If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Psalm 138. As you’re turning there, allow yourself to look at the headings of the next several psalms. In fact, if you’d look at the headings of the psalms from 138 all the way to 145. Tonight we are beginning a group of eight psalms, all of which are attributed to David. These are the last psalms in the Psalter that belong to David. He wrote almost half of the songs and these eight songs are the final ones included in the Psalter of Scripture from the heart, from the pen, from the hand, from the life of David.
This psalm is in three parts. As you look at it before we read it tonight, note first of all in verses 1, 2, and 3, David is once again in trouble. Don't you have to pause and say, “Lord, thank You that You ordained David to get into so much trouble in his life because we wouldn't have these psalms if he hadn't been in trouble and if You hadn't gotten him out of it.” Just think about that, in the providence of God. In this psalm, guess where he is again. He's in trouble and he's singing about deliverance from that trouble and it is exuberant singing. If you look at verses 1, 2, and 3, that's the first section of the psalm, that's what's going on. David is delivered again and he's expressing exuberant praise to God. That's part one.
Part two, and you’ll see this in verses 4 to 6, now, David having praised God for the deliverance that he's received, turns to the nations and he says, “You know what? The kings of the nations ought to praise God because there's no one like Him. His glory is exalted above everyone; there's absolutely no god like our God.” And so he exerts the universal ramifications for God's lovingkindness and faithfulness to him. He sings about how God was loving and faithful to him in verses 1, 2, and 3. And then in 4, 5, and 6 he says, “The kings of the earth ought to praise God because of God's love and faithfulness to me.” That's similar to what we see the psalmist do in Psalm 67. The Lord has given him a good crop and the psalmist says, “Well Lord, why don't You bring all the nations to worship You since You gave me a good crop?” It shows you how blessings received by God's people are never viewed as something that we just sort of hold in our arms close and enjoy ourselves without wishing the whole world to experience the same God who blessed us. And that's what David is doing in verses 4, 5, and 6.
Then the third part of the psalm you’ll see in verses 7 and 8. There, David is back to the present and he's in trouble again, but he's conscious of God's care for him and in this section he expresses a confidence that God will continue to care for him all the way to the end. Those are the three parts of the psalm. David's exuberant thanks to God for His deliverance of him, verses 1, 2, and 3, his call for the kings of the nations to praise God because of God's lovingkindness and faithfulness, and in verses 7 and 8, the third part of the psalm, David's continuing expression of confidence that the Lord will deliver him, the Lord will care for him, the Lord will be with him to the end.
Well let's pray before we read God's Word.
Heavenly Father, thank You that we are gathered as Your house, Your people, Your sanctuary on Your day in the evening hours to bring to You the evening sacrifice. And the sacrifice we bring is a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving. For all of us who are in Christ, every last one of us can join with David and express to You gratitude for the deliverance that You have given to us, supremely a deliverance from our sin. For apart from Your lovingkindness and faithfulness, apart from Your grace, apart from Your plan, apart from Your giving Your Son, apart from His death on the cross, apart from His resurrection, we would have no hope. This has already been prayed tonight, O Lord. We would justly be condemned, we would justly be cast out, we would be justly cut off for eternity. But in Your love and Your mercy and Your faithfulness, in accordance with the promise that You made all the way back with Abraham and by the Gospel of Your dear Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, You have saved us. And so we ought to sing with all the exuberance of David when it comes to a psalm like this. Grant us to feel that, O Lord, as we worship in the hearing of Your Word tonight, to respond to Your Word with belief and comfort and encouragement and strength. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it:
I give You thanks, O LORD, 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 above all things Your name and Your word. On the day I called, You answered me; my strength of soul You increased.
All the kings of the earth shall give You thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of Your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is high, He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hands against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands.”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
Calvin said that the Psalms provide us an expression for every part of experience in the Christian life, that if we're looking for the words that we need to express whatever it is that we're going through in the Christian life, we can find those words in the Psalms. And surely this is a psalm that moves us to be more expressive of thanks to God and more wholehearted in our praise to Him for His deliverance of us because we have experienced, because we live in this world after the advent of Jesus Christ, after the incarnation of Jesus Christ, after the crucifixion and death and burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, after the ascension of Jesus Christ, and in the age of the reign of the Holy Spirit of God, we have experienced and we have read in God's Word a greater, clearer revelation of His deliverance of us than even David himself knew or understood. David could look back to the exodus and remember how God had delivered His people. David could look back to his anointing by Samuel and he could look back to his being made king over Israel and he could look to God's promises to him, glorious as they were in 2 Samuel chapter 7, glorious promises He made to David, but he could not look and see the things that you and I can look back and see that God has done. And yet, when you hear this psalm, you hear the voice, the heart, of a man who is all in for God. He is all in, in his praise to God. And you have to say as a Christian, “Am I going to let David out-praise me, knowing what I know, knowing what I know that God has done for me in Jesus Christ? Am I going to let David out-praise me?”
WHOLEHEARTED THANKSGIVING FOR WHO GOD IS, FOR HIS LOVE AND TRUTH, FOR ANSWERED PRAYER
I want you to look tonight for just a few moments at the three parts of this psalm and I want us to see how we can take this psalm up itself, into our hearts and lives, in light of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ on the cross and in the resurrection, and I want us to make this psalm our own. And here's the first thing I want you to see. If you look at verses 1 to 3, you’re going to see David offering wholehearted thanksgiving for who God is, for His love and truth, and for answered prayer. When you read verse 1, “I give You thank, O LORD, with my whole heart,” don't you hear the call to worship in Psalm 106, 107, and 136? “O give thanks unto the LORD for He is good! His lovingkindness is everlasting!” And it's almost like David's saying, “Yes, I will give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness is to all generations!” Verse 1 is almost David's reply to those calls to worship. “Yes, I will give thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart.” He's holding nothing back. This is sincere worship. This praise comes from the bottom of his soul. From the very depths of his being, he is throwing all of himself into this praise. “Yes, Lord, I will give You thanks.”
And then this curious phrase, “Before the gods I sing Your praise.” What in the world does that mean? Well, some of your translations may render that, or at least footnote that. It could be translated “angels,” it could be translated “judges,” it could be translated “kings.” Or is this harkening back to the context, the surroundings of David in Israel with a world filled with polytheistic belief and not David taking up or embracing polytheism or acknowledging it in the least? Did you hear Josh's statements about this in his opening prayer? “There's not only no god like You,” he prayed, “there's no God but You.” Well is David slipping into an acknowledgment of polytheism here? No, but I do think not unlike Psalm 82, he may be declaring a little war on the false gods in this psalm.
You remember when the second time that Saul tried to kill David? You know, word had gone out in 1 Samuel 26 that David was hiding in a hillside and Saul tried to sneak up on David and kill him and once again David had the opportunity to kill Saul but didn't. And do you remember when David goes over to the other mountain and he calls to Abner, Saul's leading general, and to Saul, and he said, “Hey guys, I'm over here.” And then he starts to speak the psalm and he says, “You know there are men who are lying to you about me. They’re telling you that I'm disloyal to you and they’re trying to drive me away from Israel, they’re trying to drive me away from my king, they’re trying to drive me away from my God and from His worship.” And David says in 1 Samuel 26, “And they are even saying to me, ‘Go serve other gods.’” That's the last thing on the list that David says in his list of complaints about what men are saying to him. You get an idea of how that bothered his soul that someone would say to him, ‘Go serve other gods,’ because he lived in a world where all sorts of people served false gods and it vexed his soul. The very thought of it vexed his soul. And is something like that in the background of verse 1? “I will sing Your praise before the gods”? Is he says, “I'm going to triumph in my praise, in the presene of these false gods. I'm going to sing Your praise above those false gods, O LORD, like a believer”?
Someone in the Muslim world today might say, “I will praise You, one true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, not this false god, Allah.” Or like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “No, we will not bow down and worship that image. We only worship the one, true God.” “I’ll praise You before the gods in the presence of these false claimed gods, I will praise You.” Or like that freshman at Masters College in California who I've told you about before whose Muslim uncle was beating her to death and her father rescued her and got her out of the country. And when John MacArthur asked her, “What were you thinking when you thought you were going to die as your uncle was beating you to death with the leg of a chair?” And she said, “I was thinking, ‘This man has a religion he would kill for and I have a Savior I would die for.’” Now what had she just done? She had praised God before the gods. “Kill me; that's fine. I'm not going to worship Allah. I'm going to worship the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for me.” That was very expensive worship. And David, who's been right in that situation, is saying, “I'm going to praise You before the gods.”
Can you say that, my friends? Can you say that, about all the false gods that are offered to you in this world? Single person, can you say, “Lord God, You are better, You are better than the god of sex. Everybody around me is telling me that in order to experience the satisfaction that I ought to have, I ought to be able to take what is not mine and enjoy it.” And are you able to say, “You’re better than that, God”? Or professional, hearing the siren call of the god of ambition and influence, power and reputation, and are you able to say, “I praise You, O God, as better than any ambition, than any power, than any influence, than any reputation that the world can give or ascribe to me. I love You more than that, God. You’re better than that”? Or fill in the blank with a million other gods, false gods. Can you say, “I praise You before the gods. There's nothing, there's no one in this world that I love more than You. And there is nothing, there is no one in this world who can give to me the way You give to me, O God. There's no one I enjoy more. There's no one I delight in more. There's no one I treasure more. There's no one who has the fullness that You have.”?
And the exuberance of this praise is David's experience precisely of that. He tells you what it is. It moves him not only to this private expression of purposing to praise God but to public praise. Do you notice that in verse 2? “I bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name.” That's what leads the commentators to say that this looks like worship that is leading up to a thank offering in the temple, but what we see here is public worship. David's not just going to keep this to himself. He can't wait to get to church. He can't wait to get to church to express this kind of praise to God. Is that how you feel, ever? You just can't wait to get here so that you can express the kind of praise recounted in verse 1 in the context of the brothers and sisters in Christ, you just can't wait to do it publically? David had never read the gospel of Luke or Mark or Matthew or John or Romans 5:8. Christian, do you realize the substance of praise that God has given?
And he tells you very explicitly. He's going to give thanks to God's name for what? Look at verse 2 — “For Your steadfast love, Your lovingkindness, Your covenant love, and Your faithfulness.” It gets translated different ways — grace and truth, lovingkindness and faithfulness. God has shown covenant love to David and He's kept His promise to David and He has done it in such a way to preserve him in situations where he thought his life was over. And He's done it in such a dramatic way that he says here, look again at verse 2, “You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.” The phrasing of this verse is very, very interesting, but here's what he's saying. What is God's name? It is His own revelation of Himself. It is His revealing of His essence. The names that God reveals to His people in His Word are designed to show you who He really is, what He's really like. And David is saying, “In the way that You have answered my prayer, in the way that You have delivered me in this circumstance, Your Word — Your promise to me, Your promise that You’d be faithful to me — Your Word and Your name has been exalted above everything. You told me, Lord, that You were a God of lovingkindness and truth. You've demonstrated that to me in this deliverance in such a spectacular way that I've got to praise You with my whole heart.”
And you see that's exactly what's going on when you look at verse 3. “On the day I called You, You answered me.” David had prayed a prayer, a desperate prayer, and in the answer to that prayer, God had, in such a dramatic way, preserved David, delivered David. He's got to give Him praise. And it's interesting, there's a hint in verse 3 that God did not answer this prayer the way that David prayed it. Just take a look at the end of verse 3. “My strength of soul You increased.” Now that's interesting. You almost get the idea that David asked to be delivered from the situation and God's answer was, “No, I'm just going to make you strong enough to make it.” But David recognizes that that strength of soul came from the Lord because there was nothing left in him and it was God's means of preserving him. God does not always answer our prayers as we pray them, but if He doesn't answer our prayers the way that we pray them, His answers will be better than we prayed them. You can be certain of that.
And it looks like something like that may have happened here and it leads David to praise God with his whole heart. Wholehearted thanksgiving for who God is, for His love and truth in this answered prayer. Dear Christian friends, you know yourself. You know the desires of your heart. You know your sins. And you know the deliverance that God has given you in Jesus Christ. Should you not be able to outpace even David in wholehearted thanksgiving to God in praise in the assembly of the saints? That's the first thing.
NOWWHERE IS THE GLORY OF THE LORD MORE EVIDENT THAN IN HIS STOOPING TO CARE FOR THE HUMBLE
Here's the second thing. Look with me at verses 4 to 6. David, in turning to the kings of the nations and saying that “God's glory is greater than any glory you kings have ever seen,” you see that at the end of verse 5. “They will sing of the ways of the Lord for great is His glory,” chooses the most interesting thing to highlight about God and you see it in verse 6. Did you hear what he says about God? He's called on all the kings to join in praising God because of the extraordinary deliverance that God has brought about in answer to his prayer, and this is what he wants to highlight. “For though the Lord is high, He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar.” He says, “Kings of the nations, gather around. I want to show you the glory of God. Here is it: Though He is high, He regards the lowly. Isn't that glorious?”
You know, there's an objection to Christianity that's floating around today in the rationalist, materialist, scientific, atheistic community that goes something like this. “You mean to tell me that in a universe as massive as ours, massive beyond conception, you mean to tell me that in a universe as massive as is ours, you think that a God that created that cares about you? You’re not even a tiny speck on a speck on a speck on a speck in this massive universe! You mean to tell me you think God cares about you? Well that is the height of arrogance!” Well what does this Christian say to that? Well there are a lot of things you can to that but one is, “I'm sorry, but our psalmist thought of that objection three thousand years ago and wrote it down in a psalm.”
Do you remember which one it is? Turn back with me to Psalm 8. “O LORD, our LORD, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens. When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him?” Sorry, the psalmist was three thousand years ahead of you, atheists. Lord God, You are so great. You made this universe. How in the world could you pause for a nano-second to think about us? Because, David says, though He is high and exalted, He takes a peculiar delight in the low and humble.
And he says to the kings of the nations, “Match that! Tell me something about your god! Match that! Tell me something greater about your god than that! He cares about the humble and the lowly, but the haughty, the prideful, the people that think they’re big and great, He keeps an eye on them but He doesn't allow them to enjoy the favor of His nearer presence. But He's there with the humble and the lowly of heart.” That's a theme, isn't it, throughout the Old Testament. And never did that theme take on more reality than the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
HE WILL PRESERVE ME, FULFILL HIS PURPOSE FOR ME, WILL NEVER FORSAKE ME, HIS CREATION
And then to the third part, verses 7 and 8. Now David's back in the first person again. Did you notice it? The first three verses are in the first person — “I give You thanks; I bow down; on the day I called.” Then the second stanza, verses 4, 5, and 6, go into this declaration. They’re sort of a second person exhortation to the nations. Now we're back into first person again. So having given wholehearted thanksgiving for who God is, for His love and truth, for answered prayer, having drawn attention to the fact that nowhere is the glory of the Lord more evident than in His stooping to care for the humble, now he gives a first person declaration of three things — God will preserve me, God will fulfill His purpose for me, God will never forsake me, the work of His hands.
Do you believe that? God will preserve you, He will fulfill His purpose to you, and He will not forsake you, the work of His hands. That's a good, that's a good outline of a prayer to pray before we close our eyes at night. “Lord, no matter what's going on in my life right now, no matter what's going on in my life, You will preserve me, You will fulfill Your purpose for me, and You will never ever leave me or forsake me because I am the work of Your hands.” And my friends, because you know in ways that David did not that you enjoy union with the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, God has united you to Christ by His Spirit by faith, in His grace, in His mercy, in His love, He has united you to Christ by faith, you ought to be surer of those three things than even David. He will preserve you, He will fulfill His purposes for you, He will never leave you or forsake you because all His promises, promises that got David so excited in verses 1, 2, and 3, are “yea and amen,” Paul says, “in Christ.”
O Lord, tired pilgrims on the way need the encouragement and the exhortation and yes, even the refreshment that comes from Your Word in songs like this. We do pause and praise You right now, O God, that in Your so often inscrutable purposes, You ordained for David to live what was in many ways a very hard life so that he could testify to Your preservation and give hope to billions of believers in the centuries since whose hope is in the name of the Lord. Grant, O God, then, that we will praise You and give thanks to You with this exuberance and more in the congregation of Your godly ones. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand for God's blessing and then we’ll respond with the last stanza of Psalm 138?
Peace be to the brethren and love with faith from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, until the daybreak and the shadows flee away. Amen.