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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Psalm 138:3-8 - Reasons for praising God

In this psalm the author is engaged in personal worship of God and mentions several reasons for doing so. The first is the efficacy of prayer (v. 3). David does not specify the issue about which he prayed. All we can deduce about it is that he received a speedy reply that included inner strengthening. So what can we say about it?

One detail is obvious and wonderful – the living God answers prayer. In fact, he is the only one in the universe who can do this. Connected to this is that he answers specific prayers – on this occasion he answered the request of David. Further, he answers prayers as the sovereign – granting petitions in a royal manner unlike the rulers of the earth whose inabilities are usually highlighted by their subjects’ requests. And he can answer prayer speedily when he chooses to do so.

The second reason is the extension of God’s kingdom (vv. 4-5). The sentiments of verses 4 and 5 seem a bit out of place here because there is no obvious connection between them and what precedes and follows them. So why does David give God thanks for the future growth of God’s kingdom. Here are a couple of suggestions. First, he believed that what God did for him could also be done with others – he was a king whom God blessed, so therefore other kings too could be blessed. Second, he believed the promises of the Abrahamic covenant that said that all nations would be blessed, and it would be reasonable to assume that their rulers would be as well. Those two reasons can also be found in our experience as we pray. Each of us can say, ‘God converted me so he can also convert people who are like me.’ And each of us should rejoice in the promises that God made to Abraham because they are also promises to us.

The third reason is the eyes of the Lord who loves to gaze on the humble (v. 6). Humility in his people reveals Christlikeness. It is a fruit of the Spirit, evidence that he is working in the hearts of those who have it. As Spurgeon said when commenting on this verse, ‘Because they think little of themselves, he thinks much of them.’

And the fourth reason is the hand of the Lord (v. 7). The psalmist relied on God alone for fresh life and energy in difficult troubles and for protection in dangerous situations. And his faith had been rewarded, and he praised God for helping him personally, powerfully and persistently.

So David was confident that the Lord would be working on his behalf until the end. Verse 8 is an Old Testament version of Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6: ‘And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’ God’s people have this inner awareness that they are destined for glory. But this awareness leads the psalmist to keep on praying for the divine presence.

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