Psalm 138


This psalm was written by David, and most commentators believe it was written sometime after the Babylonian exile.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This is the first of a group of eight psalms that are ascribed to David in the superscriptions, and this writer demands something more reliable than the speculations and guesses of critics as a reason for denying their accuracy.’

Leupold, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Up to this point, we have found the inscriptions in the Hebrew text to be at least defensible.’

There are some writers who take the word ‘temple’, Psalms 138:2, as a reference to that of Solomon.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘In this passage, it undoubtedly refers to the tabernacle.’


‘Of David.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading simply tells us that this is a psalm of David. Psalms 138-145 are all accredited to David.

‘I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame. When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD, when they hear what you have decreed. May they sing of the ways of the LORD, for the glory of the LORD is great. Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.’ Psalm 138:1-8

David begins by proclaiming that he will praise the LORD with all his heart, that is, with everything he’s got, Psalm 9:1. These are the words of a man who is totally given themselves over to the total worship of God, John 4:24.

Although it would be difficult to understand why David would sing God’s praises before the ‘gods’, he could be referring to those who had created gods after their own image, or to those who had set themselves up as gods among men.

David says he will bow down toward God’s holy temple, that is, he would bow down and pray facing the temple of God, 2 Chronicles 6:20 / Psalm 5:7 / Daniel 6:10.

Since David wasn’t around to see the temple this leads some to think that it was written by someone else or David is referring to the tabernacle.

To the Jews, the temple was the representation of God among His people Israel in their promised land and so, in their worship, they paid homage to God, as well as maintained their nationalism by praying toward the temple in Jerusalem.

David will praise God for His unfailing love and faithfulness, that is, love and faithfulness were what David focused on when he praised God.

God’s love and faithfulness are exalted and surpass His fame by His decree, that is, in and through His word, Isaiah 42:21 / Psalm 19:1-14.

The Name and word of God are inseparable, Jesus came in the name of God but was the revealed word of God, John 1:1-14. In other words, with the Name of God comes His word, both of which are exalted above all things.

David could praise God because when he cried out to God, He answered him and when God answered his prayer, God blessed him with boldness and strength.

Although David was a king, he looked forward to the time when all the kings of the earth would praise the LORD, after hearing God’s word being proclaimed, Psalm 68:31-32 / Isaiah 49:23. Those same kings would also sing the ways of the LORD when we come to understand the greatness of God’s glory.

Although God is great and exalted, He still has a special place for those who are lowly. It’s God’s nature and it should be the nature of His children to be concerned about the lowly in society, Proverbs 3:34 / James 4:6 / 1 Peter 5:5.

The lofty, that is, the proud, are those who have no regard for the lowly, it’s those people whom God sees from afar.

Because of the greatness of God and His concern for the lowly in society, David was confident that God would preserve his life, despite the troubles he faced, he was confident that God would save him with His right hand from his angry foes. In other words, he was confident that God would not only help him through his troubles but sustain his life.

David is also confident that the LORD will vindicate him, that is, God has plans for David, Philemon 1:6. Because God’s love endures forever, David appeals to that love and asks God not to abandon the works of His hands.

In other words, it was God who created David and He would abandon him in the midst of his troubles, Hebrews 13:5.


David began this psalm by declaring that he would praise the LORD, with all of his heart. It should be the desire of all Christians to praise the LORD wholeheartedly, but how can we do that?

1. To praise the LORD wholeheartedly we need to love Him with everything we’ve got, Luke 10:27.

2. To praise the LORD wholeheartedly we need to give Him our undivided attention, Matthew 6:24.

3. To praise the LORD wholeheartedly we need to be obedient to His commands, 1 John 5:3.

4. To praise the LORD wholeheartedly we need to concentrate on Christ and Christ alone, Hebrews 12:2.

Go To Psalm 139