6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 138:6–8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Confidence in the Lord’s Presence (138:7–8)
7–8 The psalm ends on a personal reflection even as it began on a personal note of thanksgiving. Confident of his God, to whom the nations must one day submit themselves, the believer confesses his indubitable faith in the Savior-King. He anticipates more “trouble” in life because the life of a believer is not immune from adversities. But despite the hardships, he rests assured. He knows the difference between being self-assured and assured, between pride and lowliness. The difference shows in his two confessions. The first is couched in the second person: “you preserve … you stretch out … you save me” (imperfect in Heb., v. 7), and the other in the third person: “The Lord will” (v. 8). These expressions are the language of faith.
The Lord will keep his saint alive (cf. 119:25; 143:11) and deliver him from danger and from his “foes.” The psalmist portrays the Lord as reaching out his “hand” as an expression of help, while dealing in judgment with those who cause his adversity (cf. 144:7; Ex 3:20; 9:15). His “right hand” signifies strength (cf. 60:5; 139:10).
Confidence also comes from a recognition that the Lord has a purpose. This purpose also includes individuals (“purpose for me,” v. 8; cf. 57:2; Ro 8:28). Confidence is not misplaced, because the Lord has shown an interest in his creation and in his people (“the works of your hands”; cf. 90:16; 92:5; 143:5; Isa 60:21; 64:8). His concern is of the most profound and lasting kind, as it is nothing less than his enduring “love” (ḥesed).
7–8 In the last two verses of Psalm 138, the psalm-singer shifts the focus once again from the earthly realm of kings to the oppression (ṣārâ) of my enemies (ʾôyēb̠). The two words are often used in parallel poetic construction in the Hebrew Psalter (see Psalm 42, for example).
The psalm-singer refers to the hand of the Lord three times in the closing cola of Psalm 138. God sends forth a hand; God’s hand delivers the psalmist; and the psalmist requests that the doings of God’s hands not come to an end (rāp̱â). The verbal root rāp̱â means “be slack, be loosened, be weak.” The psalmist has experienced God’s upholding hands over and over in the past and petitions God in v. 8 to continue to uphold and protect.
In the aftermath of the Babylonian exile, the Israelites questioned their very identity and future as the people of God. Book Five of the Psalter celebrates a new realization by the people that they can continue to exist as a specially called people by acknowledging God as their sovereign and worshipping faithfully. Psalms of David dominate the end of the Psalter (Psalms 138–45). David was the great king of ancient Israel, the king with whom God made a lasting covenant. David now leads the people in the acknowledgement of the place of God within their lives. The words of Psalm 138 celebrate the name, the hesed, the faithfulness, the words, the glory, and the intimate care of God. The psalm-singer reminds the faithful that their God is a God who remembers and cares and that their God is a God worthy of thanks and worship, a God above all gods.
Confidence in God’s Keeping Power (vv. 6–8)
Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows 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 (vv. 6–7). The God of glory stoops to look with favour on the lowly (shâfâl; cf. 136:23, ‘who remembered us in our low estate’), while at the same time he notes from afar (possibly meaning, ‘from heaven’) the character of the proud. These he mocks, but to the lowly he gives grace (Prov. 3:34). The psalmist knows that, in his dangerous situations, he has been protected by God, with God’s hand being turned towards him in saving power. However, that same hand is turned to oppose his hateful enemies.
The Lord will fulfil [his purpose] for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands (v. 8). The verb ‘fulfil’ (Hebrew gâmar) is a rare word, but, as in Psalm 57:2, it seems to refer to God’s purpose or will being completed, and hence the niv addition of the words ‘his purpose’ brings out the meaning well. Part of that purpose is that covenant love is maintained for all time (see the refrain in Ps. 136, ‘his love endures forever’). The final prayer is that God’s people will not be abandoned. This interpretation of ‘the works of your hands’ is supported by reference to Isaiah 60:21 and 64:8.
138:7–8 / After celebrating the international scope of Yahweh’s praise, the psalm returns to the worshiper’s own situation, this time with a view towards the future. His recent deliverance (v. 3) gives confidence for future protection: Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. Yet the ultimate basis for this confidence lies not in this historical precedent, but in the character of Yahweh himself: your love, O Lord, endures forever. To confirm this future relationship, this thanksgiving psalm closes with a petition that Yahweh not abandon the works of his hands.
Surprisingly, Yahweh’s exaltation above all does not entail his distance from us. He does not become a remote monarch. In fact, paradoxically his exaltation goes together with his commitment to a relationship with the “lowly.” Yahweh’s subjugation of all enemies signifies his “exaltation” above all. And his subjugation of enemies entails the preservation of his allies.
138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble. The word “trouble” can have the meaning of the underworld (Sheol; see Jon. 2:3), but here it probably means simply any kind of trouble in this world. The whole psalm is a victory celebration for David, who has triumphed over his enemies, and verse 8 picks up the theme of Psalm 136, that God’s love (hesed) has accomplished these blessings for David and Israel.
138:8 The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever. The verb translated as “vindicate” also means “to complete” (ESV: “fulfill his purpose for me”). Since the psalm closes with a petition that Yahweh not “abandon the works of [his] hands” (138:8c), it would imply that his work on the psalmist (and Israel) is not yet complete, but they are confident that he will complete it, for his love “endures forever.” The prayer that God not abandon them (“the works of your hands”) elicits thoughts of the exile and other troubles double-tracked in Israel’s historical experience (see “Additional Insights: The Model of Historical Double-Tracking,” following this unit).
Praise God for His Future Faithfulness (138:7–8)
138:7–8. As in Ps 23, David expresses his confidence in the Lord, Though I walk in the midst of trouble (cf. Ps 23 and comments there). God will stretch forth His hand is a frequent expression of God’s judgment (cf. Ex 7:5; 15:12; Is 5:25; Jr 51:25) against the wrath of my (David’s, and by extension, Israel’s) enemies. But in contrast, David concluded with the confident assertion, Your right hand will save me (cf. Pss 20:6; 60:5; 118:25) and that God would accomplish what concerns me (cf. 57:2). His affirmation that God not forsake him and His people, the works of Your hand (cf. 100:3), alludes to the promise of Dt 31:6.
6–8. All believers in Christ can set their seal to these blessed truths. God’s poor must be in his remembrance; they are his property, and they shall be his care. The Lord will perfect and make good all his promises concerning them. Exercised his people must be; but forgotten they shall not be. The Lord saith to each, and to all, as he said to Jacob, I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of, Gen. 28:15. See the Apostle’s blessed conclusion from the same, Philip. 1:6.
138:7, 8. Help to the end
Meanwhile the vision of verses 4–6 waits to be realized, and times are hard. If the inner resilience of verse 3 was the first part of God’s help, it is not the last. Verse 7 shows his control over the battle, both as ‘the Lord and giver of life’ and as stronger than the enemy; and verse 8 looks beyond the immediate scene to the finished product that God must have in mind in relation to his servant (8a), a work to which he has set his hand (8b). The old translation of 8a is perhaps as memorable as any: ‘The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me’ (av, rv). So the first and last lines of this verse make personal, confident and urgent use of the familiar truth which they embrace in the middle line. To David, hard-pressed and threatened, the words come new-minted: God’s steadfast love … endures for ever.
138:6–8. God helps the vulnerable
The psalmist stands amazed that such a great God cares for the vulnerable (the lowly). He counts himself among their number since he is in the midst of trouble. But God takes care of him and fights off his foes. The psalmist ends with an appeal to God not to abandon him in the midst of the fray.
The psalmist thanks God for answering his prayer. He praises God for his great name and his wonderful promises. He loves the Lord for taking care of the vulnerable, and he calls on the kings of the earth to join in the praise.
During the Old Testament period, the kings of the earth did not praise God; if anything, they resisted and challenged him (Pss 2 and 48). However, when Christ came, the gospel began to spread throughout the earth. Revelation 21:24 pictures the end of time when the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into the new Jerusalem.
Ver. 7. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me.—Human life:—
- The universal law of human life. What is it? It is expressed in one word—walking. Life is a “walk,” a journey. It is constant action, and constant action onward. Life is never stationary; it is always on the move; it is motion.
- Constant change of position. Every step puts us in a fresh point of space, and surrounds us with something new in scenery. So with life.
- Constant approximation to destiny. The grave for the body; retribution for the soul.
- The saddening probabilities of human life. Life is not only a walk, but a walk often “in the midst of trouble.” Since the introduction of sin into our world, it has never been a walk of unmingled pleasure. All here meet with trials on the way; but some more than others. Physical—bodily pains and diseases; moral—the conflict of passions, the remorse of conscience, and the dread of death; social—disappointments in business, the treachery of false friends, the corruption of the world, and the bereavement of death.
III. The grand support of human life. “Thou wilt revive me.”
- God is an all-sufficient support. He is equal to all our emergencies. “He is our refuge and strength,” etc. There is no enemy from which He cannot deliver us; there is no trial under which He cannot support us; there is no danger from which He cannot rescue us. In the fiery furnace, in the surging waters, in the “valley of the shadow of death,” He is all-sufficient.
- He is the only effective support. No one else can support you. “Put not your trust in princes.”
- He is an available support. Available to all at any time. “Call upon Me in the time of trouble and I will deliver you.” (Homilist.)
The Christian’s comfort in the midst of troubles:—
- The Christian’s troubles. They arise from—
- The world within. An evil heart of unbelief; prone to distrust God, to dishonour God, to wander from God.
- The world without. Bodily affliction, worldly trials, opposition from the world, etc.
- The world beneath. Satan distils his venom in secret.
- The Christian’s comforter. Though he walks in trouble, he does not walk alone. Though persecuted, he is not forsaken; though cast down, not destroyed.
- God can enter the inner world and bring comfort there, and spread a banquet within, and open a little paradise (Ps. 94:19; Job 35:10; Ps. 27:5).
- God can enable us to meet the world without. So He enabled Jacob to meet Esau; Elijah, Baal’s priests; David, Goliath.
- God can effectually subdue the world beneath. “Bruise Satan under your feet.”
III. The Christian’s confidence. What it is proved.
- What He is—God of mercy.
- What He has done.
- What He has promised to do. (Evangelist.)
7. “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me.” If I am walking there now, or shall be doing so in years to come, I have no cause for fear; for God is with me, and will give me new life. When we are somewhat in trouble it is bad enough, but it is worse to penetrate into the centre of that dark continent and traverse its midst: yet in such a case the believer makes progress, for he walks; he keeps to a quiet pace, for he does no more than walk; and he is not without the best of company, for his God is near to pour fresh life into him. It is a happy circumstance that, if God be away at any other time, yet he is pledged to be with us in trying hours: “when thou passest through the rivers I will be with thee.” He is in a blessed condition who can confidently use the language of David,—“thou wilt revive me.” He shall not make his boast of God in vain: he shall be kept alive, and made more alive than ever. How often has the Lord quickened us by our sorrows! Are they not his readiest means of exciting to fulness of energy the holy life which dwells within us? If we receive reviving, we need not regret affliction. When God revives us, trouble will never harm us. “Thou shall stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.” This is the fact which would revive fainting David. Our foes fall when the Lord comes to deal with them; he makes short work of the enemies of his people,—with one hand he routs them. His wrath soon quenches their wrath; his hand stays their hand. Adversaries may be many, and malicious, and mighty; but our glorious Defender has only to stretch out his arm and their armies vanish. The sweet singer rehearses his assurance of salvation, and sings of it in the ears of the Lord, addressing him with this confident language. He will be saved,—saved dexterously, decidedly, divinely; he has no doubt about it. God’s right hand cannot forget its cunning; Jerusalem is his chief joy, and he will defend his own elect.
 deClaissé-Walford, N., Jacobson, R. A., & Tanner, B. L. (2014). The Songs of the Ascents: Psalms. In E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, & R. L. Hubbard Jr. (Eds.), The Book of Psalms (pp. 960–961). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.