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Psalm 138

Thanksgiving and Praise

Of David.


I give you thanks, O L ord, with my whole heart;

before the gods I sing your praise;


I bow down toward your holy temple

and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;

for you have exalted your name and your word

above everything.


On the day I called, you answered me,

you increased my strength of soul.



All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O L ord,

for they have heard the words of your mouth.


They shall sing of the ways of the L ord,

for great is the glory of the L ord.


For though the L ord is high, he regards the lowly;

but the haughty he perceives from far away.



Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;

you stretch out your hand,

and your right hand delivers me.


The L ord will fulfill his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O L ord, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.

1. I will praise thee with my whole heart As David had been honored to receive distinguishing marks of the divine favor, he declares his resolution to show more than ordinary gratitude. This is exercise which degenerates and is degraded in the case of hypocrites to a mere sound of empty words, but he states that he would return thanks to God not with the lips only, but with sincerity of heart, for by the whole heart, as we have elsewhere seen, is meant a heart which is sincere and not double. The noun אלהים, Elohim, sometimes means angels, and sometimes kings, and either meaning will suit with the passage before us. The praise David speaks of is that which is of a public kind. The solemn assembly is, so to speak, a heavenly theater, graced by the presence of attending angels; and one reason why the cherubim overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant was to let God’s people know that the angels are present when they come to worship in the sanctuary. We might very properly apply what is said here to kings, on account of their eminence in rank, as in Psalm 107:32, “Praise ye the Lord in the assembly of the elders” — that is, as we should say, in an assembly of an honored and illustrious kind. But I prefer the former sense, and this because believers in drawing near to God are withdrawn from the world, and rise to heaven in the enjoyment of fellowship with angels, so that we find Paul enforcing his address to the Corinthians upon the necessity of decency and order, by requiring them to show some respect at least in their public religious assemblies to the angels. (1 Corinthians 11:10.) The same thing was represented by God long before, under the figure of the cherubim, thus giving his people a visible pledge of his presence.

2. I will worship towards the temple 192192     This Psalm is entitled “a Psalm of David,” and Calvin considers him to be its author agreeably to the title; lint the mention of “the temple” in the second verse seems to render such an opinion doubtful. If, however, we translate this word by “mansion,” which is the proper rendering of the original — “the mansion of thy sanctity:” this objection to its composition by David falls to the ground. In the Septuagint version the title of this Psalm is, “A Psalm of David; of Haggai and Zechariah, when they were dispersed,” (comp. Ezra 5:1); meaning a Psalm of David, used by Haggai and Zechariah. of thy holiness. He intimates that he would show more than private gratitude, and, in order to set an example before others, come in compliance with the precept of the law into the sanctuary. He worshipped God spiritually, and yet would lift his eyes to those outward symbols which were the means then appointed for drawing the minds of God’s people upwards. He singles out the divine mercy and truth as the subject of his praise, for while the power and greatness of God are equally worthy of commendation, nothing has a more sensible influence in stimulating us to thanksgiving than his free mercy; and in communicating to us of his goodness he opens our mouth to sing his praises. As we cannot taste, or at least have any lively apprehensions in our souls of the divine mercy otherwise than through the word, mention is made of his faithfulness or truth. This coupling of mercy with truth is to be particularly taken notice of, as I have frequently observed, for however much the goodness of God may appear to us in its effects, such is our insensibility that it will never penetrate our minds, unless the word have come to us in the first place. Goodness is first mentioned, because the only ground upon which God shows himself to us as true is his having bound himself by his free promise. And it is in this that his unspeakable mercy shows itself — that he prevents those with it who were at a distance from him, and invites them to draw near to him by condescending to address them in a familiar manner. In the end of the verse some supply the copulative, and read — Thou hast magnified thy name and thy word above all things 193193     According to this mode of rendering the passage כל, cal, the word for all, is independent of שמך, shimcha, the word for thy name. But “it has been properly observed by Aben Ezra, that כל in this case should have a Cholem, and not a Kametz Chateph, with which it is found in all copies. Besides, this translation is not supported by any of the ancient versions.” — Phillips. This learned interpreters have rejected as a meagre rendering, and yet have themselves had recourse to what I consider a forced interpretation, Thou hast magnified thy name above all thy word I am satisfied David means to declare that God’s name is exalted above all things, specifying the particular manner in which he has exalted his name, by faithfully performing his free promises. Nor can any doubt that owing to our blind insensibility to the benefits which God bestows upon us, the best way in which he can awaken us to the right notice of them is by first addressing his word to us and then certifying and sealing his goodness by accomplishing what he has promised.

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