It doesn’t take long, when reading through Psalms, to see that the Psalmist often cries out to God on behalf of the poor, the needy, and the afflicted, knowing they are persecuted at the hand of the wicked, seemingly, at all times. It is very burdensome and troublesome to the Psalmist that this is so. But, we often likewise find the Psalmist, in the midst of these cries, remembering how good the Lord is and how His goodness will surely look upon the poor and contrite and deliver them.
In Psalm 12, for example, we see that David bemoans the state of the poor and afflicted of Israel but rests assured that God will rise up and deliver these people. How sure is David? David is sure beyond doubt – why? Because the promise of deliverance for these folks is a pure promise – as pure as silver tried in a furnace of earth – as pure as silver that has been purified seven times. God will keep and preserve THESE PEOPLE forever.
In Psalm 138:6, David writes that, though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the LOWLY, but the PROUD he knoweth AFAR OFF.
In verse 7, David says, Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt streth forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.
I think it is pretty clear, when reading the Psalms, that there is a consistent theme regarding the wonderful goodness of God upholding those who need it. This isn’t necessarily the only theme, but it certainly is a predominant theme.
Now, at the beginning of Psalm 138, there is a verse that is often used when talking about the Bible. This, of course, would be verse 2.
Psalm 138:2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.“
Many believe this to be David’s great declaration that the Bible is of a higher authority than the Name of God. First, does it make sense that what is written is of greater authority than the Author who wrote it? Hardly. But, many today, and in time past, have tried to claim that the Bible is of greater authority than God. They may not do it directly or overtly, but they do it when they box God into the scriptures, believing that the scriptures tell God what to do.
Secondly, is this what the context of Psalm 138 is about? If you read the Psalm, you see the consistent theme I mentioned above. The opening of the Psalm has David praising God and DEMONSTRATING WHY God is worthy of such praise and worship.
Verse 1 – I will PRAISE THEE with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing PRAISE unto thee.
Verse 3 – in the day when I cried, THOU answeredst me, and STRENGTHENEDST me with strength in my soul
Verse 4 – All the kings of the earth shall PRAISE thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth
Verse 5 – Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the GLORY of the LORD.
David is absolutely demonstrating why God is praise-worthy and that folks will be all-to-eager to praise Him.
So, what about verse 2?
“I will WORSHIP toward thy holy temple, and PRAISE thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast MAGNIFIED thy word above all thy name.“
What does it mean to magnify? It comes from a word that means “to grow up” or “to cause to become great”. “…for thou hast [caused] thy word [to become great] above all thy name.”
If this means that God made his word greater than His name, then we have a problem. In Hebrews 6, when the writer speaks of Abraham, verse 13 records,
“For when God made a promise to Abraham, because HE COULD SWEAR BY **NO GREATER**, He sware BY HIMSELF.“
In other words, there was NOTHING greater than God Himself for God to swear by when making the covenant. However, if “thy word” (from Psm. 138:2) is GREATER than His name (the express title of His person), then apparently there was an option for God to swear by something greater than Himself.
Based on the context of Psalm 138, I’m not convinced that the Psalmist is trying to make a point about the Bible, but rather, testifying about how trustworthy God is (His name) by virtue of how He has enacted the expanse of His name through His word (His promise/message). In other words, David seems to be saying that the Lord is worthy of worship and praise because the testimony (“thy word”) of His name is far ABOVE any other.
His Name (Jehovah) demonstrates the reason we can trust Him.