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I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
Isn’t it funny the things that make us happy? It is amazing what a little warm weather, fresh air and sunshine produces in us Michiganders. Oh the praise we can heap upon the blazing sun for breaking up the bleak winter days! That is no surprise given that we were created to worship. However, we all know that summer does not last and the happiness found in it is fleeting. We will find ourselves perpetually in want if we seek our joy in anything but God. So then, what things can we stake our lives upon that will not fade away nor in the end leave us wanting more?
In Psalm 138, David points us to the two things God has made great in all the earth by setting them above all things in all creation, namely His name and His word. David can exalt in these two things along with the One True God because he has experienced the saving, redeeming grace of God in his life. We see this in two ways in this psalm. God’s word reveals His purposes. Throughout the Bible, we see a God who keeps His promises. When God speaks, we hear what He intends to do and the record of Scripture shows that these purposes are always fulfilled. Therefore, because our God not only makes great promises, but actually fulfills them, His Name is also exalted. He does not just make commitments, He keeps them. It is inextricably wrapped up in His character to do so. So we are brought to praise God with our whole heart (v. 1) because He is steadfast love, He is faithful and He will bring us safely through the circumstances of life! What kind of rejoicing does this produce in the lives of God’s people? The kind that not only praises God for His amazing greatness, but flaunts this greatness in the faces of the false gods of Our Time (v. 2).
But to spend our lives exalting and finding joy in these two things that will never leave us in want, we first need to remember. The pattern we find throughout this psalm is David calling to mind what God has done which leads him to praise who God is. Who is this God who has captured David’s affections? He is a God who first loved us (v. 2), who acts for His people (v. 3) and who dwells with His people (v. 6).
As the psalm ends, we are reminded to value God’s name and word above all things and orient our lives around them. The way to walk through the reality of human experience is to daily, and sometimes moment by moment, remind ourselves of the truth of God’s deliverance. We must recall to mind the rock solid reality of God’s commitment to His Word and Name, which promises His people more than we can possibly imagine. And isn’t it interesting that the psalmist closes not by reminding himself of this truth, but by humbly reminding God himself. So one way David gives us to press ourselves deep into the the promises of God is to set our hearts away from self-reliance and upon God’s name and word by reminding ourselves of His amazing grace, that it is He alone that saves, that He will save His people because He has promised to do so, and He will do so because He has exalted not His people above all things, but His name and His word. So God does not mind when we come desperate (v. 6): desperately seeking, desperately asking and even desperately reminding Him to not forsake the work of His hands for His name and glory (v. 8). So let us make this a month to remember and rejoice in God’s love & faithfulness.
“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’”
Seeking God is one of the main priorities of the church. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). John Piper, in a sermon on Psalm 40, says, “We seek to behold his beauty, to be with him, to meditate on him. This is our central business in the church—to see the beauty of God. To get our heads into the heavens. To know him for who he is. He is the main reality—not buildings, not Christians, not missions, not heaven. God himself is what we seek.”
But this seeking isn’t complete, it seems, until we proclaim His greatness. In verses 9-10, David tells how he did not hide or conceal what God has done for him. He told the people about God’s faithfulness, steadfast love and salvation. In verse 16, the seeking in the first half is concluded in the second half with proclamation, namely continually saying, “Great is the Lord!” Piper says, “He is supreme and his supremacy is your passion.” Part of having a passion for His supremacy is proclaiming it!
So the church’s mission to our neighbors and the nations in which we tell them who God is, what He has done and that salvation is found in Him alone through Jesus Christ flows out of the church’s pursuing God. A passion for evangelism does not simply flow out of a burden for the lost. It flows out of a heart that seeks God, a heart that rejoices and is glad in God (Psalm 40:16a). When we go hard after God and pursue our joy in Christ alone, God is glorified. When God grants joy and gladness in Him through our seeking, we find that our seeking and loving and worshiping of God is not separate from our proclamation of Him. Piper says:
“Our passion for God is our persuasion for the nations… our joy in God is both our worship and our evangelism.”