GEMS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
King David did not have a carefree life. He often wrote of sorrow, tears, and loneliness in his psalms. Those same psalms, nevertheless, reveal deep faith. Whatever the circumstances of his troubled times, however intense and prolonged, David trusted God.
David praised and thanked God in troubled times as well as on occasions of celebration. Giving thanks may be the last thing we feel like doing when something unpleasant comes our way. Focusing on how miserable we are, however, has never provided us with answers or solace, and it never will.
King David knew that the first and best response to troubled times was to worship God—particularly with giving thanks. When things are going well, we thank the Lord! When facing troubled times, we thank the Lord! David understood the value of this from what he had learned from God’s Word and his own experiences. Thankfulness begins to form when God’s people press the “pause button” and take time to remember that God’s mercy is always in force, His grace covers all, and for His children He will work all things together for their genuine good. All means all, including their poor choices.
“I will give You thanks with all my heart . . .” (NASB, here and throughout) David began Psalm 138 by giving thanks to God. Worship was not one of many compartments in his life, worship was David’s life. Everything else had its place in the context of his life of worshiping God.
“I will sing praises to You before the gods.” (verse 1) David was thinking of the idols in the pagan nations surrounding his nation, and he boldly praised God even though many around him would disapprove. False gods are still around today—things like fame, money, and power. Hostility is increasing toward those who claim allegiance to Christ. For such a time as this, we pray for the Holy Spirit to fine-tune our memories of what God in His Word has said to us and of what God has done for us. Then we can praise the Lord with lives that give thanks to Him.
In the second verse David wrote, “I will bow down . . . and give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth.”
Here, the basic meaning of lovingkindness is mercy—God’s willingness to spare us from what we deserve for sinning against Him. God hears the deepest cry of our hearts when the truth of our waywardness weighs down on us. He responds by reminding us that the ultimate truth for us, for our entire life, is His mercy.
We may be troubled when things don’t go the way we planned. But God knows what He’s doing to refine and strengthen our faith. We can grow in our appreciation for His wisdom and love by remembering that He designs all these experiences with our ultimate victory in mind. Thorns exist in the world because of sin, but God can and does use thorns in ways that bless us.
“The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, LORD, is everlasting.” (verse 8)
David wrote like this even when tears were in his eyes. Indeed, his bed was often soaked with tears. He made it through those nights trusting that the Lord would see him through it all.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me.” (verse 7)
Psalm 138 is the prescription God gives us when facing troubled times –
1. Remember how good, loving, and capable God is; and
2. Worship Him with thanksgiving for all that He has done, is doing, and will do to deliver you.
Delwyn Maas is pastor of Gift of God Lutheran Church in Mapleton, North Dakota.