“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Psalm 138)
Psalm 138…a psalm of David. It is a prayer, as many of the psalms are. This particular prayer is one of praise. It is a prayer of exaltation. David says, “I give thanks…I sing your praise…I bow down…” David’s expression of praise and worship toward God stands in the face of the created gods among the people of his day. These gods are thought to be the heavenly deities which have been created by the people as objects of worship. Even in the presence of these so called “gods,” David acknowledges his commitment to and adoration of Jehovah. Regarding the kings of the earth, David says they “shall give you thanks, O Lord…and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord…” These kings of the earth, which David reports will praise Jehovah, the True and Living God, represent the earthly gods, or rulers of the day. Certainly, history shows that a vast majority of kings and rulers desired for their subjects to worship them as gods. David seems to acknowledge this, though he says they will all bow down to God.
In this psalm, God is juxtaposed to the kings and rulers of earth. People of high and lofty status do not concern themselves with the lowly and poor. Do you remember the funeral of Princess Diana? Do you remember the casket passing through the streets of England and making its way past the Queen, who stood in mourning for her estranged daughter-in-law? It was no secret that there were tensions in the royal family since the divorce of Charles and Diana, and everyone was speculating as to what type of response the Queen of England would have towards the People’s Princess. And as the casket made its way through the streets, commentators were stunned as the Queen, in reverence for the princess, bowed her head. She showed a sign of inferiority, of humility…she showed a sign of honor. You see, a queen is only bowed to; the greater is revered by the lesser. But God, who is above all others, reaches out to the lowest individual.
God preserves us in times of trouble. He stretches out his hand to provide protection for us. God brings about our salvation. He is our defender, supporter, provider and protector. It is because of his great love, which is everlasting, that God sustains his people. David makes a final plea to God, “Do not forsake the works of your hands.” God, don’t stop coming to the aid of your people. Don’t stop loving your people. David bookends this prayer by proclaiming the surety of God’s love. Why will David praise, sing, and bow? Because of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. David completes this prayer by stating God’s love is forever, “…your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.”
Nothing we have is attributable to our own strengths and talents. Some people think so. It’s an attitude that was expressed very effectively by James Stewart’s character in the movie, Shenandoah. He was the patriarch of a large Southern family, running a very successful plantation when the Civil War broke out. Early in the movie the family sat down for dinner, and as they all bowed their heads, this is what he prayed:
“Lord, we cleared this land, we plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway for this food we are about to eat. Amen.”
Spoken or unspoken, I think that may be the attitude of far too many hearts, even some Christians. But the truth is the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the very air we breathe, are a fresh gift from God every day, for every man, woman, or child, saved or unsaved. Today, the reality of God’s love and faithfulness should drive us to our knees as we praise him, as we sing to him, as we bow down before him, lifting our lives as a worship to him.