138:0The words ‘for David’ are part of the Hebrew psalm. The psalmist spoke the Hebrew language. So he wrote the psalm in Hebrew. The psalmist was the person that wrote the psalm. But we could translate ‘for David’ as ‘by David.’ Does that mean that David wrote the psalm? Or did somebody else write it, and put it in David's book of psalms? We do not know. Many Bible students think that the psalmist wrote Psalm 138 long after David died.
If David did not write the psalm, then maybe someone wrote it after the exile. The exile was when the Jews' enemies made them live in Babylon. When they came home, 70 years later, they had to build their temple again. The temple was the house of God in Jerusalem. They called it a ‘holy temple’ (verse 2) because they believed that God lived in it. Only God was holy (or very, very good). So he made the places where he lived holy too.
Whoever wrote the psalm is thanking God (verses 1 and 2). He is thanking him because he sent help (verses 6 and 7).
This is for David.
1 I will thank you, LORD, with all my heart.
I will sing your praises in front of the false gods.
138:1Verse 1: The false gods were the gods of other countries, like Babylon and Assyria. ‘Praises’ are words that say how great somebody is. Here the psalmist writes about the LORD. The LORD is a special name for God. It is the ‘covenant’ name for God. A covenant is when two people (or groups of people) agree. Here, God agrees to love and give help to his people. His people agree to love and obey him. ‘With all my heart’ is a Hebrew (and English) way to say, ‘as well as I possibly can.’
2 I will fall down before you in your holy temple.
I will give thanks to your name for your kind love that never fails.
Also we will give thanks, because you have lifted your name
and your word above everything else.
138:2Verse 2: ‘Your name’ means more than just ‘God’ or ‘LORD.’ It means everything that God is. The ‘kind love’ is a special Bible word. It means the love that God has for his people:
– Will never finish;
– Will always send help.
3 When I prayed to you, you answered me.
You made me brave and strong.
138:3Verse 3: ‘You made me brave and strong’ is what David would write. Often, when he wanted help, he prayed to the LORD. The LORD always answered him.
4 All the kings in the world will thank you, LORD.
They have heard the promises that you have made.
That is why they will thank you.
138:4Verse 4 is important to Bible students. It tells them that God would do things to make everybody thank him, not just Jews.
5 They will sing about what you have done.
And they will sing because of your great glory.
138:5Verses 4 and 5: We do not know how these kings heard the promises of God. But they:
– Thanked him (verse 4); and
– Sang about it (verse 5).
God has glory because he is great. He is very, very great. So it seems as if he shines as the sun shines! That is what ‘glory’ means.
6 The LORD is high above the earth.
But he can see what people below him need.
Also he can see what proud people are doing.
They are far away from him but he can still see them.
138:6Verse 6: This is about two groups of people. One group is people that need help. God is high above us in heaven. But he can still see who needs help. He also sees the proud people. These people think that they are so good that they do not need help. We do not know where heaven is. Heaven is the home of God. But God can see everybody from heaven!
7 You keep me alive when there is trouble all round me.
When my enemy is angry you fight against him.
You save me with your right hand.
138:7Verse 7: ‘The right hand of God’ is a Hebrew way to say ‘what God does on the earth.’ We could translate it, ‘by the power of God.’
8 The LORD will do for me everything that he has promised.
LORD, your kind love will always continue.
Finish the work of your hands.
138:8Verse 8: ‘Your kind love will always continue’ makes us think of Psalm 136. There, nearly every verse finishes ‘his kind love will always continue.’ Look at the note on verse 2 for ‘kind love.’ The ‘work of your hands’ means the things that God does on the earth.