Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Psalm 138 – Assurance of Divine Purpose

“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

before the “gods” I will sing your praise.”

~Psalm 138:1 (NIV).

For a psalm on the shortish side this one packs quite a few powerful punches, besides the fact it’s ‘beautifully’ sandwiched between one extraneous communal lament (Psalm 137) and the famed Psalm 139, exposing as a photograph God’s all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful nature to us!


The threefold structure of the psalm is easy to see, with verses 1-3, 4-6 and 7-8 forming tidy units, though, oddly the NIV shows this structure to be 1-3, 4-5 and 6-8. Nonetheless, it’s important in breaking down the thought of the psalm, to delve deeper into it, such that we can understand it better; God speaking to us more distinctly as we do so.

Verses 1-3 are about the acknowledgement of the blessings received; verses 4-6 relate to the anticipation of universal praise; and, verses 7-8 assure us that the Divine purpose will be performed.[1]

Two Key Features of Psalm 138

Universal and Large Concepts – Praise Particularly

The initial verse seems couched in lauding God’s praise before the angels of heaven, i.e. “gods,” for the psalmist (thought reliably to be David) wants his praise of God known everywhere, to all regions unto nether-extant realms.

The name and Word of God are exalted above all things in verse 2 (lines d and e). David, the king, contends that all the kings of the earth should praise the Lord and hear the words of God’s mouth (verse 4).

Verse 5 takes us into the concept of God’s glory—the manifest Presence—and there is a smooth connection and transition into verse 6 that commands our personal attention.

God’s Glory Manifest in the Stooping

We are not apt at seeing this very obviously, but it is there, and it is most assuredly a great blessing that it is. For, God’s glory is most resplendent in the stooping of this one and only living Deity to reach down for us, delivering us, the lowly.[2]

We might otherwise see this as God’s grace and compassion—it is as much God’s glory. This “glory” is vast and it is great. That God does this with monotonous regularity, in delivering us, is nothing short of amazing, and considering that the deliverance of God is usually in those times when we “walk in the midst of trouble” (verse 7a) we can only genuinely praise, marvelling at, the Lord’s glory.

What This Means for Us – ‘Our Purpose’ is the Purposes of God

There is always a message for our personal and interpersonal lives in the context of our relationship with God via the psalms, and indeed, through all things biblical.

The purposes of God are set before us in verse 8.

God reaches down for us, to lift us out of our mire, so we may serve the purposes of God, which will always present themselves. In these, we will overcome. God will finish what God started (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

This is a twofold lesson for us: 1) if God be for us in our purpose, none can be against us in it, truly; and, 2) we waste our time, resources and energy on any purpose beyond God’s purposes.

Let us never deny that God’s purposes always prevail.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Psalms – A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms – Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1995), pp. 34-38.

[2] Craig C. Broyles, Psalms – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson/Paternoster, 1999), p. 481-82.

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