Theme: God’s Perfect Purpose
In this week’s lessons, we are again directed to the privilege of offering to the Lord our worship and our thanks for who he is, for what he has done, and for what he promises to do for his people.
Scripture: Psalm 138:1-8
In the last stanza of the psalm the writer comes back to his own needs. He knows that God is great, that he has compassion for the lowly and disdain for those who vainly exalt themselves (v. 6). He knows that God preserves his life, that he stretches out his hand in anger against his foes, that he saves him by the power of his strong right hand (v. 7). But still he walks “in the midst of trouble” and cannot survive unless God preserves his life and stands by him (v. 7). So he prays, “Do not abandon the works of your hands” (v. 8).
The most important line in this last stanza is one I mentioned earlier, the first line of verse 8, though it is most memorable in the older King James Version: “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.” This is an Old Testament version of Philippians 1:6, which assures us that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”
In Psalm 138 David was probably thinking of God’s purpose in sending the messianic king to reign on his throne. But we ought to think of this in terms of God’s avowed purpose concerning us. What is God’s purpose for us? Paul states it nicely in Romans 8:28-31: We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified he also glorified.” In other words, God’s purpose is to make us like Jesus Christ and to bring us to glory.
Can we be assured that God will do that? Of course, we can, for as the next to last line of this psalm declares, echoing the repeated refrain of Psalm 136, “Your love, O LORD, endures forever.” The refrain of Psalm 136 says, “His love endures forever.”
Those who know God do not have any confidence in themselves. How can they? We know that we are only weak and guilty sinners saved by grace. Apart from the persevering grace of God we would all be certain to fall away into sin and perish. But our confidence is not in ourselves. It is in him who loved us and gave himself for us. So we remind ourselves, “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me” and “Your love, O LORD, endures forever.” And we pray, “Do not abandon the works of your hands.”
Herbert Lockyer wrote rightly, “Our hope of final perseverance is the final perseverance of the God we love and serve. Because his mercy endureth for ever, his work in and for us will continue until we are perfected when we see him in all his perfection.”1
Martin Luther was strong on the doctrine of perseverance, but he still prayed: “Confirm, O God, in us that thou hast wrought, and perfect the work that thou hast begun in us.”2 Augustus M. Toplady declared:
The work which his goodness began
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
J. M. Burleigh wrote wisely, “His creating hands formed our souls at the beginning; his nail-pierced hands redeemed them on Calvary; his glorified hands will hold our souls fast and not let them go for ever. Unto his hands let us commend out spirits, sure that even though the works our hands have made void the works of his hands, yet his hands will again make perfect all that our hands have unmade.”3
1Herbert Lockyer, Sr., Psalms: A Devotional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1993), p. 716.
3Cited by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3b, Psalms 120-150 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1968) p. 255.
How does v. 8 reflect Phil. 1:6?
What is God’s purpose for us? Why can we be sure it will happen?
How does knowledge of God affect confidence in yourself?
Reflection: Do you think the way David did—that you cannot survive unless God preserves you and stands by you? What does this reveal about your knowledge of God and your relationship to him?
Prayer: Praise God for his goodness and for fulfilling the purpose he has for you.
For Further Study: James Boice’s sermon series on the Psalms can be used in various ways—for Sunday school lessons or other group settings, as well as for personal or family devotions. Order your copy of the three-volume paperback set, and receive 25% off the regular price.