Psalm 138:1–8 comment (0)
May 8, 2014
By Catherine Lawrence
Related Scripture: Psalm 138:1–8
Bible Studies for Life
Department of Religion, Samford University
This week’s lesson encourages Christians to express thanks to God for the hope we have in Christ. Psalm 138, a psalm of thanksgiving, offers believers an example of a grateful response to God’s many blessings.
Here the psalmist expresses his wholehearted gratitude to the Lord for answering him on the day the psalmist called (v. 3). “On the day I called” refers to a time of crisis in the psalmist’s life. To say the Lord “answered” him on the day he called is a way of stating that the Lord delivered the psalmist from that crisis. The exact nature of the psalmist’s troubles is not specified, but his gratitude for the Lord’s help is clear.
It seems the psalmist also recognized that the Lord helping him was an action consistent with the Lord’s own character qualities. When the psalmist gave thanks for the Lord’s “steadfast love” and “faithfulness” (v. 2), he highlighted two of the attributes God had proclaimed to be true of Himself in Exodus 34:6–7. These attributes emphasize God’s loyalty toward His people, His ability and willingness to lend aid when a need arises and His trustworthiness. In essence, the psalmist saw his deliverance as a tangible demonstration of the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness. He knew his hope was grounded in God Himself, and his expressions of gratitude reflect that knowledge. The psalmist reminds us that God extends Himself to us with help and hope and that He is worthy of our thanks and praise.
Verse 6 may reflect the psalmist’s feeling about his own status (“lowly”) in comparison with the Lord’s (“high”) and in light of what the Lord had done for him. The Lord is indeed “high” — a truth affirmed in the words “great is the glory of the Lord” (v. 5) and in the involvement of “all the kings of the earth” in his praise (v. 4) — and yet He “regards the lowly.” That the most-high God takes note of those who are lowly and acts on their behalf is reason for great hope. And gratitude is the appropriate response to all of the ways in which God takes note of us.
In verses 7–8 the psalmist continues his thanksgiving with an expression of trust in the Lord. Perhaps because of his experience of the Lord’s deliverance described in verse 3, the psalmist now declares his deep conviction that the Lord will deliver him from any and all trouble he might face. That is, the psalmist knows he will continue to encounter any number of difficult or even dangerous circumstances over the course of time, but he trusts that God will deliver him. This deep trust in God’s deliverance also produces a sense of hope for the future, for the psalmist is convinced that no matter the “trouble” he encounters, those troubles will not thwart the fulfillment of God’s purpose for his life. It is as though the psalmist recognizes the enduring nature of God’s presence with and commitment to him. Indeed the psalmist affirms that the Lord’s steadfast love “endures forever” (v. 8).
In sum, Psalm 138 offers Christians a valuable reminder on two fronts.
One, the psalm reminds us that God works on behalf of His people, including those who find themselves “in the midst of trouble.” We can find hope in our faithful God, and we certainly enjoy innumerable blessings that flow continually from His hand. Two, the psalm exemplifies a proper response to all that God is and all He has done for us. Like the psalmist, we may offer thanks to God with our whole hearts, for He has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3). And also with the psalmist, let us “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” (Ps. 136:1). And let us be like the grateful leper who alone returned to thank Jesus for healing him (Luke 17:11–19).