Theme: A Contrast
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
 There is a contrast between Psalm 137 and Psalm 138 to which we come now. In Psalm 137 the captive Israelites were unable to sing praise to God in the presence of their heathen captors. But in Psalm 138 a time has come not only when such praises are sung but also when the writer anticipates the praises of God being sung by the heathen themselves, even by their kings (vv. 4, 5). The psalms have been placed together to make this contrast and to teach that although there is a time for silence, lest we cast our pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6), there is also a time for bold confession. We must be bold to praise God when others will not praise him.
Psalm 138 is the first of a group of eight psalms that are ascribed to David, the last of David’s psalms in the Psalter. About half the psalms are ascribed to him.1
Recent studies of the psalms question these ascriptions, especially of these last psalms. But there is no reason why they cannot have been written by David; in fact, there is much to suggest that David was the author. Psalm 138 sounds much like David’s other compositions. For example, verse 1 echoes Psalm 9:1, verse 2 echoes Psalm 5:7, verse 7 echoes Psalm 23:4, and verse 8 echoes Psalm 57:3.2 (There is also an echo of verse 6 in Psalm 113:5-9, though Psalm 113 is not by David.) Psalm 138 is also aware of enemies, as virtually all David’s psalms are, and it expresses both zeal for God and humility before him, which is almost a Davidic signature. Derek Kidner says, “There is a fine blend of boldness and humility from the outset; boldness to confess the Lord before the gods, humility to bow down before him.”3
Alexander Maclaren says of these compositions, “[They stand] where a ‘find’ of Davidic psalms at a late date would naturally be put,” noting that Psalm 138 is “unlike those which precede it and has many affinities with the earlier psalms ascribed to David.”3
If Psalm 138 is by David, it may be a grateful response to God’s promise to him recorded in 2 Samuel 7. That is the chapter in which God promised David a kingdom that would endure forever through the reign of a future messianic king. H. C. Leupold suggests that this is exactly what the psalm is about, pointing out that some great promise must be intended by the claim of verse 8: “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me.”5 If this is the case, then the psalm is basically a psalm of thanks to God for this blessing and is even somewhat messianic since it is before this coming Messiah that the kings of the earth will bow when they come to praise God (vv. 4, 5). The word translated “I will praise” in verses 1, 2 and 4 more precisely means, “I will give thanks.”
1Psalms 3-9, 11-32, 34-41, 51-65, 68-70, 86, 101, 103, 108-110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 138-145. There are seventy-three Davidic psalms in all. 
2H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1969), p. 938.
3Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), p. 461.
4Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 3, Psalms 90-150 (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1894), pp. 376, 377. 
5H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms, p. 938.
Study Questions:

What is different between the settings of Psalms 137 and 138?
Why can we attribute Psalm 138 to David?
What does verse 8 of this psalm reveal?

Key Point: We must be bold to praise God when others will not praise him.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Philip Ryken’s message, “Giving Praise to God.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

Study Questions
Tagged under
More Resources from James Montgomery Boice

Subscribe to the Think & Act Biblically Devotional

Alliance of Confessional Evangelicals

About the Alliance

The Alliance is a coalition of believers who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today’s Church.

Canadian Donors

Canadian Committee of The Bible Study Hour
PO Box 24087, RPO Josephine
North Bay, ON, P1B 0C7