Psalm 138:1
A Psalm of David. I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.
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(1) Before the gods.—Undoubtedly, as in Psalm 82:1 : “before the great” or “mighty.” (Comp. Psalm 119:46, “before kings.”)

Sing praise.—Rather, play.

Psalm 138:1-2. I will praise thee with my whole heart — With uprightness of intention, and fervency of affection. Before the gods will I sing praises, &c. — Before kings and princes, or, before judges and great men, either those of other nations who visited him, or those of his own nation that attended on him. He will not only praise God in his heart, which he might do, by pious ejaculations, in any company, but will sing praise with his voice, if there should be occasion. I will worship toward thy holy temple — Where the ark was. He saith, toward it, because he was not permitted to enter into it. For thy loving-kindness and for thy truth — For thy goodness and for thy promises; 1st, For promising me singular blessings out of thy mere grace and favour; and, 2d, For performing thy promises most faithfully. For thou hast magnified thy word, &c. — Thou hast glorified thy faithfulness, in fulfilling thy promises unto me, more than any other of thy glorious perfections by which thou art known. Not that one of God’s attributes is really, and in itself, more great or glorious than another; or can be made so, but because one may be more celebrated and admired by men than another; as here, God’s gracious promise of the kingdom made to David, and the wonderful accomplishment thereof, in spite of all those difficulties which stood in the way, and which seemed to men to be insuperable, was, at this time, more observed and admired than any other of his attributes or actions.

138:1-5 When we can praise God with our whole heart, we need not be unwilling for the whole world to witness our gratitude and joy in him. Those who rely on his loving-kindness and truth through Jesus Christ, will ever find him faithful to his word. If he spared not his own Son, how shall he not with him freely give us all things? If God gives us strength in our souls, to bear the burdens, resist the temptations, and to do the duties of an afflicted state, if he strengthens us to keep hold of himself by faith, and to wait with patience for the event, we are bound to be thankful.I will praise thee with my whole heart - Reserving nothing m my heart to give to idols or to other gods. All that constitutes praise to God as God, he would address to him alone. He would use no language, and cherish no feeling, which implied a belief that there was any other God; he would indulge in no attachment which would be inconsistent with supreme attachment to God, or which would tend to draw away his affections from him. See the notes at Psalm 9:1.

Before the gods will I sing praise unto thee - The idols; all idols; in preference to them all. This does not mean that he would do this in the presence of other gods; but that Yahweh should be acknowledged to be God in preference to any or all of them.


Ps 138:1-8. David thanks God for His benefits, and anticipating a wider extension of God's glory by His means, assures himself of His continued presence and faithfulness.

1. I will praise thee with my whole heart—(Compare Ps 9:1).

before the gods—whether angels (Ps 8:5); or princes (Ex 21:6; Ps 82:6); or idols (Ps 97:7); denotes a readiness to worship the true God alone, and a contempt of all other objects of worship.

1 I will praise thee with my whole heart - before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.

2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

3 In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.

Psalm 138:1

"I will praise thee with my whole heart." His mind is so taken up with God that he does not mention his name, to him there is no other God, and Jehovah is so perfectly realized and so intimately known, that the Psalmist, in addressing him, no more thinks of mentioning his name than we should do if we were speaking to a father or a friend. He sees God with his mind's eye, and simply addresses him with the pronoun "thee." He is resolved to praise the Lord, and to do it with the whole force of his life, even with his whole heart. He would not submit to act as one under restraint, because of the opinions of others; but in the presence of the opponents of the living God he would be as hearty in worship as if all were friends and would cheerfully unite with him. If others do not praise the Lord, there is all the more reason why we should do so, and should do so with enthusiastic eagerness. We need a broken heart to mourn our own sins, but a whole heart to praise the Lord's perfections. If ever our heart is whole and wholly occupied with one thing, it should be when we are praising the Lord. "Before the gods will I sing praise unto thee." Why should these idols rob Jehovah of his praises? The Psalmist will not for a moment suspend his songs because there are images before him, and their foolish worshippers might not approve of his music. I believe David referred to the false gods of the neighbouring nations, and the deities of the surviving Canaanites. He was not pleased that such gods were set up; but he intended to express at once his contempt of them, and his own absorption in the worship of the living Jehovah by continuing most earnestly to sing wherever he might be. It would be paying these dead idols too much respect to cease singing because they were perched aloft. In these days when new religions are daily excogitated, and new gods are set up, it is well to know how to act. Bitterness is forbidden, and controversy is apt to advertise the heresy; the very best method is to go on personally worshipping the Lord with unvarying zeal, singing with heart and voice his royal praises. Do they deny the Divinity of our Lord? Let us the more fervently adore him. Do they despise the atonement? Let us the more constantly proclaim it. Had half the time spent in councils and controversies been given to praising the Lord, the church would have been far sounder and stronger than she is at this day. The Hallelujah Legion will win the day. Praising and singing are our armour against the idolatries of heresy, our comfort under the depression caused by insolent attacks upon the truth, and our weapons for defending the gospel. Faith when displayed in cheerful courage, has about it a sacred contagion: others learn to believe in the Most High when they see his servant

"Calm 'mid the bewildering cry,

Confident of victory."

Psalm 138:2

"I will worship toward thy holy temple," or the place of God's dwelling, where the ark abode. He would worship God in God's own way. The Lord had ordained a centre of unity, a place of sacrifice, a house of his indwelling; and David accepted the way of worship enjoined by revelation. Even so, the true-hearted believer of these days must not fall into the will-worship of superstition, or the wild worship of scepticism, but reverently worship as the Lord himself prescribes. The idol gods had their temples; but David averts his glance from them, and looks earnestly to the spot chosen of the Lord for his own sanctuary. We are not only to adore the true God, but to do so in his own appointed way: the Jew looked to the temple, we are to look to Jesus, the living temple of the Godhead. "And praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth." Praise would be the main part of David's worship; the name or character of God the great object of his song; and the special point of his praise the grace and truth which shone so conspicuously in that name. The person of Jesus is the temple of the Godhead, and therein we behold the glory of the Father, "full of grace and truth." It is upon these two points that the name of Jehovah is at this time assailed - his grace and his truth. He is said to be too stern, too terrible, and therefore "modern thought" displaces the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and sets up an effeminate deity of its own making. As for us, we firmly believe that God is love, and that in the summing up of all things it will be seen that hell itself is not inconsistent with the beneficence of Jehovah, but is, indeed, a necessary part of his moral government now that sin has intruded into the universe. True believers hear the thunders of his justice, and yet they do not doubt his lovingkindness. Especially do we delight in God's great love to his own elect, such as he showed to Israel as a race, and more especially to David and his seed when he entered into covenant with him. Concerning this there is abundant room for praise. But not only do men attack the lovingkindness of God, but the truth of God is at this time assailed on all sides; some doubt the truth of the inspired record as to its histories, others challenge the doctrines, many sneer at the prophecies; in fact, the infallible word of the Lord is at this time treated as if it were the writing of imposters, and only worthy to be carped at. The swine are trampling on the pearls at this time, and nothing restrains them; nevertheless, the pearls are pearls still, and shall yet shine about our Monarch's brow. We sing the lovingkindness and truth of the God of the Old Testament, - "the God of the whole earth shall he be called." David before the false gods first sang, then worshipped, and then proclaimed the grace and truth of Jehovah; let us do the same before the idols of the New Theology.

"For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." The word of promise made to David was in his eyes more glorious than all else that he had seen of the Most High. Revelation excels creation in the clearness, definiteness, and fulness of its teaching. The name of the Lord in nature is not so easily read as in the Scriptures, which are a revelation in human language, specially adapted to the human mind, treating of human need, and of a Saviour who appeared in human nature to redeem humanity. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the divine word will not pass away, and in this respect especially it has a pre-eminence over every other form of manifestation. Moreover, the Lord lays all the rest of his name under tribute to his word: his wisdom, power, love, and all his other attributes combine to carry out his word. It is his word which creates, sustains, quickens, enlightens, and comforts. As a word of command it is supreme; and in the person of the incarnate Word it is set above all the works of God's hands. The sentence in the text is wonderfully full of meaning. We have collected a vast mass of literature upon it, but space will not allow us to put it all into our notes. Let us adore the Lord who has spoken to us by his word, and by his Son; and in the presence of unbelievers let us both praise his holy name and extol his holy word.

Psalm 138:3

"In the day when I cried thou answeredst me." No proof is so convincing as that of experience. No man doubts the power of prayer after he has received an answer of peace to his supplication. It is the distinguishing mark of the true and living God that he hears the pleadings of his people, and answers them; the gods hear not and answer not, but Jehovah's memorial is - "the God that heareth prayer." There was some special day in which David cried more vehemently than usual; he was weak, wounded, worried, and his heart was wearied; then like a child he "cried," - cried unto his Father. It was a bitter, earnest, eager prayer, as natural and as plaintive as the cry of a babe. The Lord answered it; but what answer can there be to a cry? - to a mere inarticulate wail of grief? Our heavenly Father is able to interpret tears, and cries, and he replies to their inner sense in such a way as fully meets the case. The answer came in the same day as the cry ascended: so speedily does prayer rise to heaven, so quickly does mercy return to earth. The statement of this sentence is one which all believers can make, and as they can substantiate it with many facts, they ought boldly to publish it, for it is greatly to God's glory. Well might the Psalmist say, "I will worship" when he felt bound to say "thou answeredst me." Well might he glory before the idols and their worshippers when he had answers to prayer to look back upon. This also is our defence against modern heresies: we cannot forsake the Lord, for he has heard our prayers.

"And strengthenedst me with strength in my soul." This was a true answer to his prayer. If the burden was not removed, yet strength was given wherewith to bear it, and this is an equally effective method of help. It may not be best for us that the trial should come to an end; it may be far more to our advantage that by its pressure we should learn patience. Sweet are the uses of adversity, and our prudent Father in heaven will not deprive us of those benefits. Strength imparted to the soul is an inestimable boon; it means courage, fortitude, assurance, heroism. By his word and Spirit the Lord can make the trembler brave, the sick whole, the weary bright. This soul-might will continue: the man having been strengthened for one emergency remains vigorous for life, and is prepared for all future labours and sufferings; unless, indeed, he throw away his force by unbelief, or pride, or some other sin. When God strengthens, none can weaken. Then is our soul strong indeed when the Lord infuses might into us. THE ARGUMENT

This is a Psalm of thanksgiving to God for those great deliverances which he had granted to David from Saul and other enemies; by the remembrance whereof David encourageth himself to trust in God in all him future difficulties.

David praiseth God for his goodness and truth showed to him, and foretelleth that the kings of this earth shall also praise him, Psalm 138:1-6, and professeth the fruit of his trusting in God in the midst of troubles, Psalm 138:7,8.


1. Before the angels, who were represented by the cherubims upon the ark, who are called gods, Psalm 8:5 97:7, compared with Hebrews 1:6 2:7, who also are present in the congregations of God’s people, 1 Corinthians 11:10. Or rather,

2. Before kings and princes, by comparing this with Psalm 138:4, All kings (provoked by my example) shall praise thee; and with Psalm 119:46, I will speak of thy testimonies before kings. And these are most commonly called gods in Scripture, as Exodus 21:6 22:9,28, compared with Deu 19:17. Besides, David mentions this as something singular and extraordinary, and designed by him; whereas the doing of this before the angels is common to all, and is unavoidably necessary.

I will praise thee with my whole heart,.... Cordially and sincerely, in the uprightness and integrity of his heart; which denotes not the perfection of his service, but the sincerity of it; his heart was in it, and his whole heart; all the powers and faculties of his soul were engaged in it, being deeply sensible of the great favours and high honours bestowed upon him; and though the object of praise, to whom he was obliged for them, is not so fully expressed; yet is easily understood to be Jehovah, the Being of beings, the Father of mercies, even Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, and especially the Messiah; see Psalm 111:1;

before the gods will I sing praise unto thee; before the princes, as Jarchi; before the kings, as the Syriac version; with which agrees Psalm 119:46; and who would join therein, Psalm 138:4; or before the judges, as the Targum, Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech; or civil magistrates, who are sometimes called gods, Psalm 82:1; and they are the powers ordained of God, and represent him on earth; or the sanhedrim, as the Midrash; or before the gods of the Gentiles, those fictitious deities, above whom Jehovah is; and over whom the psalmist triumphs, having conquered the nations where they were worshipped; and therefore in their presence, and notwithstanding them, or in opposition to them, praised the Lord; see Psalm 18:49; or rather before the ark, the symbol of the presence of the true God; or, as Gussetius (l) interprets it, "before thee, O God, will I sing praise"; or I will sing praise to thee, the Son the Messiah, one divine Person before another; the Son before God the Father, and it may be added before God the Holy Spirit, the two other divine Persons; the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, render it, "before the angels", who are sometimes called gods, Psalm 8:5; and who attend the assemblies of the saints and churches of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:10.

(l) Comment. Ebr. p. 50.

<<A Psalm of David.>> I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the {a} gods will I sing praise unto thee.

(a) Even in the presence of angels and of them who have authority among men.

1. I will give thanks unto thee with my whole heart] Cp. Psalm 9:1. There is no need for the Psalmist to mention the name of Him Whom he addresses. The Ancient Versions, however, insert O Lord, after thee, and the P.B.V. follows them.

before the gods] The Psalmist stands face to face with the might of the heathen world, apparently under the patronage and protection of powerful gods, but the sight does not shake his fidelity to Jehovah. It is not to be supposed that he would have admitted that these gods had a real existence; he speaks of them only as they existed in the minds of their worshippers; practically it is before those worshippers that he proclaims his faith. Cp. Psalm 95:3; Psalm 96:4-5. The LXX, probably fearing to seem to attribute a real existence to heathen gods, renders Elôhîm by angels (cp. Psalm 97:7); but beautiful and solemn as is the thought that the angels are spectators of man’s worship, Elôhîm can hardly bear that meaning here. The Targ. renders it judges, the Syr. kings, giving a good sense (cp. Psalm 119:46); but though the title Elôhîm is applied to judges in Psalm 82:1; Psalm 82:6, where they are spoken of as representatives of God, there would be no special fitness in the use of the word here.

will I sing praise] will I make melody: sing psalms of praise, as in Psalm 101:1, and elsewhere. Some texts of the LXX, and the Vulg., add because thou hast heard the words of my mouth after the first line, others at the end of the verse. It is a gloss suggested by Psalm 138:4.

2 a. A reminiscence of Psalm 5:7.

and give thanks unto thy name … for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name] By the accomplishment of His promises Jehovah has surpassed all previous revelations of Himself. The expression, however, is a strange one; possibly thy word is a gloss, and we should read thou hast magnified thy name above all things[85]. The P.B.V., thou hast magnified thy name and thy word above all things (derived from Münster, ‘Magnificasti supra omnia nomen tuum et eloquium tuum’) involves a harsh asyndeton.

[85] The reading of the Massora, כֹּל־ not כָּל־, is a reminiscence of this construction of the sentence. The Maqqçph should be omitted.

1–3. Thanksgiving for Jehovah’s manifestation of His lovingkindness and truth in the fulfilment of His promises.

Verse 1. - I will praise thee with my whole heart (comp. Psalm 9:1; Psalm 111:1). Before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. Some suppose the expression, "before the gods," to mean "before the great ones of the earth," and quote Psalm 119:46 as parallel. Others think that the imaginary vain gods of the heathen are intended. Psalm 138:1The poet will give thanks to Him, whom he means without mentioning Him by name, for His mercy, i.e., His anticipating, condescending love, and for His truth, i.e., truthfulness and faithfulness, and more definitely for having magnified His promise (אמרה) above all His Name, i.e., that He has given a promise which infinitely surpasses everything by which He has hitherto established a name and memorial for Himself (על־כּל־שׁמך, with ō instead of ŏ, an anomaly that is noted by the Masora, vid., Baer's Psalterium, p. 133). If the promise by the mouth of Nathan (2 Samuel 7) is meant, then we may compare 2 Samuel 7:21. גּדל, גּדול, גּדלּה are repeated in that promise and its echo coming from the heart of David so frequently, that this הגדּלתּ seems like a hint pointing to that history, which is one of the most important crises in the history of salvation. The expression נגד אלהים also becomes intelligible from this history. Ewald renders it: "in the presence of God!" which is surely meant to say: in the holy place (De Wette, Olshausen). But "before God will I sing praise to Thee (O God!)" - what a jumble! The lxx renders ἐναντίον ἀγγέλων, which is in itself admissible and full of meaning,

(Note: Bellarmine: Scio me psallentem tibi ab angelis, qui tibi assistunt, videri et attendi et ideo ita considerate me geram in psallendo, ut qui intelligam, in quo theatro consistam.)

but without coherence in the context of the Psalm, and also is to be rejected because it is on the whole very questionable whether the Old Testament language uses אלהים thus, without anything further to define it, in the sense of "angels." It might be more readily rendered "in the presence of the gods," viz., of the gods of the peoples (Hengstenberg, Hupfeld, and Hitzig); but in order to be understood of gods which are only seemingly such, it would require some addition. Whereas אלהים can without any addition denote the magisterial possessors of the dignity that is the type of the divine, as follows from Psalm 82:1 (cf. Psalm 45:7) in spite of Knobel, Graf, and Hupfeld; and thus, too (cf. נגד מלכים in Psalm 119:46), we understand it here, with Rashi, Aben-Ezra, Kimchi, Falminius, Bucer, Clericus, and others. What is meant are "the great who are in the earth," 2 Samuel 7:9, with whom David, inasmuch as he became king from being a shepherd, is ranked, and above whom he has been lifted up by the promise of an eternal kingship. Before these earthly "gods" will David praise the God of the promise; they shall hear for their salutary confusion, for their willing rendering of homage, that God hath made him "the highest with respect to the kings of the earth" (Psalm 89:28).

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