Psalm 138:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 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 loving kindness 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 impostors, 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 preeminence 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.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 2. I will worship toward thy holy temple. The holy temple was a type and figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we find Daniel opening his windows toward the temple, where he prayed three times a day; and we find Jonah saying, "Yet will I look again toward thy holy temple." So looking to Jesus, he is our temple. There is no acceptable worship except through him; but we can offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Then, set the Lord Jesus Christ before your eyes, that you may worship God and draw near to the footstool of mercy through him, that you may offer an acceptable sacrifice, and praise his name for his lovingkindness and for his truth. -- Joseph C. Philpot, 1802-1869.

Verse 2. Thy holy temple. This Psalm is entitled "a Psalm of David", and Calvin considers him to be its author agreeably to the title; but the mention of "the temple" in this verse seems to render such an opinion doubtful. If, however, we translate this word by "mansion", which is the proper rendering of the original -- the mansion of thy sanctity, -- this objection to its composition by David falls to the ground. --James Anderson's Note to Calvin in loc.

Verse 2. I will...praise thy name for thy lovingkindness. There are two beautiful thoughts brought out here; one is, "God's condescension in thought"; the other, "his tenderness in action." These are both included in "loving kindness." And both of these are shown by God to his own people. He humbleth himself to behold the things of the children of men; he condescends to men of low estate. Of the blessed Jesus it is said, that "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich": 2 Corinthians 8:9 . Who can tell the depths to which God condescends in loving thought? We are told that the very hairs of our head are all numbered; and if the hairs of our head, then surely all else beside. God, as the Heavenly Father, takes an interest in everything about his people; he takes this interest in matters which they think beneath his notice, or of which they, from their ignorance, do not know the importance. The mother may draw whole stores of comfort from a realization of the condescending thoughtfulness of God. He will be interested about her babe; if she commit it to him, he who made the universe will, with his infinite mind, think upon her cradle and the helpless creature that is rocked to sleep therein. The sick man may draw whole stores of comfort from the same source, for he can believe the ONE by whom the body was fearfully and wonderfully made will think over the sufferings of that body, and alleviate them, or give strength for the endurance of them if they must be borne. Condescension of thought marks all the dealings of God with his people. And hard following upon it comes tenderness in action. Now this "tenderness in action" is a great part of the lovingkindness of God; it is meet that a thoughtful mind and tender hand should go together in the perfection of love. God is not only energetic, but tender also in action; he is the God of the dew drops, as well as the God of the thunder showers; the God of the tender grass blade, as much as of the mountain oak. We read of great machines, which are able to crush iron bars, and yet they can touch so gently as not to break the shell of the smallest egg; as it is with them, so is it with the hand of the Most High; he can crush a world, and yet bind up a wound. And great need have we of tenderness in our low estate; a little thing would crush us: we have such bruised and feeble souls, that unless we had One who would deal tenderly with us we must soon be destroyed. --Philip Bennett Power, in "The I Wills' of the Psalms", 1861.

Verse 2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. His "word" being here annexed to "lovingkindness and truth", must needs be that part of his word to which these two are applicable, i.e., his promise, the matter whereof is mercy or lovingkindness, and in the performance of which is truth or fidelity. And then to "magnify" this "word" of promise seems to signify two things; 1, the making very great and excellent promises, and then, 2, the performing them most punctually; and the doing it above all his name is promising and performing most superlative mercies above all that is famed or spoken or believed of God. Then thus it will run; I will worship, etc., "and praise thy name above thy lovingkindness and above thy truth"; i.e., it will be too low, too short a compilation, to call thee merciful or veracious, or style thee after any other of thy attributes; thou art all these, and more than so, "thou hast magnified thy word", given and performed most glorious promises, "above all thy name", above all that men have apprehended or spoken of thee.

This verse and Psalm may easily be interpreted of God's mercies in Christ, so far above what could be famed, or said, or believed, or apprehended of him. -- Condensed from H. Hammond.

Verse 2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. Beyond all question there are higher and clearer manifestations of himself, of his being, of his perfection, of his purposes in the volume of revelation, than any which his works have disclosed or can disclose. There are very many points in relation to God, of the highest interest to mankind, on which the disclosures of science shed no light; there are many things which it is desirable for man to know, which cannot be learned in the schools of philosophy; there are consolations which man needs in a world of trouble which cannot be found in nature; there is especially a knowledge of the method by which sin may be pardoned, and the soul saved, which, can never be disclosed by the blowpipe, the telescope, or the microscope. These things, if learned at all, must be learned from revelation, and these are of more importance to man as a traveller to another world than all the learning which can be acquired in the schools of philosophy -- valuable as that learning is. --Albert Barnes.

Verse 2. For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name, etc. This is a dark sentence at the first view, but as a judicious expositor upon the place well observes, the words may be thus read, and will better agree with the Hebrew; "thou hast magnified thy name above all things, in thy word", that is, in fulfilling thy word thou hast magnified thy name above all things, in that thou hast fulfilled thy word. What thou freely promisedst, thou hast faithfully performed; what thou hast spoken with thy mouth thou hast fulfilled with thy hand; for which thy name is wonderfully to be magnified. --James Nalton, 1664.

Verse 2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. Every creature bears the name of God; but in his word and truth therein contained it is written at length, and therefore he is more choice of this than of all his other works; he cares not much what becomes of the world and all in it, so that he keeps his word, and saves his truth. Ere long we shall see the world in flames; the heavens and earth shall pass away, "but the word of the Lord endures for ever." When God will, he can make more such worlds as this; but he cannot make another truth, and therefore he will not lose one jot thereof. Satan, knowing this, sets all his wits to work to deface this and disfigure it by unsound doctrine. The word is the glass in which we see God, and seeing him are changed into his likeness by his Spirit. If this glass be cracked, then the conceptions we have of God will misrepresent him unto us; whereas the word, in its native clearness, sets him out in all his glory unto our eye. -- William Gurnall.

Verse 2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. Thou hast bestowed the promise of perpetuity to my house and to my kingdom, which rises in grandeur and goodness above all thy past manifestations of thyself in behalf of thy people ( 2 Samuel 7:10 12- 13 15-16 7:21-22 2Sa 24-26 29; 2 Samuel 7:21 especially, "For thy Word's sake ... hast thou done all these great things"; 2 Samuel 7:26 , "And let thy name be magnified for ever" -- an undesigned coincidence of language between the history and the Psalm). In the Messiah alone the greatness of the promise finds, and shall hereafter more fully find, its realization for Israel and the whole world. --Andrew Robert Fausset.

Verse 2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. God has sent his word to us,

  1. As a mirror, to reflect his glory. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork"; from them may his eternal power and Godhead be clearly seen. Psalms 19:1 Psalms 19:3-4 . In his providential dealings, also, is much of his wisdom and goodness exhibited. But of his perfections, generally, we can form no idea from these things; of his purposes we can know nothing. The state of the Heathen world clearly attests this; for they behold the wonders of Creation and Providence, as well as we: "There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world": Psalms 19:3-4 . But in the sacred volume all the glory of the Godhead shines: there we are admitted, so to speak, even to the council chamber of the Most High; to hear the covenant entered into between the Father and the Son; the Father engaging to give to him a seed, whom he should have for his inheritance, if he, on his part, would "make his soul an offering for their sins", and, in their nature, expiate the guilt of their iniquities. This mysterious transaction having taken place in the incarnation and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold all the perfections of God united and harmonizing in a way that they never did, or could, by any other means: we see justice more inexorable, than if it had executed vengeance on the whole human race; and mercy more abundant, than if it had spared the human race without any such atonement. There, as it is well expressed, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other": Psalms 85:10 . Of this great mystery we find not a trace in the whole creation besides; but in the word it is reflected, as in a mirror ( 2 Corinthians 3:18 ); and it shines so brightly, that the very angels around the throne are made wiser by the revelation of it to the Church: Ephesians 3:10 .
  2. As a standard, to which everything may be referred. Of God's will we know nothing, but from the word: "we know neither good nor evil from all that is before us." What God requires of us, nothing in Creation or Providence can inform us: what he will do for us, we cannot ascertain: how he will deal with us, we cannot ascertain. But, in the sacred volume, all is written as with a sunbeam. There is nothing which God expects us to do for him, which is not there most explicitly declared: nothing which he engages to do for us, that does not form the subject of a distinct promise. The whole of his procedure in the day of judgment is there laid open: the laws by which we shall be judged: the manner in which the testimony, whether against us or in our favour, shall be produced; the grounds on which the sentence of condemnation or acquittal shall be passed; yea, the very state to which every person, either as acquitted or condemned, shall be consigned; all is so clearly made known, that every person, who will judge himself with candour now, may assuredly anticipate his fate. There is nothing left to conjecture. Every man has a standard to which he may refer, for the rectifying of his judgment in every particular: so that nothing can be added for the instruction of our minds, or the regulation of our future expectations.
  3. As a fountain, from whence all his blessings emanate. Great blessings, beyond all doubt, flow down to us through the works of Creation and Providence: in fact, they are incessantly administering to our welfare; for "God opens his hands, and fills all things living with plenteousness." Still, however, the benefits derived from them are only temporal; whereas those which the inspired volume imparts are spiritual and eternal; from whence we derive all our knowledge of Divine truth, and all our hopes of everlasting salvation. Nor is it the knowledge only of truth that we obtain, but the operation and efficacy of it on our souls. There is in Divine truth, when applied by the Holy Spirit, a power to wound, to sanctify, to save: Psalms 19:7-11 . When it comes to the soul with power, the stoutest heart in the universe is made to tremble: when it is poured out as balm, the most afflicted creature under heaven is made to leap for joy. Look over the face of the globe, and see how many, who were once under the unrestrained dominion of sin, are now transformed into the image of their God. And then ascend to heaven, and behold the myriads of the redeemed around the throne of God, uniting their hallelujahs to God and to the Lamb: to this state were they all brought by that blessed word, which alone could ever prevail for so great a work. Thus it is that God has magnified his word; and thus it is that he will magnify it, to the end of time; yea, through eternity will it be acknowledged as the one source of all blessings that shall ever be enjoyed. --Charles Simeon, in Horae Homileticae.

Verse 2. For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. This is one of those expressions of Scripture that seem so comprehensive, and yet so amazing. To my mind it is one of the most remarkable expressions in the whole book of God. "Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." The name of God includes all the perfections of God; everything that God is, and which God has revealed himself as having -- his justice, majesty, holiness, greatness, and glory, and whatever he is in himself, that is God's name. And yet he has "magnified" something "above his name" -- his word -- his truth. This may refer to the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, who was called "the Word." "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one": 1 John 5:7 , "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God": John 1:1 . You may take the words either as meaning that God has magnified his Word, his eternal Son -- above all his great name, that is, he has set Jesus on high above all the other perfections of his majesty; or take it as meaning his written word, which is written in the sacred Scriptures. So, in that case, not only the Incarnate Word in the person of Jesus; but also the written word in the Scriptures of truth. He has magnified it above all his name in the fulfilment of it: God's faithfulness being so dear to him, he has exalted his faithfulness above all his other perfections. We see this in nature. Here is a man so to be depended upon, so faithful to his word, that he will sacrifice anything sooner than depart from it: that man will give up his property, or life itself, rather than forfeit his word. So God has spoken of magnifying his word above all his name. He would sooner allow all his other perfections to come to naught, than for his faithfulness to fail. He has so magnified his faithfulness, that his love, his mercy, his grace, would all sooner fail than his faithfulness -- the word of his mouth and what he has revealed in the Scripture. What a firm salvation, then, is ours, which rests upon his word, when God has magnified that word above all his name! What volumes of blessedness and truth are contained therein! so that, if God has revealed his truth to your soul, and given you faith to anchor in the world of promise, sooner than that should fail, he would suffer the loss of all; for he has magnified his word above all his name. --Joseph C. Philpot.

Verse 2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. God has a greater regard unto the words of his mouth, than to the works of his hand: heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or tittle of what he hath spoken shall never fall to the ground. Some do understand this of Christ the essential Word, in whom he has set his name, and whom he has so highly exalted, that he has given him "a name above every name." -- Ebenezer Erskine, 1680-1754.

Verse 2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. Meaning that his Word or promise shall have, as it were, and exercise a kind of sovereignty over all his prerogatives and attributes, wisdom, justice, power, etc. So that men need not fear that any of them shall at any time, or in any case whatsoever, move in the least contrariety thereunto. -- John Goodwin, 1593-1665.

Verse 2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. It may be when there are some extraordinary works of God in the world, thunder and lightning, etc., we are ready to be afraid, and oh! the great God that doth appear in these great works! Were our hearts as they ought to be when we read the Word, we would tremble at that more than at any manifestation of God since the world began in all his works; and if so be thou dost not see more of the glory of God in his Word than in his works, it is because thou hast little light in thee. --Jeremiah Burroughs, 1599-1646.

Verse 2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." But mightier far is the word by which a lost world is redeemed. This is the "word" that he hath "magnified above all his name", as displaying at once the exceeding greatness of his power, the resources of his manifold wisdom, and the blended glories of holiness and love. --John Lillie.

Verse 2. It is not with the truth merely excogitated, but with the truth expressed, that we have any concern; not with the truth as seen by our inspired teacher, but with the truth as by him spoken to us. It is not enough that the Spirit hath made him to see it aright -- this is not enough if he have not also made him to speak it aright. A pure influx into the mind of an apostle is no sufficient guarantee for the instruction of the world, unless there be a pure afflux also; for not the doctrine that has flowed in, but the doctrine that has flowed out, is truly all that we have to do with. Accordingly, it is to the doctrine in afflux, that is to the word, that we are bidden to yield ourselves. It is the word that is a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path; it is his word that God hath exalted above all his name; it is the word that he hath settled fast in heaven, and given to it a stability surer and more lasting than to the ordinances of nature. We can take no cognizance of the doctrine that is conveyed from heaven to earth, when it has only come the length of excogitation in the mind of an apostle; and it is not till brought the farther length of expression, either by speech or by writing, that it comes into contact with us. In short our immediate concern is with, not what apostles conceive inwardly, but what they bring forth outwardly -- not with the schemes or the systems which they have been made to apprehend, but with the books which they have written; and had the whole force and effect of this observation been sufficiently pondered, we feel persuaded that the advocates of a mitigated inspiration would not have dissevered, as they have done, the inspiration of sentiment from the inspiration of language. --Thomas Chalmers.

Verse 2. "Thy word", or, "Thy promise." So great are God's promises, and so faithful and complete is his performance of them, as even to surpass the expectations which the greatness of his name has excited. --Annotated Paragraph Bible.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 2. The Christward position.

  1. Worship and praise are to be blended.
  2. They are to be presented with an eye to God in Christ, for he is the temple: the place of divine indwelling, sacrifice, intercession, priesthood, oracle, and manifestation.

Verse 2. (first clause). --

  1. The soul's noblest attitude: "Toward thy temple."
  2. The soul's noblest exercise: "worship", "praise."

--W.W.

Verse 2.

  1. The worshipper's contemplation. Gaze fixed on Holy Temple. Material temple not yet built. Christ the sanctuary. Hebrews 8:2 All worship through him. Eye of worshippers fixed on him.
  2. The worshipper's song. Love and truth. Note the combination. Truth by Moses. Grace and truth Jesus Christ.
  3. The worshipper's argument. Because Christ "The Word" is the embodiment and most glorious manifestation of God. Hebrews 1:2-3 .

--Archibald G. Brown.

Read Psalm 138:2