(Part 1) March 29, 2020 Sunday Sermon:

Psalm 138: How To Stay Encouraged in Troubled Times

By Pastor Robbie Casas

IG_Banner_3.17.jpg

As we look at what is a long dark tunnel in this present Covid-19 crisis – a tunnel that will most likely extend longer than most people expect, we wonder if normalcy will ever really be restored. We have to prepare ourselves for a long drawn-out battle that involves not only the church but also the entire global community in which God has placed His church. Among other things, this will be a battle against despair, a battle for encouragement. I pray this study on Psalm 138 will profoundly help us believers to stay encouraged and be encouragers not only to one another but to all those around us.

            Read Ps 138:

A PSALM OF DAVID.

1 I will give You thanks with all my heart;

I will sing praises to You before the gods.

2 I will bow down toward Your holy temple

And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;

For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.

3 On the day I called, You answered me;

You made me bold with strength in my soul.

 

4 All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord,

When they have heard the words of Your mouth.

5 And they will sing of the ways of the Lord,

For great is the glory of the Lord.

6 For though the Lord is exalted,

Yet He regards the lowly,

But the haughty He knows from afar.

 

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;

You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,

And Your right hand will save me.

8 The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;

Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;

Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

 

 

BACKGROUND

            As the superscript indicates, this Psalm was written by David. In fact, the next 8 psalms were written by David (Pss 138–145) and are his last in the Psalter. These 8 psalms are composed of six prayers framed by two psalms of praise.

            One commentator says that David may have written these 8 psalms in response to God’s establishing the Davidic Covenant (cf. 2Sam 7:12-14, 16).

            This is a hymn of thanksgiving, made quite clear in the first three verses where we see the repetition of verbs of praise which are typical of thanksgiving psalms: “I will give… thanks... sing praises... bow down... give thanks.”

            The specific circumstances that surround David’s writing this psalm is unknown, but it is possible that it was during a time of trouble that had to do with his enemies (see v. 7). If this is so, then the basically general nature of the trouble makes this a psalm very appropriate to our present crisis. But even if v. 7 describes trouble that was simply anticipated, its message is still presently relevant for us today.

 

STAYING ENCOURAGED IN TROUBLED TIMES

            This psalm teaches us to do 3 things to be able to remain encouraged in the midst of trouble:

 

1. Be Thankful for the Lord’s Love and Faithfulness (vv. 1-3)

            Read Ps 138:1-3:                                A PSALM OF DAVID

1 I will give You thanks with all my heart;

I will sing praises to You before the gods.

2 I will bow down toward Your holy temple

And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;

For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.

3 On the day I called, You answered me;

You made me bold with strength in my soul.

 

            The first thing to observe here is the resolve of David to give thanks and praise to God. The words “I will” appear 3 times in succession in the first two verses (4, if you include the second line of v. 2, with “I will” implied). This tells us that BEING THANKFUL IS A DELIBERATE CHOICE WE MUST MAKE. It is not merely a matter of how we feel at a particular instance, and therefore only something we do when we feel like it.

            This is because GOD IS ALWAYS WORTHY TO BE THANKED.

            First, for who He is: He is our Creator (Mal 2:10: “Has not one God created us?”); our Sustainer (Ps 54:4: “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul.”); our Redeemer (Gal 4:4-5: “4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law,….”); our Savior (Lk 1:47: “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”), among other things.

            Second, for what He has done: most especially for saving us and adopting us to be His sons (Tit 3:4-5: “4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy….”; Rom 8:16-17: “16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ….”; Gal 4:5: “… that we might receive the adoption as sons.”).

            Because of these two reasons, there is therefore never a time so dark in which we cannot thank God.

            I would like to next point out that the word translated “thanks” in v. 1 (NASB/ESV) is the Heb. word יָדָה (yâḏâ) which, though also translated “thanks” in other passages, is more often translated “praise” (KJV/NKJV/NIV) in other places in Scripture. But since another Heb. word (זָמַר, zāmar), whose meaning includes to “sing praises”, is used in the second line, the NASB/ESV translators may have thought it appropriate to use “thanks” in the first line. Actually, this really is not a problem since the giving of thanks to God often accompanies the praising of God (and vice-versa) in the Bible (Ps 111:1: “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly”).

            In v. 2, “I will bow down” is an act of worship related to the first two.

            I see these three deliberate actions (“I will give You thanks… I will sing praises to You…. I will bow down….”) as all part of the one act of worshipping God, dominated by the giving of thanks this psalm, since “give thanks” appears again in the second line of v. 2.

            The next thing to observe is how this was all done. In v. 1, “thanks” was “with all my heart”; “sing praises” was “before the gods”; “bow down” was “toward Your holy temple”; “thanks” was “to Your name”.

            The phrase “with all my heart” means with our whole being – not just one part of us (like our lips) while the other parts (like our minds, our emotions) are “absent”. Recall Jesus’ complaint against the Pharisees and scribes in Mk 7:6: “And He said to them, ‘Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME”’”. In other words, giving thanks to God must be sincere, whole-hearted, thoughtful – not robotic and heartless, and thoughtless.

            The phrase “before the gods” may have referred to either pagan kings (cf. vv. 4-5) or the gods they claimed to represent and/or worship. If David was not anywhere near the “temple” and even possibly in pagan territory when he wrote this, he was boldly and without shame proclaiming the supremacy of God over all the other false gods of the heathens. The true praising of God is exalting Him, putting Him in His rightful place as above all things and as greater than any situation that may act as functional gods in your life.

            The phrase “toward Your holy temple” is a reference to the tent David set up for the ark (2Sam 6:17), since Solomon’s temple was not yet around at this time. In many psalms by David, he would refer to this tent as the “temple” (see, Pss 5:7; 11:4; 18:6; 27:4; see also Ps 30 title). Since the “temple” was where God’s presence would visit His people, bowing “toward Your holy temple” may have meant to David as acknowledging God’s presence. We must remember that all acts of worship we perform is done before God’s presence. This should serve as a warning to be careful how we conduct ourselves when we are supposedly worshiping God.

            The phrase “to Your name”, strictly speaking, does not answer the question “how” but “to whom”. But I included it in this part of the discussion because David’s “giv[ing] thanks” was with the full realization of Who he was directing his thanks to: God – as represented by “to Your name”, the name of the Lord encompassing His character and nature. We must realize our thanksgiving is always ultimately to God. How completely opposite to how many today, because of a favorable circumstance, give a perfunctory “thank you” to someone or something without any real object of thanks!

            The rest of v. 2 tells us the specific reasons (why) for David’s thanksgiving and praise: “… for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.”

            David thanked and praised God, first, for who He was: He was loving and faithful (“truth” here referring to being true, faithful). Second, David thanked and praised God for what He had done: God magnified His promises (“word”) according to His character (“name”); in other words, He fulfilled His promises, which are like an extension of Himself, according to His love and faithfulness.

            In v. 3, we see an example of God fulfilling His promise to David (which could be his third reason for his giving thanks and praise): “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” This may have been in line with a promise like Ps 91:15: “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” This is an instance when God gave an immediate answer to prayer. Because of all this, David was emboldened and strengthened in his particular situation.

            Just one more thing. In this verse we also see David remembering and acknowledging an answered prayer from God.  How careful we need to be careful about taking God’s provision and answered prayer for granted! And this happens when we complain more than we thank.

            So to stay encouraged in troubled times we need to be thankful for the Lord’s love and faithfulness.

DownloadPDF_icon.png
Download this Article (PDF)