This introduction serves as an invitation to join in an on-going journey of discovery. You will not need to buy tickets nor make travel plans. All that's required is your Bible and a quiet place to read and meditate. Together we'll explore the Book of Psalms, Israel’s hymnal and longest collection of poetry.  

Psalm 138

How Great Yahweh Is!

(H) Of David. (1) I will praise you with all my heart. Before the “gods” I will sing your praise. (2) I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (3) On the day I called, you answered me. You made me bold with strength in my soul. (4) Let all the kings of the earth praise you, Yahweh, when they have heard the words of your mouth, (5) and may they sing of the ways of Yahweh, for great (is) the glory of Yahweh! (6) For though Yahweh (is) exalted, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. (7) Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. Against the anger of my enemies you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. (8) Yahweh will fulfill (his purpose) for me. Your steadfast love, Yahweh, (endures) forever. Do not abandon the works of your hands.

Several repetitions help us understand the thrust of this praise psalm as indicated by four mentions of “praise” (found twice in vs. 1 and then once each in vss. 2 & 4). Note also the occurrence of two different Hebrew words translated “sing” (vss. 1 & 5). Yahweh’s greatness is conveyed by two words both translated “exalted” (vss. 2 & 6). Yahweh’s “name” and his “word” are each used twice (vss. 2 & 4).

Two more repetitions demonstrate just how exalted Yahweh is. First, “hand(s)” occurs twice (vss. 7 & 8) as well as “right hand” (vs. 7) referring to God’s power as both creator and deliverer. We also encounter two uses of the word so frequently employed in the Psalms to describe Yahweh’s character, “steadfast love” (vss. 2 & 8). In this way David emphasizes Yahweh’s unceasing care for those who are his.

I.  My personal commitment to praise Yahweh  (1-3)
II.  A general call to all rulers of the earth to praise Yahweh  (4-6)
III.  My personal confidence in Yahweh to deliver and fulfill his purpose for me  (7 & 8)

Because Yahweh, who is exalted above all, has shown his steadfast love to the lowly, he is worthy of our highest praise.

In the world’s version of greatness, those who are highly esteemed are deemed too important and too busy to pay attention to those who are lowly and needy. However, God’s greatness is seen in his stooping to care lovingly for the humble, the nobodies of this world (vs. 6). Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers who thought highly of themselves: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

The greatness of God is seen in precisely the opposite of that which impresses the world. His glory is manifest not only in magnificent displays of creative power but, even more, in how he condescends to pay attention to what appears to be insignificant, unimportant, and of marginal value. The prime example of this stooping took place at the Incarnation when the eternal Word came to us as a baby in the humble town of Bethlehem. If the second person of the Godhead had not chosen to travel this low road of humility, none of us would have been included in God’s family.                    

This kind of greatness is something each of us can display. If God reaches out to the lowly and has time for the insignificant, how much more should we, the beneficiaries of his grace, pay attention to those who are ignored by the world! And when we do this in simple acts of kindness and in compassionate concern for our neighbors and the impoverished, God is pleased and we are blessed. Jesus encouraged his disciples with these words: “Whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers of mine you do for me” (Mt. 25:40).

Psalm 139:1-6

Psalm 137