Psalms 138

PSALM CXXXVIII

The psalmist praises the Lord for his mercies to himself, 1-3.

He foretells that the kings of the earth shall worship him,

4, 5.

God's condescension to the humble, 6.

The psalmist's confidence, 7, 8.

NOTES ON PSALM CXXXVIII

The Hebrew and all the Versions attribute this Psalm to David,

and it is supposed to have been made by him when, delivered from

all his enemies, he was firmly seated on the throne of Israel. As

the Septuagint and Arabic prefix also the names of Haggai and

Zechariah, it is probable that it was used by the Jews as a form

of thanksgiving for their deliverance from all their enemies, and

their ultimate settlement in their own land, after Ahasuerus,

supposed by Calmet to be Darius Hystaspes, had married Esther,

before which time they were not peaceably settled in their own

country.

Verse 1. I will praise thee with my whole heart] I have received

the highest favours from thee, and my whole soul should

acknowledge my obligation to thy mercy. The Versions and several

MSS. add Yehovah, "I will praise thee, O LORD," &c.

Before the gods will I sing] neged Elohim, "in the

presence of Elohim;" most probably meaning before the ark, where

were the sacred symbols of the Supreme Being. The Chaldee has,

before the judges. The Vulgate, before the angels. So the

Septuagint, AEthiopic, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon. The Syriac,

Before kings will I sing unto thee. This place has been alleged

by the Roman Catholics as a proof that the holy angels, who are

present in the assemblies of God's people, take their prayers and

praises, and present them before God. There is nothing like this

in the text; for supposing, which is not granted, that the word

elohim here signifies angels, the praises are not presented to

them, nor are they requested to present them before God; it is

simply said, Before elohim will I sing praise unto THEE. Nor could

there be need of any intermediate agents, when it was well known

that God himself was present in the sanctuary, sitting between the

cherubim. Therefore this opinion is wholly without support from

this place.

Verse 2. For thy loving-kindness] Thy tender mercy shown to me;

and for the fulfilment of thy truth-the promises thou hast made.

Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.] All the

Versions read this sentence thus: "For thou hast magnified above

all the name of thy holiness," or, "thy holy name." Thou hast

proved that thou hast all power in heaven and in earth, and that

thou art true in all thy words. And by giving the word of

prophecy, and fulfilling those words, thou hast magnified thy

holy name above all things-thou hast proved thyself to be

ineffably great. The original is the following:

ki higdalta al col shimcha, imrathecha,

which I think might be thus translated: "For thou hast magnified

thy name and thy word over all," or, "on every occasion."

Kennicott reads, "He preferred faithfulness to his promise to the

attribute of his power." I believe my own translation to be

nearest the truth. There may be some corruption in this clause.

Verse 3. With strength in my soul.] Thou hast endued my soul

with many graces, blessings, and heavenly qualities.

Verse 4. All the kings of the earth] Of the land: all the

neighbouring nations, seeing what is done for us, and looking in

vain to find that any human agency was employed in the work, will

immediately see that it was thy hand; and consequently, by

confessing that it was thou, will give praise to thy name.

Verse 5. They shall sing in the ways of the Lord] They shall

admire thy conduct, and the wondrous workings of thy providence,

if they should not even unite with thy people.

Verse 6. Though the Lord be high] Infinitely great as God is,

he regards even the lowest and most inconsiderable part of his

creation; but the humble and afflicted man attracts his notice

particularly.

But the proud he knoweth afar off.] He beholds them at a

distance, and has them in utter derision.

Verse 7. Though I walk in the midst of trouble] I have had such

experience of thy mercy, that let me fall into whatsoever trouble

I may, yet I will trust in thee. Thou wilt quicken me, though I

were ready to die; and thou wilt deliver me from the wrath of my

enemies.

Verse 8. The Lord will perfect] Whatever is farther necessary to

be done, he will do it.

Forsake not the works of thine own hands.] My body-my soul; thy

work begun in my soul; thy work in behalf of Israel; thy work in

the evangelization of the world; thy work in the salvation of

mankind. Thou wilt not forsake these.

ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-EIGHTH PSALM

I. In the three first verses of this Psalm David promises a

grateful heart, and to sing the praises of God, because he had

heard his cries, and sent him comfort and deliverance.

II. In the three next he shows what future kings would do, when

the works and truth of God should be made known to them.

III. In the two last verses he professes his confidence in God;

shows what he hopes for from him; and, in assurance that God will

perfect his works, prays him not to desert or forsake him.

I. The prophet shows his thankfulness, which he illustrates and

amplifies.

1. "I will praise thee with my whole heart." Sincerely,

cordially.

2. "Before the gods," &c. Publicly, before potentates, whether

angels or kings.

3. "I will worship toward," &c. It is true God ruleth as King in

his palace: there will I bow; it is the symbol of his presence.

4. "And praise thy name," &c. From a feeling sense of thy

goodness. 1. "For thy lovingkindness," &c. In calling me to the

kingdom from the sheepfold. 2. "And for thy truth." In performing

thy promise. By which,

5. "Thou hast magnified," &c. This clause is differently read.

"Thou hast magnified thy name in thy word; by performing thy word

above all things." Or, "Thou hast magnified thy name and thy word

above all things." See the notes.

6. "In the day when I cried," &c. Finite creatures as we are, we

must sometimes faint in our temptations and afflictions, if not

strengthened by God.

II. The prophet, having set down what God had in mercy done for

him in calling him from following the ewes, &c., and making him

king, and performing his promises to him; seeing all this, the

prophet judges it impossible but that the neighbouring and future

kings should acknowledge the miracle and praise God. This appears

the literal sense: but it may have reference to the conversion of

kings in future ages to the faith.

1. "All the kings of the earth," &c. Or the future kings of

Israel.

2. "Yea, they shall sing in the ways," &c. His mercy, truth,

clemency, &c.: "For great is the glory of the Lord." Righteous and

glorious in all his works, of which this is one. "Though the Lord

be high," &c. Of which David was an instance. "But the proud,"

&c., he removes far from him. Saul and others are examples of

this.

III. Because God who is high, &c. And David, being conscious of

his own humility of mind, confidently expects help from God.

1. "Though I walk," &c. Exposed on all sides to trouble.

2. "Thou wilt revive me." Preserve me safe and untouched.

3. "Thou shalt stretch forth thy hand," &c. Restrain the power

of my enemies.

4. "And thy right hand," &c. Thy power; thy Christ, who, in

Isa 53:1 is called

the arm of the Lord.

The last verse depends on the former. Because the prophet knew

that many troubles and afflictions remained yet to be undergone;

therefore he was confident that the same God would still deliver

and make his work perfect.

1. "The Lord will perfect," &c. Not for my merits, but his

mercy.

2. Of which he gives the reason: "Thy mercy, O Lord," &c. It

does not exist only for a moment, but it is eternal.

3. And he concludes with a prayer for God to perfect his work:

"Forsake not the work," &c. Thou who hast begun this work,

increase and perfect it; because it is thy work alone, not mine.

If we desire that God should perfect any work in us, we must be

sure that it is his work, and look to him continually.

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