Psalm 138 – He’s got the whole world in HIS hands

Have you ever written God a thank you note? Psalm 138 which is categorised as a psalm of thanksgiving is a good example of a note of gratitude that is written by David to God. This gratitude to God is also expressed by David amid trouble and opposition, all the while relying on God’s help and entrusting the future to God’s care, as we will see in the Psalm.

It is the first in the final collection of eight psalms identified as “of David” in the Psalter (138-145). It is quite evident that the psalm was composed after its author had come through a rather tight scrape. At the heart of this challenge that the psalmist faced is an account of God’s deliverance. The account of deliverance is very short in this psalm: “On the day I called, you answered me…” (138:3).

The psalm is a total of eight brief verse and may be divided as follows: I thank you, God (1-3), this is our God (4-6), you are with me (7-8). Psalm 138 gives thanks to God in the presence of three groups: the gods (verses 1-3); the kings of the earth (verses 4-6); and enemies (verses 7-8).

The psalm opens with thanksgiving to God, a thanksgiving that oozes with tremendous gratitude that ‘comes from the heart’. This thanksgiving is seen in the number of times that words ‘thanks’ and ‘praise’ appear in the psalm. Interestingly the reason for the thanksgiving and praise is mentioned in verse 3 only as; “on the day I called, you answered me, you increased the strength of my soul.”

We are not told what the issue or challenge was except that the psalmist was convinced that his prayer was answered. Perhaps a deeper look might suggest that the problem or difficulty faced by the psalmist had not been eradicated but even continued to persist. Why do I say that? The psalmist thanks God for answering his prayer but even more for ‘increasing the strength of his soul’. In short the answer to the prayer was not the disappearance of the issue at hand but the courage given by God to bear the difficulty.

The word ‘soul’ in Hebrew is translated as ‘nephesh’ and should rightly translated in English as ‘my true self’ or ‘my innermost being’. This thought that God does not take away our trial but strengths our innermost being is reiterated in verse seven which is a mirror reflection of Psalm 23:4. Verse seven acknowledges that “while I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies.” Verse seven affirms that the issue at hand has not disappeared, the psalmist continues to walk in the midst of his troubles and his enemies wrath are still his troubles, yet because the Lord increased the strength of his soul  he is able to face the storm and is able to give thank with all his heart.

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