Psalm 138

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 138

Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible. Words in brackets, ( ), are not in the *Hebrew Bible.

The notes explain some of the words with a *star by them. A word list at the end explains the other words that have a *star by them.

The translated Bible text has yet to go through Advanced Checking.


Jesus said, "Offer (to God) the gift that Moses told you (to offer)" (Matthew 8:4).

Psalm 138

 (This is) for David.

v1   I will thank you, *LORD, *with all my *heart.
  I will sing your *praises in front of the (false) gods.

v2   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.

v3   When I prayed to you, you answered me.
  You made me brave and strong.

v4   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.

v5   They will sing about what you have done.
  (And) they will sing because of your great *glory.

v6   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.

v7   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.

v8   The *LORD will do for me everything that he has promised.
  *LORD, your kind love will always continue.
  Finish the work of your hands.

The Story of Psalm 138

The 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).

Verse 4 is important to Bible students. It tells them that God would do things to make everybody thank him, not just *Jews.

What Psalm 138 means

Verse 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".

Verse 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.

Verse 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.

Verses 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.

Verse 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!

Verse 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".

Verse 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.

Something to do

1.  When you need help, pray to God for it. He will answer you.

2.  Read some of the psalms. And find what God has promised to do for his people.

Word List

covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do (here, God and his people). Look in Psalm 120 about the covenant.

exile ~ away from your own country.

glory ~ something that shines very much. God has glory because his *righteousness shines from inside him.

heart ~ part of the body. *Jews believed that you thought in your heart.

heaven ~ the home of God.

holy ~ all good with no bad in it; separate from *sin; very, very good; only God is really holy. The land where he lives with his people is also holy. This is because he is there.

Jew ~ a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

LORD ~ the *covenant name for God (in a *covenant you agree with someone).

praise ~ to say how great someone is; or, words that say how great someone is.

proud people ~ proud people think that they are good and clever. But they may not be.

psalmist ~ the person that wrote a psalm (or psalms).

righteous ~ very good (only God is really righteous). God says that the people who love and obey him are righteous. Sometimes we say they are "the righteous", meaning "righteous people". Look after Psalm 5 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the word "righteous".

righteousness ~ what you have when you are *righteous.

sin ~ not to obey God; or what you do when you do not obey God.

temple ~ a place where people meet to worship God.

with all my heart ~ a way to say "I will do all that I can to make it happen".

your name ~ See What Psalm 138 means.


© 1999-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).

December 2002

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