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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 138

The remnant cried out to the LORD in their distress – that is, during the exile of Psalm 137 – and the LORD answered the prayer (Psa 138:3). Over this they break out in jubilation (Psa 138:1), for the LORD has given them strength (Psa 138:3b; 7) to return to the promised land. We find here thanksgiving from the returning remnant in connection with the LORD’s lovingkindness, the covenant truth.

Verses 1-3

Thanksgiving For Salvation


This is a psalm “of David” (Psa 138:1a), the first of a group of eight psalms written by him (Psalms 138-145). He says to God: “I will give You thanks with all my heart” (Psa 138:1b). His heart is full of thanksgiving for God. There is no room in his heart for other gods or anything else (cf. Psa 9:2). He expresses his thanksgiving openly, for, he says: “I will sing praises to You before the gods.”

The gods are the bearers of an authority given to them by God, such as earthly princes, but also heavenly rulers. Here we are talking about the heavenly rulers (cf. Psa 95:3). Starting in Psa 138:4 we find the earthly rulers. What we have here is similar to what the New Testament church does (Eph 3:10).

He bows down toward “Your holy temple” (Psa 138:2). This could be the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God, for the temple was not yet there, but in any case it is also the heavenly dwelling place of God. This is supported by the fact that David sings praises to the LORD in the sight of the gods (Psa 138:1). It applies prophetically to the temple that is yet to be built in the realm of peace.

In that attitude of worship before God, he give thanks to God’s Name. God has shown His glorious Name in a special way in His “lovingkindness” and His “truth”. God’s lovingkindness is connected with the actions of the LORD on the basis of His covenant. His truth includes the assurance that He will never deviate from His covenant.

From His actions in favor of David, the value of “Your word” is demonstrated. This is seen in the expression of “all Your Name”, which is all that He is. His Word makes His Name known (cf. Psa 56:4; 10). Thus He made Himself known to David in truthful lovingkindness. By doing what He promised, He magnified His Word.

The characteristics of the remnant are the Word and prayer: in them there is both trust in the word of God’s promise (Psa 138:2) and dependence expressed in calling on the LORD’s help (Psa 138:3). Both the promises of the LORD and the answer to the prayers of the remnant are based on the blood of the new covenant, the blood of Christ.

The truthfulness to His promise was demonstrated when the psalmist cried out, for then God heard him (Psa 138:3). Thereby not only were the suffering and distress removed, but through the answer he was also strengthened by God with power in his soul.

The Lord Jesus is the incarnate Word (Jn 1:14). In Him all the promises of God are yes and amen (2Cor 1:19-20). Whatever we receive from God, it is all through and in connection with the Son Who became Man.

Verses 4-6

Kings Give Thanks to God


David says that “all the kings of the earth will give thanks to” the LORD (Psa 138:4). Of this he is certain because “they have heard the words of Your mouth”. The words he means are the words God has spoken about His people, the promises He has made to them. They will see that God will fulfill all that He has said about His people. Then the kings of the earth can do nothing but give thanks to Him (cf. Psa 68:32-33; Psa 102:16-18; Isa 49:23).

That God is fulfilling His words will be evident in the ways He is going with His people and all nations (Psa 138:5). In those ways He reveals His glory, a glory that is great. When the kings of the nations see that, they will give thanks for it. They will acknowledge that the glory of the LORD is great and that their earthly glory pales in comparison. We see in both of these verses the effect of His words and His ways on the kings of the earth because in them His great glory is revealed.

Psa 138:4-5 show that “the LORD is exalted” (Psa 138:6). This does not mean that He has no regard for the lowly (Psa 72:12-14), which is often the case with earthly rulers. His attention and care go out to them. In doing so, the haughty should not think that he escapes God’s attention. God knows him from afar, which is to say that He knows his plans against His people as he devises them. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jam 4:6; 1Pet 5:5).

Verses 7-8

God Accomplishes His work


These two verses speak the language of faith. David walks in the midst of trouble and trusts that the LORD will revive him. The deliverance from the trouble is that he can revive in the midst of the trouble, that is, he experiences fellowship with his God in it. That is the true life. The gained experience of deliverance gives confidence that God will do it again as soon as it is necessary. Prophetically we see that the remnant on the way to the promised land is strengthened by the LORD with power (Psa 138:3), although they are still in the midst of trouble (Psa 138:7).

David also knows how the LORD will rescue him from trouble. His one hand He will stretch out like a shield against the wrath of his enemies, to ward it off. As a result, it will be impossible for them to do him any more harm. With His other hand, His right hand, the hand of strength, He saves him. This double assurance brings Him to utter the assurance of Psa 138:8.

God has a purpose for the life of each of His own. David expresses confidence that the LORD will accomplish what concerns him, that God will accomplish His purpose with him. For God not to do so would mean that His lovingkindness would cease somewhere. That is impossible, because the LORD’s lovingkindness is everlasting. Therefore, He will definitely complete the works of His hands and not forsake them.

Paul expresses the same confidence regarding God’s work in the Philippians (Phil 1:6). The blessing is God’s business. We may trust Him to finish His work with us. We are “the works of Your hands” and may pray that He will not forsake us. We know that He will not and so we pray Him to do so (cf. Psa 80:14-15).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 138". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-138.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.