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PSALM 138

Let's study it together!

 

 A Preacher in his Study

 

LESSON 1, INTRODUCTION AND VERSE 1:

Psalm 138 is just another hymn of praise. Another Psalm, of which 150 grace the Holy Bible. How special can it be, that single chapter?

Very special, unique even!

Here's the whole Passage, all eight verses. I think it will minister strength and courage to our hearts.

"I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth. Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD. Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands." Psalm 138

The first verse alone is powerful. "I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee."

The words here are full of determination! Resolved, David thinks, I will praise my God!

The opening verse, "will praise," translates the Hebrew word "yadah." The Hebrew noun "hand" is "yad," so praise has some linkage to the human hand here it seems!

Also "yadah" carries the idea of "throwing" something, "casting" it into the air perhaps. As if one was lifting words of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord in Heaven.

David will praise God!

The expression "whole heat" is interesting. In Hebrew "kol leb" means every bit of one's innermost feelings! All one's thoughts! The complete person, praising God! No half-heartedness here! No hypocritical spirit either. Sincerity and integrity are both quite evident.

The "gods" is a rather enigmatic word, a noun. Spelled "elohiym," it means "little false idols" whom the heathen worship! False "gods!" Yet the context demands this interpretation, not the grammar. "Elohiym" also is the real Name for the true God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob! Note that the King James Bible does not capitalize these "gods." Rightly so!

To "sing praise" is "to strike one's fingers," probably against a stringed instrument of some kind. Playing music that exalts the Lord!

This first verse sets the tenor for the whole Psalm. It is not a lament, nor a confession, nor a statement of some incidental historical fact. It's worship, pure and simple!

Tell us again David, "O God, I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee."

Thank the Lord!

Anyone care to join the Psalmist in his hymn of praise?

                                                                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2, VERSE 2:

In verse 2 of Psalm 138 David writes to the Lord. "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."

An unusual thing about this particular statement is the "direction" in which David worships! Like Daniel will do many years later, David prays "toward Jerusalem," toward God's House there. "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." Daniel 6:10

Much as we Christians today are instructed to pray toward God's "Throne of Grace," toward Heaven, Old Testament saints prayed toward the Temple. Time and time again such clear words are found. "But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple." Psalm 5:7, also by David. And God elsewhere often promises to "hearken to the supplication of His servants, and of His people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place."

The Psalmist next praises God for two of His numberless Qualities, two of His Attributes. "And I will praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth." Let's look at these in order. "Lovingkindness" translates "hesed" or "chesed" in some textbooks. It means God's Mercy, His sheer Goodness, His Favor or Pity even. This is how God behaves. It's a summary description of God's Character. Scripture elsewhere says "God is love," a parallel statement.

Then God's "truth" is to be considered. "Emeth" means "firmness or faithfulness" as much as anything else. God is unchangeable. Reliable! Continual, never intermittent! "Emeth" derives from "aman," an Old Testament verb meaning "to support, to confirm, to uphold, to nourish!" What definitions!

No wonder David is praising God so much!

Then is written one of the most precious compliments ever, about the Bible anyway. "For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." Talk about loving a Book, a Volume of Words, but the very words of God!

The verb "hath magnified" is "gadal," meaning "to grow, to promote, to make important, to acknowledge as greater and greater!" God loves His Own Word, His Own Words! And rightly so. He is incapable of lying! His Words are forever settled in Heaven, right now.

The noun "word" is "imrah," an unusual little word only found 37 times in all the Bible. It means "an utterance or speech." It can include promise or commands or rebukes as well. God's communication to men and women everywhere.

"Above" translates "al," a preposition meaning "beyond or over." It also can at times mean "in addition to" something. Anyway one views the Word, God respects His written message to this world!

God's "Name" is His very very "reputation or fame or renown." That's what "shem" means really. What one says is largely the determining factor in what others think about that individual. With God "yea" means "yea" and "nay" means "nay." I'm quoting Paul there.

How can I ever think too much of the Bible? When I've just read how much God values it?

"I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."

This verse should evoke praise and worship from us all! Oh yes, "will worship," that little verb, means "to bow down" in front of someone and show them reverence. It's "time" sense is indicative of a habitual deed, adoring our great God again and again!

What a thrilling verse today.

                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3, VERSE 3:

The third verse of Psalm 138 contains a rare word, seldom found in the Old Testament Scriptures anyway. Let me explain.

The Psalmist is talking to God, praying really, maybe better described as praising his Lord. "In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul."

The writer is overwhelmed at God's response to his prayers. In Hebrew "day" is spelled "yom" and means anything "hot!" And those Mid-eastern days were hot indeed. See the desert sun rising, running its course, and then reluctantly setting in the west!

Of course this "day" may mean more than a number on his calendar. It could quite possibly indicate a "hot, dry, scorching" time of testing in the man of God's life! In those trying "days," aren't we thankful we can call on God?

The verb "cried" translates "qara," a word meaning "to call out loud." Its particular form, "perfect" in Hebrew, means that the action is now complete. The crisis is over. God has answered! God delivered him once again, the God Who never fails!

Then "answeredst" is "anah," hinting at a clear "response" from the Lord. The Lord "heard." Even the Lord "spoke." The Lord "gave witness." All the foregoing three possibilities are used in the King James Bible.

But now the verse amplifies God's answer. With these precise words, "Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul."

The term "strengthenedst" is the rare word I mentioned earlier. Only found four times in the whole Bible, as a verb. It's spelled "rahab," just like her name in case you're wondering! It's a hiphil imperfect which means a "cause" is behind the action. And the action is continuous, on-going, possibly even habitual. The meaning? The one I'm going to use anyway, which best fits this context, "to embolden!"  To "make" someone "absolutely sure!" To "cause to be an overcomer!"

Talk about encouraging someone. About giving him or her courage and fortitude. This is much like the name Jesus loved so much for the Holy Spirit, the "Comforter!" The "Paraclete," one's Companion by his or her side. One Who always cheers a person onward and insists on coming victory!

Emboldened by God!

With what?

"God Thou strengthenedst me with strength in my soul."

With "strength," using a totally different word too. This time it's "oz," pronounced "oze," and meaning "might, power, boldness, loudness, the ability to prevail." It has sort of a military, battlefield flavor to it. This can be physical strength as well as social or even intellectual strength.

Deborah the Judge and Warrior of Israel used the word first in Scripture. Talking to herself about the great victory God had given, she says: "The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength." Judges 5:21

What a verse, one that gloriously exalts our God! "In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul." He does answer prayer and fortify His servants for the battle ahead!

One's "soul," in Hebrew "nephesh," is the "inner" person who is the real you. That part of you that is most "alive," that "breathes!" One's "spirit," that priceless part of us that has God consciousness.

I can't get away from this amazing thought. God answers prayer. Quickly, the very day I asked. But He did more than just answer! He strengthened me, two different ways!

Praise His good Name! Our verse today, seems to me, parallels Jeremiah 33:3. Maybe even surpasses it because it's a word of personal testimony. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."

Amen!

                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4, VERSE 4:

Only a King would think of this! A godly King that is. "All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth." Psalm 138:4

It's thrilling when the common people praise the Lord. Just average folks like most of us. But when Kings and Presidents and Prime Ministers and Dictators do, everyone takes note.

King David, who wrote our verse for today, had extremely high regard for Scripture, for the Bible. Just "hearing" its words could change a man or woman!

Even the world's most elite are not exempt! Not totally removed from the mighty influence of Almighty God, through His Word.

The noun "kings" is "melek" in Hebrew, derived from "malak" simply meaning "to reign."

Wealthy men.

Powerful men.

Often respected men.

"All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth."

This is my thought today. If today's verse is not simply a wish, but a prophecy, think what that implies. That a day is coming when earth's leaders, its politicians, will believe and trust the Lord, praising His Name!

Pretty soon then, likely, all the earth will believe! Like Habakkuk 2:14 promises: "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea."

Wow!

There's strategy here, missions strategy. A plan to win the world to God, to Jesus the Saviour!

Just reach the most influential, the most visible, the most admired of all the population. Get the "head" men and women first, others will then soon follow, almost for sure.

The Kings of the earth, all of them apparently, praising God!

Paul the Apostle often used such a tactic, I believe.

He sought again and again to win the most powerful person in a community, bringing them to the Lord.

Even in his very first missions trip. With Barnabas and John Mark, there on Cyprus, the island in the Mediterranean. The first man saved there was the "deputy" of the whole land, the very governor of the place! The head man, in other words. "Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord." Acts 13:7, resulting no doubt in the salvation of yet others!

And remember the "chief rulers" of the synagogues who got saved under Paul's ministry. This happened at Corinth: "And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized." Acts 18:8

And remember that chief jailor, in Philippi? He got saved too. "And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Acts 16:27-31

I am so glad God can not only save poor folks, but wealthy ones too.

He loves uneducated people, and Doctors of Philosophy as well.

Jesus died for the electorate, but also for the politicians!

"All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth."

This day is coming!

May the Lord be praised.

                                                     --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5, VERSE 5:

Yes, some day these words will literally apply. Jesus is coming back to earth. And when He does, ultimately, He will rule and reign over all the population. Even the leaders! "All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth. Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD." Psalm 138:4-5

Today that second verse, verse five, must be our focus. Kings, earth's elite, even praising God! And singing of Him!

"Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD." Psalm 138:5

The verb "sing" is "shiyr" in Hebrew. Surprisingly, it is derived from a verb that means "to travel." The picture here must be of a person who is so happy, so joyful, so much in harmony, that he or she "sings" anywhere they go, any place they arrive!

Lifestyle singing!

"The ways of the Lord" indicate His patterns of behavior, His methods of operation. His habits too. This string of words, "the ways of the Lord," are found in Scripture five times. "Keeping" or obeying His ways is commended most of all. Hosea reminds us that the ways of the Lord are right. And the Chronicler tells us that King Jehoshaphat got excited about the ways of the Lord, being "lifted up" in them. But our text here is the only place where singing is done in the ways of the Lord.

But what makes a person sing?

Even a King?

"For great is the Glory of the Lord," that's the answer! God's Being, His Character, His Essence, that's what moves mankind to singing.

"Glory" expresses the Hebrew noun "kabod," meaning "honor, splendor, abundance, majesty." It comes from a word that means "heavy, weighty." So the Glory of God is that about Him which most "impresses" a person! Weighs most heavily on his or her mind and heart!

Some theologians believe Glory is a catchword for all that God is, His complete Person. His multifaceted Aura, Who He is, at least as much as is knowable to us humans. 

Then that little adjective "great" appears. "Gadol" means "large" in magnitude and extent. The verb "gadal," its parent, means "to grow!" To be magnified!

Wow!

"Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD." Psalm 138:5

Let's join this throng of prophetic voices and sing to the Lord also!

His Glory is great!

"The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created." Revelation 4:10-11

Amen!

                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6, VERSE 6:

Psalm 138 continues with a statement that's universally true. One that is repeated again and again, throughout Scripture.

"Though the LORD be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off." Psalm 138:6

First of all we need to define a few important words, especially the contrasting terms "lowly" and "proud."

God is "high." What does that mean? It's the Hebrew verb, participle here, "rum." It suggests One Who is "exalted," that great in His Being! One Who is "extolled," praised really. One Who is so important that there is none other like Him! One Who is supreme.

Yes, God is unequalled.

But this Mighty God, Almighty truly, has "respect" to the lowly. The verb "raah" here means "to look at." To see carefully, to inspect, to consider carefully, to perceive. Sounds like God is almost amazed and intrigued and captivated by the truly lowly man or woman! That's interesting!

The adjective "lowly" translates "shaphal," a little word only found nineteen times in the whole Bible. It derives from the related "shaphel," meaning "to sink, to be humiliated, to be abased." These are the non-proud of the earth! I just coined that term, non-proud. Humble and meek and quiet and Christlike. Those who may occupy a base situation in life, not lofty and stuck-up and vain and filled with pompous self-worth!

Somehow God is repulsed by the proud!

Our verse continues, "The proud He knoweth afar off." Now we have a word that means "haughty." Spelled "gaboahh," it means "arrogant, uplifted," even "upward" once in the Bible.

Look at the opposites here.

God is righteously exalted.

Yet He loves the humble, the abased, the lowly on earth.

And this Holy God also dislikes the proud, the fanatically self-sufficient.

For supporting Scripture think of Proverbs 6:16, those things God "hates." At the top of the list is what? "A proud look!"

Mary the Virgin, in her great psalm of praise called the "Magnificat," remarked: "God hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree." Luke 1:51-52

And Mary may have been thinking of Hannah, who talked like this earlier. Especially when she learned of little Samuel's conception, joyful as she was! "The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them." First Samuel 2:7-8

See the theme repeated once and again?

God respects the humble.

God refutes the proud.

James, the Lord's half brother said it too. "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." James 4:6

Peter agrees. "Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." First Peter 5:5

This makes me sure where I want to stand.

Not in the camp of the proud.

But in the congregation of the humble.

And how can that happen?

Peter again teaches us. "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." First Peter 5:6

Wow!

Which brings us back to where we started, Psalm 138:6. "Though the LORD be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off." 

Let's learn this lesson today.

It must be important.

                                                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7, VERSE 7:

Psalm 138 uses the word "revival," or the verb "revive" really. I'd like to examine that clause this morning.

The Psalmist, talking to the Lord, is confident. "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me." Psalm 138:7, the first half of the verse anyway.

The verb "walk" is "yalak," just meaning to come or go, "to travel." Its sense of time is incomplete. This means the "trouble" the Christian is experiencing here is not a once-for-all event. It's a continual thing. It may appear, disappear, then reappear yet again! It's continuous, durative in nature.

We will face pressure and trials and hardships in life, even when dedicated to God.

Even the noun "midst" is significant. "Qereb" means "right in the middle" of something, in its very heart!

Then comes "trouble," spelled "tzsarah" in Hebrew and meaning "distress, affliction, adversity, sorrow, enmity." It is derived from a word that means "tight, narrow," indicating those many constricting and overbearing circumstances of life that come our way.

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble," and the Psalmist was quite sure that he would.

What will God do?

For me?

When I am "in trouble?"

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me."

Yes!

What an uplifting verb, "wilt revive." It's "chayah" and means "to quicken, to recover, to preserve alive." Furthermore, the verb is written in the piel stem in Hebrew, suggesting vigorous and energetic and enthusiastic action on God's part!

God will really revive us!

In other words, this promise tells us that God will not overlook us or forsake us or ignore us when troubles come.

Instead, He will strengthen us!

Can revival come when we are in dire straits?

Yes!

From the Lord nonetheless!

The rest of the verse tomorrow, Lord willing. It's good too. "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me."

Amen!

                                                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8, VERSE 8:

Today's lesson, the words from today's Bible verse, complete a thought we noticed yesterday. If you missed it, I'll print the whole concept here for you. It's Psalm 138:7.

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me."

The clause that interests us now is, addressed directly to the Lord: "Thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me."

The first thing that's interesting is this, it is presumed that a follower of our God will have "enemies!" In Hebrew this noun, "oyeb" means one's "foes." Those who are "hostile" to you.

Enemies for the Christian?

Jesus had them. So will we. Probably without exception! Even the Psalmist earlier thought so. "Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me." Our enemies, ever with us! So says Psalm 119:97.

And those enemies will be "hot!" That's what the word "wrath" implies, "aph" in Hebrew. In fact "aph" literally indicates one's "nostrils! A person who is so enraged that his or her breath coming through their nostrils is loud and uncontrolled and demonstrable.

"Thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me."

What will God do when these enemies come against me?

He will "stretch forth" His Hand! "Shalach" means "to send away, to dismiss, to cast away." Goodness, what a blessing! God can dispel my enemies! He can scatter that crowd, if He so chooses! In fact, our verse promises that God will do so.

The references here to God's "Hand" and then God's "Right Hand" are both word pictures. Emblems of God's strength and power and ability!

That closing verb too, where God "saves" us," is great. "Yasha" means "to deliver, to liberate, to rescue, to make safe, to defend," and at times even "to revenge!"

Wow!

It might not be a good idea to be an enemy to a dedicated child of God! Sounds like the Lord cares for His Own followers!

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me."

This just may be one of the most encouraging verses in the Old Testament, come to think about it.

Praise the Lord!

                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9, VERSE 9, CONCLUDING LESSON:

Our journey through Psalm 138 is nearly complete. And it's a lovely chapter of Scripture. The eighth verse is no exception.

"The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands." Psalm 138:8

That first clause alone could take paragraphs to consider. Just as well say, "God is still working on me!" King James has it:"The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me."

The verb "will perfect" is "gamar." It's only used five times in the whole Bible, too! Rare word, Scripturally speaking. It means "to end, to come to an end, to complete." To do all that needs to be done to a thing so that's it's finished, fully developed, ready for use!

"Concerneth" is a preposition in Hebrew, "baad" letter for letter. It means "on behalf of" someone!

God will never quit on us until He has brought us to maturity! That's what's being promised here!

This is astounding!

Paul words the same idea this way: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

But why would God be so good to us?

Why would He bring us to the place of spiritual completion?

Is there a reason given?

Yes.

"The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever."

Because of His great Mercy!

God will never stop loving me and improving me and helping me ... because it's His Nature to do those kinds of things. He is that kind and gracious and beneficial, all fruits of His great Mercy!

And "Mercy" is "hesed." One of the greatest words in the Bible, it's a first cousin to "Grace and Pity and Kindness and Love." It's root idea that of a great God, Resident to the Heavens, bending down and lowering Himself to meet me in my need and helping me and uplifting me and strengthening me!

Then after these two great unchangeable facts have been presented and savored properly, David utters a prayer. It's the last part of our great verse, Psalm 138:9. "O LORD, forsake not the works of thine own hands."

To which God says, "Never!"

"Forsake" or "raphah" means "to let slip, to drop, to allow to sink down!" The Lord will not lose His grip on us! He will not let us fall!

The noun "works" implies that God is on a building project! The structure? Your life and mine! God is the architect or the contractor or the inspector or the financier, in fact maybe all of the just mentioned offices are His!

Let's put the verse back together now and claim it and enjoy it. ""The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands." Psalm 138:8

Thank You, Lord.

May I remember these words time and time again.

                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

 

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