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Psalm 138

The God who fulfills his purposes

With the self-serving typically wielding power, this world is no friend to God or his upside-down ways. David knew that well, but he also knew that nothing could possibly thwart the unstoppable love of God.

A David psalm.

I extol you with all my heart, Yahveh.
I sing your openly praises before all rival gods.
2 I bow down facing your holy temple
and give thanks to your name
for your faithfulness and your unconditional love
because your promises exceed
the fame your awesome deeds have earned you.
3 On the day I called you answered me
making me bold by strengthening my soul.

4 All the kings of the earth will praise you
when they’ve heard what you’ve promised.
5 They will sing of Yahveh’s ways
for Yahveh’s glory is great.
6 Yahveh is high above all
yet his heart is always for the least and the lost
and he knows the proud and powerful from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble
you protect me from my enemies’ anger.
You stretch out your hand
and your strong right hand rescues me.
8 Yahveh will fulfil his purposes for me.
Your unconditional love
endures for ever, Yahveh.
Do not let go of the work of your hands.

Having just seen Yahveh dramatically answer his prayer, David begins by praising him before the “gods,” David’s term for all the angelic, demonic, or other supernatural creatures. None of them compared to God, who alone commands David’s allegiance. And David says his relentlessly loving God had promised to do far more than he’d done yet.

With egotistical leaders like his nemesis King Saul in mind, David then envisions the day when all of earth’s kings join in worshipping Yahveh. Exalted above all, this God hears the cry of the weak and vulnerable, as David’s recent deliverance proved. God also recognizes the proud and powerful from afar. And earth’s kings will acknowledge that his topsy-turvy values—so contrary to worldly thinking—lead to true power and glory.

Though David’s present situation is perilous, God rescues him powerfully and in person because his love is unconditional and he’s determined to fulfill his purposes for David’s life. David ends with a plea we know God will answer: that God not abandon his world or the loyal servant he made and now reshapes.

Clearly, Israel’s post-exilic community identified with everything David prays here. They were done with other gods. They’d seen through earth’s great kings. And they now earnestly looked to God to fulfill his purposes for them.

Jesus, you spurned the world’s arrogant, welcoming the poor and weak instead. Though engulfed by foes, you established your reign. Fulfill your purposes for me. Don’t give up on your work in me. Yours is the kingdom, the power, the glory. May your kingdom yet come on earth in fulness. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Yahveh will fulfil his purposes for me.
Your unconditional love endures for ever, Yahveh.
Do not let go of the work of your hands.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.