The Psalms Book 5: 135-139

Psalm 135‑139  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Now follow a few psalms less closely connected, though the second may be regarded as an answer to the first. The third stands comparatively isolated, yet in its evidently right place. The fourth, instead of, (like it) recalling the shame and sorrow of the Babylonish captivity, is an avowed thanksgiving to Jehovah, not only for His word, but for His everlasting loving-kindness. These are all judicial, and apply during the crisis which marks the incoming of the new age. The fifth or last expresses the deeper work of self-judgment before the inescapable presence of Jehovah; yet it looks the more for His slaying the wicked (the judgment of the quick and of the dead), while baring the heart now in order to be thoroughly proved and led in the way everlasting. The last two are Davidical, as are the seven that succeed.
Psalm 135
“Praise ye Jah. Praise ye the name of Jehovah; praise, ye servants of Jehovah, standing in Jehovah's house, in the courts of the house of our God. Praise ye Jah, for Jehovah [is] good; sing psalms to his name, for [it is] pleasant. For Jah hath chosen Jacob for him, Israel for his peculiar treasure. For I know that Jehovah [is] great, and our Lord more than all gods. All that Jehovah delighteth in, he doeth in the heavens and in the earth, in the seas and all depths; who causeth vapors to ascend from the end of the earth; lightnings for the rain he maketh, bringing the wind out of his stores; who smote Egypt's firstborn from man to beast; who sent signs and wonders into thy midst, O Egypt, on Pharaoh and on all his servants; who smote many Gentiles and slew strong kings, (to) Sihon king of the Amorites, and (to) Og king of (the) Bashan, and (to) all the kingdoms of Canaan. And he gave their land an inheritance, an inheritance to Israel his people. Jehovah, thy name [is] forever; Jehovah, thy memorial [is] to generation and generation. For Jehovah will judge his people, and for the sake of his servants will repent. Idols of Gentiles [are] silver and gold, works of man's hands. A mouth have they, and they speak not; eyes have they, and they see not; ears have they, and they hear not; also there is no breath in their mouth. Like them are those that make them—every one confiding in them. House of Israel, bless ye Jehovah; house of Aaron, bless ye Jehovah; house of Levi, bless ye Jehovah; ye that fear Jehovah, bless Jehovah. Blessed [be] Jehovah out of Zion, inhabiting Jerusalem. Praise ye Jah” (vers. 1-21).
It is instructive to compare ver. 13 with Exodus 3:1414And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. (Exodus 3:14) with Deut. 32 The psalm anticipates the proximate accomplishment of both to Jah's praise.
Psalm 136
Give thanks to Jehovah, for [he is] good, for his mercy [is] forever. Give thanks to the God of gods; for his mercy [is] forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords; for his mercy [is] forever. To him that alone doeth great wonders; for his mercy [is] forever. To him that by understanding made the heavens; for his mercy [is] forever. To him that spread the earth upon the waters; for his mercy [is] forever. To him that made great light; for his mercy [is] forever: the sun for rule in the day; for his mercy [is] forever; the moon and stars for rule in the night; for his mercy [is] forever. To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn; for his mercy [is] forever; and brought Israel from their midst; for his mercy [is] forever; with strong hand and with outstretched arm; for his mercy [is] forever. To him that divided the Red Sea into parts, for his mercy [is] forever; and made Israel pass in its midst; for his mercy [is] forever; and shook off Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea; for his mercy [is] forever. To him that led his people in the wilderness; for his mercy [is] forever. To him that smote great kings; for his mercy [is] forever; and slew famous kings; for his mercy [is] forever: (to) Sihon, king of the Amorites; for his mercy [is] forever; And (to) Og, the king of (the) Bashan; for his mercy [is] forever; and gave their land for an inheritance; for his mercy [is] forever; an inheritance to Israel his servant; for his mercy [is] forever; who remembered us in our low estate; for his mercy [is] forever; and rent us from our adversaries; for his mercy [is] forever; giving bread to all flesh; for his mercy [is] forever. Give thanks to the God (El) of the heavens; for his mercy [is] forever’ (vers. 1-26).
Very impressive is this answering song of thanks, with a refrain so suited then to Israel. He Who is pleased to dwell at Jerusalem in that day is the “God of the heavens,” not merely of the earth (Gen. 14:1919And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: (Genesis 14:19)).
Psalm 137
“By rivers of Babylon, there we sat; also we wept when we remembered Zion. On willows in its midst we hung our harps; for there our captors asked us words of song, and our spoilers mirth, [saying] Sing to us from a song of Zion. How shall we sing the song of Jehovah on a strange ground? If I forget thee, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [its skill]. Let my tongue cleave to my palate—if I do not raise Jerusalem above my chief joy. Remember, Jehovah, to Edom's sons the day of Jerusalem, who said, Raze, raze, down to its foundation. Daughter of Babylon, the desolated, happy he that rendereth to thee thy measure thou didst mete to us. Happy he that taketh and dasheth thy babes against the rock (crag)” (vers. 1-9).
Very different were Babylon and Edom, both the enemies of Zion, one to humble her for her sins, the other hating her for divine favor, alike to suffer before Zion's joy, who must sorrow till then and not sing.
Psalm 138
“Of David. I will thank thee with all my heart; before the gods I will sing psalms of thee. I will bow down toward the temple of thy holiness and will thank thy name for thy mercy and for thy truth; for above all thy name thou hast magnified thy saying. In the day I called, and thou didst answer me, thou didst encourage me with strength in my soul. All kings of the earth shall thank thee, Jehovah; for (or when) they have heard the sayings of thy mouth. And they shall sing in the ways of Jehovah; for great [is] the glory of Jehovah. For Jehovah [is] exalted, yet he seeth the lowly, and the proud he knoweth from afar. If I walk in the midst of distress, thou wilt revive me; upon the wrath of mine enemies thou wilt stretch forth thy hand, and thy right hand shall save me. Jehovah will perfect as to me: Jehovah, thy mercy [is] forever; forsake not the work of thy hands” (vers. 1-8).
It is Jehovah's faithfulness to His sayings, His mercy in this respect which Israel proved experimentally, and all kings of the earth celebrate in that day. What a change from this day of delusion and infidelity, to which the Jew contributes so largely!
Psalm 139
“To the chief musician: a psalm of David. Jehovah, thou hast searched me and known [me]. Thou knowest my sitting and my rising; thou understandest (to) my thought afar off. Thou siftest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue—behold, O Jehovah, thou knowest all of it. Behind and before thou hast beset me and laid thy hand upon me. Knowledge too wonderful for me! It is high: I cannot [rise] unto it. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? and whither flee from thy face? If I ascend the heavens, there [art] thou; and make my bed [in] Sheol, behold, thou [art there]; I will take wings of dawn, I will dwell in the utmost end of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me. And I say, Surely darkness shall cover me, and light about me [is] night; even darkness hideth not from thee; and night shineth as the day: as the darkness, so the light. For thou hast possessed my reins; thou didst cover me in my mother's womb. I thank thee, because I am fearfully, wonderfully, made: wonderful [are] thy works, and my soul knoweth [it] right well. Not concealed were my bones from thee, when. I was made in the hiding-place, embroidered in earth's lowest parts. Thine eyes saw mine unformed substance, and in thy book were all of them written, days they were fashioned when (and) not one [was] among them. And to me how precious [are] thy thoughts, O God how strong their sums! Would I count them, they are more than the sand: I awaked and [am] still with thee. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked one, O God! and ye men of blood, depart from me. For they speak of thee with intent, and take [thy name] in vain, thine enemies. Do not I hate those that hate thee, Jehovah? And those that rise against thee, do not I loathe? (With) perfect hatred I hate them; for enemies they are to me. Search me, O God, and know my heart; prove me, and know my thoughts. And see if a way of grief [be] in me, and lead me in a way everlasting” (vers. 1-24).
The execution of external judgment when Christ takes the world-kingdom (Rev. 11) does not hinder the inner work for the faithful Jew, who here tells out his confidence in the heart-searching of Jehovah. This recalls not only His own omnipresence and omniscience, as the faithful Creator, but His thoughts about us. For truly His complacency is in men, not angels: the Christ was to be man, though Son of the Highest. Therefore he as a godly Jew heartily goes with the vengeance to fall on the wicked, while he desires yet more God's searching of himself lest any grievous way should be found in him.