Psalm 138

Psalm 138
by Pastor Lawrence

This psalm of thanksgiving appears to be written intentionally as a response to answered prayer (see v.3). On many occasions in the psalms, the psalmists would express their intention to keep their vow of rendering a thank offering to God when their prayer is answered (see Psalm 56:12), and this psalm is a good example of a man who fulfilled such a vow. Surely the Lord is regularly due such thank offerings from his people who have benefitted much from divine grace. “How oft in grief, hath not he brought thee relief?”

Although he doesn’t tell us what his particular grief was, he was certainly in trouble and under the wrath of his enemies (v.10), but the Lord delivered him and preserved his life, so now the psalmist wants to sing of the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness as it has been demonstrated anew in his life. He gives thanks to the Lord with his “whole heart,” renewing his love and devotion to God, for he knows that God draws near to the lowly who call upon his name but stands far off from the haughty.

The psalmist clearly sees his God as the rightful ruler over all the earth and states that all the kings of the earth will (at some point) give thanks unto God and sing his praise, thus it is only fitting that this lowly servant would do the same bowing down before his holy temple, for the Lord is absolutely worthy of such glory. His name and his word are to be exalted above all things, for that his will and his right. And as much as it is up to the psalmist, he will not let the rocks cry out in his place, for he will regularly give the Lord the glory that his due his name.

Of course, he has no guarantee of the future, at least not in terms of earthly prosperity and peace. Another enemy could rise up with the sun the very next day, but even that would be under God’s sovereign will. What the psalmist takes comfort in here is found in v.8 “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.” Notice he didn’t say that the Lord “will fulfill my purposes” or “fulfill all my desires,” but that he will bring to pass his plans for me. It takes great humility to say that with any pleasure. It is only the meek soul that relies upon God’s good providence especially in times of trouble. It is only the one who is lowly in mind who continues to praise God for his steadfast love and faithfulness even in dark days. Clearly, his prayer is that God would not forsake him, who is the very work of God’s hands, but even that prayer is offered in faith knowing and trusting that God will exalt his name and his word above all things.

Below is a paraphrased version of the psalm found in The Psalter 1912.

1 With grateful heart my thanks I bring, before the great thy praise I sing:
I worship in thy holy place and praise thee for thy truth and grace;
for truth and grace together shine in thy most holy word divine.

2 I cried to thee and thou didst save, thy word of grace new courage gave;
the kings of earth shall thank thee, Lord, for they have heard thy wondrous word;
yea, they shall come with songs of praise, for great and glorious are thy ways.

3 O Lord, enthroned in glory bright, thou reignest in the heav’nly height;
the proud in vain thy favor seek, but thou hast mercy for the meek;
through trouble though my pathway be, thou wilt revive and strengthen me.

4 Thou wilt stretch forth thy mighty arm to save me when my foes alarm;
the work thou hast for me begun shall by thy grace be fully done;
Forever mercy dwells with thee; O Lord, my Maker, think on me.