps. 9:1; 119:58; 138:1). Solomon uses the phrase, but speaks of being obedient with the "whole heart" (1 Kings 8:23; 2 Chron. 6:14) and applying the "whole heart" to the intellectual search for God (Ecc. 1:13; 8:9). There is a difference. The idea of whole hearted devotion to God was picked up by Solomon, but instead of giving the whole heart to the praise of God's grace, he instead advocated giving the whole heart to ritualistic obedience and intellectual search for God. This has been the trap fallen into by many Protestant groups whose obsession with "truth" has obscured the wonder of God's grace.

Psa 138:2

I will bow down toward Your holy temple, and give thanks to Your Name for Your grace and for Your truth; for You have exalted above all things your name and your word-
The particular "word" David initially had in view was the word of God through Samuel that he would become king. That is what "the word" in Ps. 119 mainly refers to. Now that he was established king and could come before the sanctuary as he so longed to do whilst exiled, he thanks God. "Grace and truth" is a phrase which often refers to God's promises. David perceived that the fulfilment of Samuel's prophetic word about these things was the articulation of God's Name, exalted in the fulfilment of God's prophetic word. However we will note on :7,8 that David seems to have prayed this time whilst still under persecution from Saul, so we could read these past tenses at the start of the Psalm as his confident expectation that one day he would be in the sanctuary praising God for fulfilling His word about the Davidic Kingdom. And this was to be a pattern for the exiles.  

Psa 138:3

In the day that I called, You answered me; You encouraged me with strength in my soul-
David thinks back to his time in the wilderness, and how his desperate calls for help and for the fulfilment of the prophetic word about his becoming king has been answered. He recalls how God had answered his many requests recorded in Ps. 119, to encourage him with strength in believing that the prophetic word about his kingship would in fact come true. The application to the exiles was that their prayers for restoration would likewise be heard- if they followed David's path of humility, repentance and restoration. But for the most part they didn't.

Psa 138:4

All the kings of the land will give You thanks, Yahweh, for they have heard the words of Your mouth-
David's vision was of all the rulers in the eretz promised to Abraham glorifying God for making him king. And likewise there was the potential at the time of the restoration for the whole area of the eretz to come to accept Yahweh as their God because of the evident fulfilment of His prophetic word for His people. But this again didn't happen as potentially possible, and will come to full term only in the last days.

Psa 138:5

Yes, they will sing of the ways of Yahweh; for great is Yahweh’s glory-
Nations only accepted new gods because the nations who worshipped those gods had overrun them and forced them to accept their gods and reject their own. But Yahweh's envisaged spiritual conquest of the nations of the eretz was to be because they had "heard the words of Your mouth", seeing them fulfilled in the restoration of David and later of the exiles; and they willingly therefore were to perceive Yahweh's glory and sing of His ways. And so it is in the expansion of His Kingdom in this life; individuals willingly submit themselves to Him rather than due to coercion or being swamped with His power unavoidably.

Psa 138:6

For though Yahweh is high, yet He looks after the lowly; but the proud, He knows from afar-
What was intended to attract the nations to submission to Yahweh was the way that He works with the lowly, be they David or the exiles, and restores them and brings down the proud (cp. Saul, the Babylonian empire). This love of the humble was a radical inversion of all accepted values, for the proud are glorified and the humble abused in secular life. And it was this which was one of Yahweh's unique and so attractive characteristics.

Psa 138:7

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies. Your right hand will save me-
The Psalm begins with David thanking God for having already restored him to Zion; but as noted on :2, it could be that he said this whilst still walking "in the midst of trouble" during Saul's persecution, as well as during his exile from Absalom. "The wrath of my enemies" is a phrase he uses about both those situations (Ps. 55:3). His confidence that he would be revived / restored is therefore a pattern for the exiles, who were in a similar situation. Ps. 119 is full of requests for God to "revive" or restore David according to His word of promise through Samuel that David would become king.

"Trouble" was the result of disobedience to the covenant, and God would not be in the "midst" of His people at this time (s.w. Dt. 31:17). This is very relevant to the exiles, but the Psalm reflects faith that even in the experience of judgment, God is still desirous to save His people.

Psa 138:8

Yahweh will fulfil that which concerns me; Your grace, Yahweh, endures forever. Don’t forsake the works of Your own hands-
See on Ps. 139:15. GNB better captures the sense that this refers to God's word of promise to restore David (and the exiles) even when that seemed impossible: "You will do everything you have promised; LORD, your love is eternal. Complete the work that you have begun". The work had been "begun" with David as it had with the exiles; but David is ever aware, as he is throughout Ps. 119, that the fulfilment of that word of the kingdom would be by grace. He and the exiles were personally undeserving of it. If we read "Don’t forsake the works of Your own hands", we have another example of how David sees in creation, including that of his own body, an encouragement to faith that God will work intricately and powerfully with us to further fulfil His ultimate intention with us. Our attitudes to creation therefore affect our present faith. This verse is alluded to in Phil. 1:6: "Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will keep working at perfecting it [AV "will complete it"], until the day of Jesus Christ". David's pattern is therefore our template. We too have been given the word of the Kingdom as he was, which appears so far from fulfilment; and yet it will be fulfilled, as with David, despite his sinfulness and weakness.