A STUDY OF CONTRASTS
Father, on this Lord’s Day, I delight in You. Your compassion, Your companionship, and Your care are amazing.
Read PSALM 138
1 I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
3 When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.
4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
when they hear what you have decreed.
5 May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.
6 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
8 The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘I pray that you … may have power … to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’.1
This psalm is a study of contrasts. The first of a series of eight psalms attributed to David, it picks up some of life’s complexities and conveys its message through the contrasts it draws. Contrasts often convey messages starkly. There is the contrast between the one God and the many ‘gods’, in verse 1. The one to whom the psalm is addressed is unique. He alone is the eternal, living one, transcendent in power. People commonly believed and lent credence to many powers and petty deities even though, in reality, they had no real existence.
Second, there is the contrast between the faithfulness of God and the failures of others. God exhibits ‘unfailing love and … faithfulness’ (v 2), whereas human beings created trouble and made false accusations, so that David needed vindicating (v 8). Third, there is the contrast between the personal and the global. The psalm is wrung out of intensely personal experience and offers personal testimony. Its opening verses begin with a stress on the ‘I’. In contrast, verse 4 shifts the focus to international politics with ‘all the kings’ being exhorted to sing God’s praise, whatever their religious background and upbringing. He alone is worthy.
Overall, the psalm contrasts a powerful, glorious God with a vulnerable human being (vs 6–8). The gap between them is immense: he ‘is exalted’ but, remarkably, ‘he looks kindly on the lowly’. The overlord of the universe is not so grand as to be uncaring about the troubled lives of ordinary people, a fact that is confirmed by another contrast: in the midst of a fragile and problematic life, David experiences the deliverance and preservation of a holy God. No wonder he offers praise unreservedly, ‘with all my heart’ (v 1).
Think of a time when God rescued you from trouble. Did you praise him then as he deserved? How does this psalm help you put your praise into words?
Mighty God, what a blessing it is to know that You inhabit the praises of Your people. In the face of the multiplicity of problems in front of me, I praise You and trust You!
1 Eph 3:17,18
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