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Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 138

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-8

Psalms 138:1-8

I will praise Thee with my whole heart.

Moral features of a good man’s life

The grand resolve of a good man--to serve God (verses 1, 2).

1. Entirely. “I will praise Thee with my whole heart.” Unless the Almighty is thus served He is never served at all.

2. Courageously. “Before the gods,” etc. No shame, no timidity, but exulting courage.

3. Intelligently. He is infinitely good and true.

The noble testimony of a good man (verse 3). What good man who has ever prayed could not furnish similar testimony?

The sanguine hope of a good man (verses 4, 5).

1. This hope implies a very desirable object. To have all the kings of the earth praising God, what patriotic, philanthropic, and religious ends could be more desirable?

2. This hope implies a reasonable expectation. Would it not be natural to expect that when kings heard of God, the words of His mouth, they would worship and serve Him? We have here--

The theological belief of a good man (verse 6).

1. No creature is too humble for the Divine regard. He is not so taken up with the vast as to ignore the minute, so sublimely exalted as not to condescend to the meanest.

2. No creature is too vile to escape His notice. “The proud He knoweth afar off.”

The sublime confidence of a good man (verse 7).

1. The universal law of human life. What is that? Progress, walking. Implying--

(1) A constant change of position.

(2) A constant approximation to destiny, every step leading nearer to the end. Life is a constant walk. No pause. A rapid walk. “Swifter than a post.” An irretraceable walk.

2. The saddening probabilities of human life. “In the midst of trouble.” The path is not through flowery meads and under azure skies, but rugged, tempestuous, perilous.

3. The grand support of human life. “Thou wilt revive me.” The support is all-sufficient, the only effective and ever available. (Homilist.)

Open praise and public confession

David was vexed with rival gods, as we are with rival gospels. Nothing is more trying to the soul of a true man than to be surrounded with vile counterfeits, and to hear these cried up, and the truth treated with contempt. How will David act under the trial? For so should we act. He will--

Sing with whole-hearted praise (verse 1).

1. His song would openly show his contempt of the false gods: he would sing whether they were there or no. They were such nothings that he would not change his note for them.

2. It would evince his strong faith in the true God. In the teeth of the adversary he glorified Jehovah. His enthusiastic whole-hearted song was better than denunciation or argument.

3. It would declare his joyful zeal for God: he sang to show the strong emotion of his soul. Others might be pleased in Baal, he greatly rejoiced in Jehovah.

4. It would shield him from evil from those about him; for holy song keeps off the enemy. Praise is a potent disinfectant. If called to behold evil let us purify the air with the incense of praise.

Worship by the despised rule. “I will worship toward Thy holy temple.”

1. Quietly ignoring all will-worship, he would follow the rule of the Lord, and the custom of the saints.

2. Looking to the Person of Christ, which was typified by the temple. There is no sinning like that which is directed towards the Lord Jesus, as now living to present it to the Father.

3. Trusting in the one finished Sacrifice, looking to the one great Expiation, we shall praise aright.

4. Realizing God Himself.

Praise the questioned attributes.

1. Loving-kindness in its universality. Lovingkindness in its speciality. Grace in everything. Grace to me. Grace so much despised of Pharisees and Sadducees, but so precious to true penitents. Concerning the grace of God, let us cling close to the doctrine and spirit of the Gospel all the more because the spirit of the age is opposed to them.

2. Truth. Historic accuracy of Scripture. Absolute certainty of the Gospel. Assured truthfulness of the promises. Complete accuracy of prophecy.

Reverence the honoured word. “Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy name.” God has magnified His sure word of testimony beyond all such revelations as we receive through creation and providence, though these declare God’s Name. The Gospel word is--

1. More clear. Words are better understood than nature’s hieroglyphs.

2. More sure. The Spirit Himself sealing it.

3. More sovereign. Effectually blessing believers.

4. More complete. The whole of God is seen in Christ.

5. More lasting. Creation must pass away, the Word endures for ever.

6. More glorifying to God. Specially in the great Atonement.

Prove it by personal experience. “In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me,” etc. He had used his knowledge of God derived from the Word.

1. By offering prayer. “I cried.” What do men know of the truth and grace of God and the virtue of His Word if they have never prayed?

2. By narrating the answer. “Thou answeredst me,” etc. We are God’s witnesses, and should with readiness, care, frequency, and courage testify what we have seen and known.

3. By exhibiting the strength of soul which was gained by prayer. This is good witness-bearing. Show by patience, courage, joy, and holiness what the Lord has done for your soul. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Whole-hearted praise before the world

He who praises God with his whole heart is like a man on fire, he is terrible to the adversaries of the Most High. When the great Spanish Armada was ready to swoop down upon the English coast, our brave Admiral Drake took some of his small ships, and placed them where the wind would carry them right among the Spanish fleet. He filled the vessels with combustible material, and set them alight. Then the wind just took the fire ships and drifted them up against the Spanish galleons that floated high out of the water, and exposed a vast surface to the air, and one and another of the big unwieldy monsters were soon in a blaze, and a great victory was won without a blow being struck. So, I like to get a red-hot Christian, full of music and praise unto Jehovah, and just let him go, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, right into the middle of the adversaries of truth. They cannot make him out, they do not know how to handle a man of fire. It was a wise plan, this of David, of getting in among the heathen gods and singing to the praise of Jehovah. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Courage in praising God

Singing unto Jehovah before the gods was good for David’s own soul. It is perilous to attempt a secret fidelity to God, it is so apt to degenerate into cowardice. A converted soldier tried at first to pray in bed, or in some secret corner, but he found it would not do; he must kneel down in the barrack-room before the others, and run the gauntlet of the men’s remarks; for until he had done so he had not taken his stand and he felt no peace of mind. It is needful for our spiritual health that we come out distinctly upon the Lord’s side.

Verse 2

Psalms 138:2

Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy Name.

The Word of God the highest manifestation

It is the highest manifestation of the Divine character.

1. The Bible is a manifestation through moral mind. This is greater than material nature; for the following reasons:--Moral mind is an uncompounded essence. It is a Divine offspring. It is a self-modifying agent. It is an original fountain of influences. You cannot predicate these things of matter.

2. It is a manifestation through the moral mind of a unique personage. Compare Christ with the greatest men.

It is the highest manifestation for the highest end.

1. It is a restoration. Restoration is a greater work either than destruction or sustentation.

2. It is the restoration of immortal souls. The restoration of a wrecked vessel may be a great work, the restoration of a dead flower is a greater, that of a body is still greater, the restoration of a disorganized empire is still greater, but that of an immortal soul is the greatest of all.

3. It is the restoration of a condemned criminal to a high position in the Divine empire. “Kings and priests,” etc.

4. It is the restoration of a diseased soul to immortal health and ever-increasing energy. (Homilist.)

The honour God puts upon His Word

What is meant by magnifying this word above all thy name?

1. It means putting special honour upon it; and this God has done--

(1) In the manner of revealing it.

(2) In the subject-matter of the revelation itself; and--

(3) In the special care He has taken to preserve it in its integrity and entirety.

2. It means giving it the first and chief place in the system of truths and agencies for the enlightenment and salvation of the world. And this is what God in His providence, as well as in His Sovereign purpose, has done.

(1) The Scriptures alone reveal God in Christ.

(2) The Scriptures alone direct the perishing soul to the Lamb of God which taketh away sin.

(3) The Scriptures alone teach the immortality of existence, the resurrection of the dead, and the certainty of future awards and punishments.

How God magnifies His Word.

1. By making it the power of God in the conversion of the soul. The only voice that can calm and inspire hope is the voice that sounds from Calvary out of God’s written Word.

2. By making it a sanctifying Word. Nothing but this will make them holy and fit for heaven. The philosophies and teachings of men never did and cannot do it.

3. By making it a comforting and a saving Word. It is the Christian’s solace. It helps him over life’s rough way. It is food, and drink, and shelter to him in his pilgrimage. It sweetens every cup. It kindles hope and assurance as the end draws nigh. It lights up the death chamber and puts the words of victory on the lips of the departing saint. (Homiletic Review.)

God’s Word magnified


1. God’s “Word” is revelation in general, especially the doctrines of salvation--those which we justly call the fundamental principles of the Gospel.

2. God’s “Name” is His renown. Whether in His works or in His providence, He has fastened it upon His Word above all others (Psalms 111:1-10.).

Apply. God has magnified His Word above all other displays of Himself, of His eternal power and Godhead, and of the glory of His dominion--

1. As a revelation of His nature.

2. As an instructor in His works.

3. As an interpreter of His providence.

4. As a declaration of His will.

5. As a manifestation of His grace.

6. As an exhibition of His perfections.

7. As the instrument of His power. By this He subdues and renovates the obstinate and rebellious hearts of men. (W. Collyer.)

Verse 3

Psalms 138:3

In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me.

Successful prayer

The cry.

1. A deep sense of need.

2. A feeling sense of inability.

3. Earnestness of supplication.

4. Confidence in God.

Its successful issue.

1. God heard his cry.

2. He answered it.

3. Immediately.

4. Imparting strength to his soul.

(1) To work.

(2) To resist enemies.

(3) To suffer.

(4) To be firm and persevering.


1. Learn the saint’s remedy in trouble--to cry unto the Lord, etc.

2. The importance of soul-strength. When obtained, exercise it, etc.

3. The efficacy of fervent prayer. God will hear and bless, etc.

4. The duty of recounting God’s gracious answers to our supplications. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Verse 5

Psalms 138:5

Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord.

Singing in the ways of the Lord

According to the connection, this is spoken of kings (verse 4). That time has not come yet, so let us sing all the more. We may (verse 6). If we do not, surely the stones of the street will cry out against us.

“they shall sing in the ways of the Lord.”

1. Gracious persons take pleasure in the things of religion.

2. They do not go out of God’s ways to get their songs. They shall sing “in the ways.” Alas! I have heard of some who go here and there, as they say, “to get a little pleasure.” What? You find no pleasure in the ways of God? Then you are a hypocrite.

3. They sing as they are actively engaged in the ways of the Lord. Soldiers march to battle ,with sound of trumpet and beat of drum, listening to music while they march; so Christian men go on their pilgrimage, and keep step to the sound of joyous psalms and hymns.

4. The children of God sing in the ways of God because they are in a case for singing: in a right state of mind for singing.

(1) When we are in the ways of the Lord we are strong; “they go from strength to strength.” When we walk as God would have us walk we are made strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Well may that pilgrim sing who is made strong by the mighty God of Jacob.

(2) You have safety also; for in the ways of the Lord all His servants are protected from danger. In the king’s highway “no lion shall be there, neither shall any ravenous beast go up thereon.” You shall be “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” in the ways of the Lord. Well may that traveller sing who is perfectly safe!

(3) You have also guidance.

(4) And provision.

“they shall sing of the ways of the Lord.” Not only are God’s ways the place of their song, but its subject.

1. God’s ways to us. Predestination, redemption, etc. God’s ways are such gracious ways, such wise ways, such holy ways, such ways of wisdom and of lovingkindness, that in any company we may talk about them, and in every place we may sing of them. We will sing of the ways of the Lord with us.

2. Our ways to God.

(1) A good road.

(2) Good company.

(3) Good accommodation.

(4) Fine prospects.

(5) We have daylight to travel by, for we are not the children of darkness.

Those who sing in the ways of God also sing of the Lord of the way. “They shall sing in the ways of the Lord,” and then some read it, “That great is the glory of the Lord.” That is the subject of their song. When they sing about the Lord of the way this psalm supplies us with the points of their song.

1. God’s lovingkindness (verse 2).

2. God’s truth (verse 2).

3. Answered prayers (verse 3).

4. God’s condescension (verse 6).

5. God’s delivering mercy (verse 7).

6. Final preservation (verse 8).

They shall sing to the Lord of the way, as well as of the Lord of the way. “They shall sing in the ways, for great is the glory of the Lord.”

1. Let us take care that all our songs are to the honour and praise of God, for if we ever sing to our own praise it will be idolatry. I fear much public worship, is thus marred. Our singing should be such that God hears it with pleasure--singing in which there is not so much art as heart--not so much of musical sound as of spiritual emotion. They shall sing to the glory of God.

2. If you and I sing with the Spirit and the understanding, we shall increase the manifested glory of God by bringing others to sing in His ways. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The joy of believers in the way of obedience

The ways of the Lord.

1. The way in which God walks in regard to us.

(1) Nature.

(2) Dispensations of providence.

(3) Dispensations of grace.

2. The way in which we walk in regard to Him.

(1) Obedience.

(2) Inclination.

How the people of God are to be affected in them. They not only walk in the ways of the Lord, but “sing” in them. This implies acquiescence, approbation, satisfaction, pleasure, delight. Whence springs this “singing in the ways of the Lord”? We may look after some of the near sources of it.

1. Conviction. The believer is “able to give a reason of the hope that is in him,” and he is able to give a reason of the joy that is in him.

2. Renovation. Now he is born of God, therefore he savours “the things which are freely given him of God.”

3. Experience. Oh, what delightful hours were those in which I have taken sweet counsel, and gone to the house of God in company;--in which I have seen His power and His glory there!

4. Fellowship. “I am a companion of all those that fear Thee, and of those that keep Thy precepts.”

5. His prospects and anticipations. “Eye hath not seen,” etc.

6. The accommodation. Everything is provided for these travellers that shall make them rejoice and “sing in the ways of the Lord.” Guidance, defence, strength, etc. (W. Jay.)

Verse 6

Psalms 138:6

Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly.

God’s greatness and condescension

What is here asserted respecting God. He is “high,” i.e. glorious, majestic, infinite in every excellent and glorious attribute.

The cheering declaration which accompanies this assertion. “Yet hath He respect unto the lowly.”

1. A character described.

(1) Possessed of a humble and contrite heart.

(2) Earnestly hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

(3) Coming to Christ for the blessings of salvation.

(4) Every Christian grace is connected with this lowliness.

(5) The Scriptures represent those who were most eminent for piety as wearing this grace: Job, Daniel, Paul.

2. The great God is here represented as manifesting peculiar favour to the lowly.

(1) Forgiving mercy.

(2) Introduction into His family.

(3) Grace.

(4) Glory. (John Pike.)


As it affects the judgments which we form of ourselves. Humility, as distinguished from meanness, and opposed to arrogance of mind, consists in forming a just and moderate opinion of our own endowments and merits. It disposes us to examine our character with impartiality--it suffers not self-love to magnify our good qualities--it contrasts our imperfections with our virtues--it compares our own excellencies and defects with those which are discernible in the characters of others, and permits us not to rise, in our own esteem, above the rank which we really possess among our brethren around us.

As it affects our conduct towards our brethren. To the low it condescends without degrading the character--to the high it pays its homage without assentation or servility. Founded on a moderate conception of our own ability, it disposes us to listen with respect to the opinions of others; arising from a just sense of our own imperfection, it teaches us to make allowance for their errors and defects. In its external manner it is placid and unassuming. It expresses itself by the mildness of its look and the gentleness of its language. It claims not--it expects not any extraordinary attention; its own importance is forgotten amidst its courtesy to others.

As it prepares us for discharging, in the most becoming manner, our duties to God. In the presence of that God whoso majesty fills the heavens and the earth the humble prostrate themselves on their native dust. Their own limited knowledge is annihilated in their esteem when they consider the height and the depth of the judgments of God; and their own imperfect goodness is lost to their view when they contemplate that diffusive bounty by which the universe is blest. Feeling and acknowledging the feebleness of their minds, they receive with gratitude the revelation of heaven. In their religious services there is no ostentation. Their employment is with God alone. It is to acknowledge His favours, of which they confess themselves unworthy; to bewail their transgressions, which they recollect with heartfelt sorrow; to adore the mercy which continues to regard them; to repeat the vows which they regret to have broken, or to bless the grace which has enabled them to perform it. (W. Moodie, D. D.)

Verse 7

Psalms 138:7

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me.

Human life

The universal law of human life. What is it? It is expressed in one word--walking. Life is a “walk,” a journey. It is constant action, and constant action onward. Life is never stationary; it is always on the move; it is motion.

1. Constant change of position. Every step puts us in a fresh point of space, and surrounds us with something new in scenery. So with life.

2. Constant approximation to destiny. The grave for the body; retribution for the soul.

The saddening probabilities of human life. Life is not only a walk, but a walk often “in the midst of trouble.” Since the introduction of sin into our world, it has never been a walk of unmingled pleasure. All here meet with trials on the way; but some more than others. Physical--bodily pains and diseases; moral--the conflict of passions, the remorse of conscience, and the dread of death; social--disappointments in business, the treachery of false friends, the corruption of the world, and the bereavement of death.

The grand support of human life. “Thou wilt revive me.”

1. God is an all-sufficient support. He is equal to all our emergencies. “He is our refuge and strength,” etc. There is no enemy from which He cannot deliver us; there is no trial under which He cannot support us; there is no danger from which lie cannot rescue us. In the fiery furnace, in the surging waters, in the “valley of the shadow of death,” He is all-sufficient.

2. He is the only effective support. No one else can support you. “Put not your trust in princes.”

3. He is an available support. Available to all at any time. “Call upon Me in the time of trouble and I will deliver you.” (Homilist.)

The Christian’s comfort in the midst of troubles

The Christian’s troubles. They arise from--

1. The world within. An evil heart of unbelief; prone to distrust God, to dishonour God, to wander from God.

2. The world without. Bodily affliction, worldly trials, opposition from the world, etc.

3. The world beneath. Satan distils his venom in secret.

The Christian’s comforter. Though he walks in trouble, he does not walk alone. Though persecuted, he is not forsaken; though cast down, not destroyed.

1. God can enter the inner world and bring comfort there, and spread a banquet within, and open a little paradise (Psalms 94:19; Job 35:10; Psalms 27:5).

2. God can enable us to meet the world without. So He enabled Jacob to meet Esau; Elijah, Baal’s priests; David, Goliath.

3. God can effectually subdue the world beneath. “Bruise Satan under your feet.”

The Christian’s confidence. What it is proved.

1. What He is--God of mercy.

2. What He has done.

3. What He has promised to do. (Evangelist.)

Verse 8

Psalms 138:8

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.

Choice comfort for a young believer

As every state has its dangers, so the peril of religious concern is despondency. Thoughtfulness soon degenerates into distrust, and holy anxiety easily rusts into unbelief. The more a man looks within him the less he can trust himself, and the more a man looks around him the more he feels that he is in danger, and he is apt to say, “I shall surely one day fall by the hand of the enemy.” He is fearful as to the result of future temptations. Now I want to meet such fears.

Here first we see that God fills us with assurance. “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.” Then--

1. God is really at work on our behalf. Get a grip at this, thou troubled one, and by a personal faith say, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.” Thou hast come to Jesus and trusted thy soul in His hands, then it is certain that the Lord hath brought thee to this state of mind. Every effect has a cause, and all spiritual faith is created by the Holy Ghost. Since then, the Lord has begun to save you, your confidence must be that He who began this good work will continue to operate in your soul. “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me;” not, “I will perform it myself.”

2. There is the full assurance that He will be at work still in order to complete that which He has commenced. Have you obtained a religion which is not the work of God? Then I would exhort you to get rid of it. Do as the man did with the bad banknote, throw it down on the highway or into a ditch, and run away from it. But, and if the religion you have received is the work of God, then be certain that He who began the work will perfect it. The psalmist affirms--

3. That He will complete the work. Did the Almighty pause in the middle of creation and leave His work unfinished? How, then, would the record run? That God had made the light, but had not made the sun? That He had made the waters, but had not divided them from the land, or said to the sea, “Hitherto shalt thou go, but no farther”? No, the first day of creation was a guarantee of the five which followed it and of the grand rest day which crowned the week. Here, then, is your confidence. You are anxiously asking Him, shall I persevere to the end? You shall be kept and perfected by the Lord in whom you trust. Now carry this confidence into everything. Into providence. The Lord will perfect that which concerns you there. You have a plan on hand. If it be God’s plan for you for life you will carry it through. God often perfects that which truly concerns us by taking us away from that which never ought to concern us. But that crown of life which you have submitted to His wisdom, which you have taken up in obedience to the plain indications of His providence, which you follow out with integrity, walking before the Lord and committing your way unto Him--that crown of life shall have His blessing, and none shall be able to put you on one side. The Lord told David he should be a king. It did not look very likely, but since such was the Eternal purpose, there was no keeping the son of Jesse out of the throne. But this is more especially true in the work of grace in the heart. And it is also true of the work of grace all around us.

The Lord gives us rest in His mercy, for what says the text, “Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever.” See how this works in us rest from fear. “Alas!” sighs one troubled heart, “I fear I shall fall into many sins between here and heaven.” But sing in your heart, “Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever.” The blood of atonement will never fail. Then up comes another fear. “I do not see how I am to be perfected My nature is so vile.” The answer is the same. The Lord will bear with you and forbear. Some of God’s children are the crookedest people that ever were in this world, and it must be sovereignty which chose them, for they are by no means naturally desirable or attractive. But His mercy endureth for ever. And some will pass through great affliction and some will experience a great many wants. And the hour of death will come. One man of God always feared death; but he might have spared himself his wretchedness, for he fell asleep one night in apparently excellent health, and died in his sleep. He never could have known anything about dying, for on his face were no tokens of pain or struggle, nor was there any reason to believe that he ever awoke till he lifted up his eyes amid the cherubim. And so, if we do not die shouting victory, we hope that we shall peacefully fall asleep, “for His mercy endureth for ever.” “He will perfect that which concerneth me.” Now do all of you who are just beginning life put yourselves and all your circumstances into God’s hand and there leave them.

The Lord puts it into His people’s hearts to pray, and supplies them with a plea. “Forsake not the work of Thine own hands. Persevere in what Thou hast begun.” This is a prayer which you and I may well bring before God, whose workmanship we are. A man takes his money into the bank and leaves it. He does not come back in a quarter of an hour and say, “Have you my money safe? I want to see it.” The bank would not desire such a man who has no confidence in them. Let us not act so by Christ. Put in your all with Him and leave it there. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Confidence in God

The striking expression of believing assurance.

1. What we are to understand by “that which concerneth me.” This I apprehend, as it regards David, and as it regards every Christian, may be summed up in two things--the work of providence without them, and the work of grace within them. All that concerns present safety and future glory are thus secured.

2. “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.” When it is in progress He will not leave it or suffer it to be marred--He will carry it forward through its successive stages until it be finished to the glory of His name.

The unchanging foundation of assurance. It is from the mercy of God that He works for us, and works in us. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” His mercy and His grace are the grand springs of all the happiness and blessings we possess, and of all the hopes that inspire the heart and animate the soul. And as God thus begins the work of a sinner’s salvation from mercy, it no way depends upon our merit or worth. He takes His motives entirely from Himself. He does it because it is the good pleasure of His will to do it.

The earnest prayer accompanying this confidence. “Forsake not the work of Thine own hands.” As they are the works of His hands, they must be very dear unto Him,--He cannot but love them and delight in them, and He rests in His love. Conclusion--

1. How great is the gratitude that is due to God from His saints, how innumerable are His blessings, how vast His mercy, how rich His grace and lovingkindness.

2. What encouragement the sinner has to seek God, seeing He is a God of such mercy.

3. Rejoice, ye saints of God, that you have a great High Priest who is passed into the heavens, who now appears in the presence of God for you. (John Jack.)

The saints’ final perseverance secured by the mercy of God

The psalmist’s confidence. The work of grace in the soul of man is but a begun work. I know it is perfect as it regards its principle; but as it regards its actings it is most imperfect. Look at our light; how feeble is it! How little do we see of sin’s sinfulness--of the baseness there is in ingratitude! What a dim sight have we of Jesus! the glory of His person, the perfection of His atonement, His perfect righteousness, the sufficiency of His grace, the tenderness of His humanity, the sympathy of His nature--Friend--Brother! How little one enters into the holiness of His example! Now all this does prove that it is but a begun work. And yet, says David, “The Lord will perfect” it. It is His own; He will maintain it, He will deepen it, and He will finish it. Here is a blessed confidence in God, that He, who had “begun the good work,” would “perform it” in the midst of all its ebbs and flows and changes; acknowledging it to be but a begun work, and yet declaring--“The Lord will perfect it.” But the words imply more than this. It would seem as if David did say--He will give me the entire, the full and complete and everlasting possession and enjoyment of Himself in heaven. Faith shall soon be lost in sight; hope shall soon disappear in certainty; and prayer shall cease, and give way to endless praise.

The basis of his confidence. What is it? You may say, It is the promise. The promise is not the foundation. There must be a foundation for the promise. And what is the foundation of the promise? God; God in Christ. And here is a particular attribute, a particular perfection in God, singled out--signalized. “Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever.” There is a sweetness and a power in the very monosyllable, “Thy mercy”; because it is peculiar to God, it is His own property, it distinguishes Him. The mercy of the creature is finite; the mercy of Jehovah is infinite. The mercy of the creature is changeable; the mercy of Jehovah is unchangeable. The mercy of the creature was of yesterday; the mercy of Jehovah is from everlasting. It began in election; and when does it end? Never; but it issues in eternal glory.

In what did it issue? Carelessness? So say many. But the issue here is--prayer. “Forsake not the works of Thine own hands.” It is a beautiful conclusion; it is a beautiful consequence; it is a blessed deduction. Because Thou “wilt perfect”; therefore “forsake not the works of Thine own hands.” It is common-sense--the common-sense of religion. “I am, as Thy creature, wholly dependent on Thee; without Thee, faith must die, and hope expire; without Thee, love must decay and perish.” (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

Faith in perfection

The believer’s confidence.

1. A Divine confidence--“The Lord.”

2. A confidence for the future--“will.”

3. A large confidence--“perfect.”

4. A broad confidence. “Whatever concerns me,” says he, “the Lord will perfect.”

The ground of this confidence--God’s mercy. Is it not a strange thing that the advanced believer, when he reaches to the very height of piety, just comes to the spot where he commenced? Do we not begin at the Cross, and when we have climbed ever so high, is it not at the Cross that we end? Mercy must be the theme of our song here; and mercy enduring for ever must be the subject of the sonnets of paradise. None other can be fit sinners; nay, and none other can be fit, grateful saints.

The result of this confidence. It leads to prayer. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

The discipline of life

A friend said to me one day, “How sad it is that we cannot devote ourselves more constantly to our own spiritual culture! There are so many utterly unspiritual things to be done or gone through with, that it is really very little time that we can give to the great work of this life--our preparation for a higher and better life.” This would have been well said, were it not that the very condition of things complained of is a providential necessity of God’s appointment, and therefore undoubtedly better for us than any method that we might deem preferable. If the soul, and God, and heaven are not fictions, we are constrained to believe that the Divine providence orders our discipline here with a view to our surest nurture and our highest good, that its school is our best school, its designated way the best way for us. I doubt whether the concentrated devotion to the soul for which the devout often yearn is the fit mode of educating the soul. Probably, even to the most religious mind, the cloister has never been so favourable to the growth of piety as the duties of an active life or of a Christian home would have been. A good man somewhat given to cant, meeting Wilberforce one day, said to him, “Brother, how is it now with your soul?” and was shocked beyond measure by the philanthropist’s reply, “I have been so busy about those poor negroes, that I had forgotten I had a soul.” Yet there can be no doubt that by means of “those poor Negroes” Wilberforce’s soul had been growing a great deal faster than that of his friend, who had perhaps spent half his time in counting the pulse-beats of devotional feeling. In speaking thus I would not have it inferred that I hold emotional piety in low repute. I look upon it as the Alpha and the Omega, the source and consummation of all that is excellent in man. But perpetual and over-anxious watching may do as little for the plants of God’s planting in the heart as for those of our own planting in our gardens. Nor would I have it supposed that I undervalue the direct offices of piety, whether secret or social. I regard them as an essential part of the plan of Providence. But God trains us, for the most part, in ways which we should not choose for that purpose, and sometimes in ways which we are prone to regard as injurious rather than helpful. To some of these methods of the Divine providence I ask your attention. There is hardly anything of which we are more apt to complain than routine-work, especially that in which not hand or foot, but brain and soul, are compelled to go over the selfsame round day after day and year after year. We are sometimes inclined, in our weariness, to resort for terms of comparison to the very Tartarus of our classical studies--the rock of Sisyphus and the sieve of the Danaides. Yet we might look for our parallel in the opposite direction; for is not the administration of this glorious universe, for the most part, a routine? Has not the infinite Creator, for unnumbered aeons, renewed, day by day and year by year, the same unvarying round of beneficent ministries? And if we may be permitted to speak of that self-consciousness in which our own has its birth, must we not think of this routine as a part of God’s supreme felicity, while ever new love, mercy, and compassion flow in the course of universal nature, and breathe in the benignant will, which is no less essential from moment to moment than when in the beginning it moulded chaos into form, life, and beauty? Now, so far as God’s Spirit is in us, our routine-work shall be exalted, hallowed, glorified, made more and more like His. Is it for the benefit of others, and is it lovingly wrought? If so, those affections which are so essential a part of the soul’s best life are exercised, fed, and strengthened by it, and we thus become--though it be without our distinct consciousness--enlarged in our sympathies, broadened in our charity, better tithed for every genial ministry of earth and of heaven. Or is our life-work one which has prime reference to self, yet imposed upon us by necessities of subsistence or position which we cannot evade? If so, it is of God’s appointment--a part of our Divine service; and if it be pervaded by the true spirit of service, it is a routine only in appearance--in reality, it is a revolution on an even higher plane, in an ever larger orbit; and we shall find in God’s good time that it has been training us for the unwearying service of the heavenly temple. Yet again, is our routine, as it probably is, one which admits, with every new revolution, of more of mind, and soul, and strength? Then, wearisome though it be, it is a healthful discipline, equally for the powers which it calls into exercise, and for that conscientious fidelity in our appointed sphere, which must concur with trained and tried capacity in fitting the steward of the few and small things committed to his earthly trust for the larger stewardship of the heavenly life. Another subject of frequent complaint is the waste of time in unavoidable, bug unprofitable, social engagements. The hours which, if taken from more laborious pursuits, we would gladly devote to entertaining or lucrative intercourse with equals and friends, the wise and the brilliant, those whose converse is our privilege and our joy, must often be spent where we give, and receive nothing in return, wit may be, with those whom we see fit to call dull and stupid, or frivolous and empty, or with the impertinent and importunate,--with those who claim sympathy to which they seem to have no right, or aid to which they can proffer no title other than their need. Can this be a part of our spiritual education? Yes; and a most essential part. It comes to us through the ordering of Providence, and is therefore, no doubt, better for us than the great things which we would gladly do instead, but for which the opportunity is not afforded us. We shall one day own that no time has been better spent, if on these occasions we have exercised patience, forbearance, unwearying kindness, persevering helpfulness, if we have given pleasure, diffused happiness, relieved burdens, cleared perplexity, shed sunlight on those who live under the shadow, quickened dull minds, lightened heavy hearts. But in such ways as I have spoken of, solid portions of time that might have been given to our own mental culture are often invaded and frittered away. Can this be good for us? Yes, if Providence so wills. Growing knowledge is, no doubt, an unspeakable benefit; yet we may be gee impatient for its acquisition. We may feel too much as if this world gave the only opportunities for mental cultivation and growth. A part of what we may regret that we lose here will be of no interest or worth to us when we go hence; and for all that we can then desire and need there is ample room in the limitless future. Another often uncomfortable method of spiritual discipline consists in the seemingly excessive annoyance and mortification occasioned by what we account as slight mistakes, follies, and faults. In the vexation and discomfort which we bring upon ourselves by some momentary and almost unconscious deviation from the fitting and the right, we often have an impressive practical commentary on the text, “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” But in these experiences we have a most essential and blessed part of our providential education. How should we ever recognize our failures and faults, did they not leave these vivid traces in our experience? Equally is Providence educating us by those trials and griefs--the lighter and the heavier--which belong to our condition as mortals. But it is never go be forgotten that the ministry of affliction is wholly contingent on our receptivity. The sands of the desert drink in the spring rains, but are not fructified by them. The untilled field returns their blessing in unsightly and noxious weeds. But in the prepared soil they reappear in growing grain and swelling fruit-buds--the prize of faithful toil, the hope of the year; and those dreary, chilly, sunless days of the early rain are the harbingers of all that is bright, beautiful, and gladdening in garden, field, and orchard. Thus the dews and rains of God’s afflictive providence in some souls are absorbed and lost, and leave no sign; others they sour, or madden, or hopelessly depress; but where there are already germs of the heavenly Father’s planting, they quicken growth, they create inward grace and beauty, they fructify all peaceful thoughts, pure desires, and holy aspirations; they ripen the harvest whose reapers are the angels. But not only through these sadder ministries is God’s providence perfeering that which concerneth us. Equally is all that is mirthful and gladdening a part of our education for our immortal being. How vast is our receptivity of gladness! How kindly the necessity--not only in childhood and youth, but under our severest cares and labours, and even under the burden of many years--of recreation and pleasure! Thus by His various discipline is God perfecting that which concerneth us, giving us a far better education than we could plan for ourselves. Let us yield ourselves lovingly to the training of His providence, assured that, ordered by Him, all things shall work together for our good. (A. P. Peabody, D. D.)

The Divine purpose concerning us

Every man’s character is a germ capable of large development. There are slumbering possibilities in us all. We are made for ends known to God, and there is an ideal in His mind concerning each one of us.

The psalmist’s triumphant conviction. “The Lord will perfect.” This is what we need to impart interest to life. There is no cry so pitiful as “Nothing to live for.” On all hands there are disappointed folk who, thinking of condition rather than character, find life “tame.” But once let a man or woman reach this assurance that through all the various scenes of life God is moulding them, and even by the “strokes of doom” fashioning them “to shape and use,” and all the life sparkles with glad significance.

The grounds on which the conviction is based.

1. God’s mercy. “Thy mercy, O Lord,” etc. This must ever be our first appeal, to mercy. For which of us has a flawless record of submission to the Divine purpose? With our past of perversity; what can we do but cast ourselves on God’s infinite pity? And in Christ we have the plan of God’s redeeming mercy made known to us as it was not to prophet and psalmist of old. We see that mercy has provided for the ruined life to be restored and built up again according to the plan of the great Architect.

2. God’s justice. “Forsake not the works of Thine own hands.” This is a plea that every reconciled soul may urge. “Thou hast made me: I reverently challenge Thee to complete Thy work.” He is a “faithful Creator,” and if you are seeking to answer the end for which He made you, His everlasting honour binds Him to fulfil His part. How full are the New Testament pledges to this effect that He will complete His work in our character-- Philippians 1:6. (Anon.)


Psalms 139:1-24

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 138". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/psalms-138.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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