Psalm 138: A Psalm of Open Worship

Do me a favor and please read Psalm 138.

We are now in the homestretch of the psalms – and so these next 8 psalms (138-145) are considered “Davidical psalms” as the belief is that David wrote them. When we look at the whole of them we don’t really find any cohesive thought for the group but we don’t really need them to be either. They simply are psalms from a believer and reflect their thoughts, praises, and needs. So pretty much isn’t that all of our life? (that’s a rhetorical question)

So this psalm specifically has David singing a psalm of praise to God for not only what he has done but for the mere fact that God has EXCEEDED anything David could ever think of. And as we see in verse 3 not only has God responded to David’s calling of him – but he did it with such power, strength, and swiftness that the strength of his soul was increased. And so because of all of this he praises God. But not only does he praise God he also calls out in supplication, a request if you will, that all the kings of the earth praise God. And so he ends with coming back to his personal praise as the reason all the kings of the earth should praise God. So David goes from the personal to the corporate.

But that’s not where I am struck and challenged. Verses 1-2a have really sunk a hook in my mouth.

  • “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…”

Maybe it’s me but so much of my own praise is either done in the quietness of self (so at home, in the car, in my heart and head), in the gathering of my brothers and sisters on Sunday mornings (so a church service), or while/when I meet with people in my work (as a pastor). But this praise from David is none of those. When he speaks of the “gods” in verse one this could be 1 of 2 things (or both for that matter): David is referring to the pagan gods of the time or it may refer to human leaders that were being worshipped. Either way David is declaring that nothing will be worshipped but the one true Living God. Now that shouldn’t “hook” any of us because we already declare that. We do not worship pagan gods nor do we worship people and leaders. But the “hook” is what David does in RESPONSE to the worship of gods around him in that he personally responds by bowing toward God’s holy temple. David is making an outright statement against all gods that aren’t God. And not only is he making a statement but it’s a physical action that he partakes in when those very things happen. Now whether or not David is stating that he automatically bows toward God when John Smith does something of a pagan nature – the words are still there and the challenge is still before us. When anything anti-God happens David turns around and worships God. So it’s not only a response to the sins of others…it’s a direct smack-in-the-face of the pagan worshipper for David wants nothing to do with whatever they have said or done.

And that has challenged me. I do not participate in the worship of pagan Gods. I do not bow down to them, talk to them, or do anything to give them any piece of my heart, my love, or my worship. But what do I do when SOMEONE ELSE does? Do I ignore them? Do I speak softly to myself against them? Do I chalk it up to “religious freedom” that we hold so tightly to (and which, in truth, I’m thankful for and yet heart-broken for)? What do I do, What do YOU do, when religious freedom/practice is before you?

David challenges us to respond with outright bowing down and worshipping God. Not as an insult, not as a “take this!” action, but because he wants to, needs to, and in a way (as we see in verses 5-8) this is a form of sharing who God is. As David declares that he desires the kings of the earth to praise God – this is an easy way to share who God is and why you, and others, should praise him. Because you KNOW that if you quickly respond in worship to God because John Smith did _______ then that’s going to spark questions which lead to conversations which then lead to sharing about God which then leads to more questions and sharing of one’s faith. It’s basic sharing 101.

Sharing the Good News of God’s love, poured out through Jesus Christ and given to us by the Holy Spirit, is hard – and not everyone is good or comfortable doing it. I can have a conversation with you about Jesus but it is really hard to just walk up to you and have that conversation by saying, “Do you know Jesus?” But what I can do, rather easily, is live my life in response to God’s love. I can understand and realize that all areas of my life have been impacted by Christ. I can declare that no matter what comes at me, what I see or hear, what I do or say, I will praise and worship God. And that means that when someone ELSE does something that is anti-God then I will respond by worshipping God.

Does our response to pagan worship even the odds as if the “scales of worship” is balanced every time we respond with worshipping God when pagan worship takes place? No. God doesn’t need us to “even the odds” or “balance the scales of worship.” God doesn’t need us to do anything like that. But I think in a way WE become stronger in our faith when our response to outside “anti-God” things happen. The more we work that “muscle” of response the more we become stronger in our walk. I also feel that the more people see Christians practicing their belief, and doing so without any constraints, the more the devil gets kicked to the curb. Because, again, we become stronger in our walk, in our faith, and in our practice and that doesn’t make Satan too happy. I also wholeheartedly believe that the more “outward expression” of my faith I practice the more conversations will come up with non-believers about why I do what I do, what it means, and who God is.

So bow away! Sing away! Do whatever you do to God in not only the confines of your home, your church, your car, and your self…but out there in the world and in the open for all to see! Because Lord knows this broken world simply needs more TRUE and open worship of the ONLY God.

2 thoughts on “Psalm 138: A Psalm of Open Worship

  1. Interesting (and challenging) take on the “before the gods” of this Psalm.

    I’d suggest that our public worship gatherings are also “before the gods” of this world. While it’s relatively safe in our society, I think it’s becoming a minority practice in our increasingly secular culture. Our decision to gather to praise God is a testimony to the watching world and its gods that the Lord reigns and his kingdom is coming and, yes, even has come.


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