The Mystery of the Incarnation: Psalm 138

Psalm 138 (NIV)

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.

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Psalm 138 begins a final grouping of eight psalms by David sometimes known as the “Mini Davidic Psalter.” David’s psalms dominate the first two books of the psalms (38 of 41 in Book One and 18 of 31 in Book Two); followed by only a few Psalms of David in Books Three and Four (1 of 17 in Book Three and 2 of 17 in Book Four). Book Five includes more Psalms of David with this final eight-psalm collection, bringing back the themes introduced in earlier Davidic psalms.

This psalm celebrates how God hears our cries. David says, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life” (v. 7). The worship of the psalm centers around the remarkable fact that although God dwells in the highest heaven, he looks down and sees us and knows us. The key verse is found in verse 6: “Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly.” This is, of course, the great message of the Christian proclamation. Although God dwells in a high and holy place, he has come down to the lowest place to save us and to rescue us. In other words, God does not merely send us a message of comfort or pull some cosmic levers in the heavens that change our circumstances. God rescues us in our suffering by personally entering into the world of suffering. God rescues sinners by personally entering into a world enslaved by sin. God rescues those in pain by entering into their pain. This is the great story of the incarnation. When the psalm says, “with your right hand you save me” (v. 7), it is a picture that is ultimately fulfilled with Jesus Christ coming among us. As we learned in Psalm 98, the right hand always represents the place of power and authority, and Jesus is the One seated at the “right hand” of the Father (Matt. 22:44; Luke 22:69; Acts 5:31; 7:55–56; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 10:12).

In the gospel, Jesus, who is at the right hand of the Father, comes to that lowest place of suffering to rescue us and to redeem us for himself. Although the Lord dwells on high, he not only looks down and sees the lowly; he becomes one of the lowly. Through that great act of redemption, he has lifted the whole human race up to his glory as the healed, whole, redeemed people of God.

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