Notes on Psalm 138: The Exaltation of God’s Word

The Cause of Thanksgiving: The Word of God [Read Psalm 138, cf. vv.1-2]

In the beginning, God spoke and all that He said came to pass. And two chapters later, the serpent spoke and deceived the woman into thinking that God had somehow not spoken truthfully. What is interesting to note in Genesis 3 is that the serpent concedes that the commandment Eve recites is truly the Word of God, but he explicitly denies that it is the truth. He tells Eve that God’s Word does not truly mean what she thinks it means, and by so doing explains to Eve what God’s Word really means. This ancient hermeneutical attack upon Scripture has been consistent throughout the history of Christ’s church, and it seems to be even greater today among those who would call themselves Christians.

Yet, can they do this and still claim the name of Christ? I don’t think so. For if it were possible, then why would the Holy Spirit tell us, through David, that God has exalted above all things His name and His Word (v.2)? The cause of praise, according to the Holy Spirit, is not my experience, but God’s faithfulness to His own Word. Note that David begins his psalm by rejoicing in God and praising Him for exalting above all things His name and His Word. It is only after David first establishes that God is faithful to His exalt and glorify His name and His Word that he goes on to reflect on how God, faithful to His Word, heard the words of the lowly servant who cried out for deliverance, and then granted it freely to him. God’s commitment to His own glory, therefore, is prior to His acting as deliverer/savior for His elect people. And this is what we see in the beginning of this psalm: God is to be praised because He has uttered promises to His covenant people that He has not forgotten, and which He cannot forget, for He has exalted His name and His Word above all things.

So how can “Christians” who deny the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible dare to understand God, know God, attribute to God anything solidly objective and certainly true? Even the mystics who claim that God is “unknowable” or “beyond rational categories,” even those employed by the Holy Spirit in Scripture, are making a knowledge claim that they must somehow justify. If they don’t depend on the solidly objective basis of Scripture, then to what do they appeal when they make absolute statements like “God is unknowable”? Can they do this without exposing themselves for the rebels that they really are?

They cannot, for God has revealed Himself first in His Word, and He has confirmed His Word to us by doing exactly what He has promised to do. He has come down to save men, to deliver His covenant people, men from all nations and tribes and tongues, from sin, death, the devil, and His wrath. He has shown Himself to be the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is good and kind and forgiving and loving to His chosen people, and we know this by the faith birthed in us by the work of the Holy Spirit as He grants us understanding of His Word. And we see these truths in our lives as we walk with the Lord, crying out to Him for deliverance, and watching as He Sovereignly and justly deals with all men over the face of the earth.

David is not looking to his experience of God first, he is looking to the Scriptures in light of what God has done. He is praising God for being faithful to His Word, to His promises to deliver, and to His promises to punish the wicked (vv.6-7). God is faithful to His Gospel (deliverance, salvation, mercy, etc) and to His Law (judgment upon the lawbreakers, etc). David understands his experience in light of what the Scriptures already declare about the Lord. And, get this, his experience does not in any way contradict what he knows to be true from the Scriptures. This leads to me think: How on earth can professing believers in Christ walk away from the Bible with the idea that God’s written Word is not really inerrant, inspired, and perfect? Are they truly believing in the God of the Scriptures? Or are they, like the Muslims, Romanists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons, merely cherry-picking texts of Scripture to give their unbiblical theologies a cheap disguise?

-h.

P.S.

Apparently, I’m not the only thinking about this topic today. Dr. R. Scott Clark, professor at Westminster Seminary (California), posted on this subject over at The Heidelblog. The entire article is posted at Ligonier’s website.

[If you’re interested in reading more on the orthodox Reformed doctrine of Scripture, Reformed theologian Lorraine Boettner’s work The Inspiration of Scripture is available for free at the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics.]

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