• The Explore the Bible lesson for June 25 focuses on Psalm 138:1-8.
As the pastor stood at the front of the sanctuary to receive any who responded to the invitation, a young lady stepped out and made her way down the aisle. When the pastor received her, he asked what had prompted her to make her profession of faith that particular morning. The young lady said, “Last night, as I was standing over my sleeping baby’s crib, I realized that I had to have someone to thank.” (Thanks to Fred Craddock.)
Perhaps more would make professions of faith in Christ if it were presented as the ultimate way to both sing God’s praise and thank God for his wonderful blessings. True thankfulness is more than a grateful heart; it is also a grateful way of living, of acting out with all that we are what we claim to believe.
David begins this psalm by giving thanks to the One who most ultimately deserves it. All of life’s good gifts ultimately find their source in God and God alone.
God is faithful, even when we are not
It is in that spirit that David begins this psalm of thanksgiving. As we all eventually discover, even when we are not faithful, that in no way alters the faithfulness of God toward us. David praises God, first, for his “steadfast love and … faithfulness” (v. 2).
This certainly was on the Apostle Paul’s heart when he wrote Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Paul was not saying all things that happen are God’s will. He was not saying all things that happen are good. He was saying that in all things, good or bad, we can count on God’s faithfulness and commitment to us.
For many of us, this is not an easy concept to embrace. We have been told so often we should be committed to God, and well we should be. However, if our commitment to God is not founded in our trust of and gratitude for God’s commitment to us, it will always be off-center, bent more toward legalism than grace.
Paul doubles down on this idea of the faithfulness of God to us in Romans 8:31-32: “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”
In the end, from our salvation to even the smallest of good gifts, we are, or should be, grateful to God for God’s faithfulness to us. “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
You can’t pay for some things—nor should you
When my youngest son was about 6 years old, I gave him his weekly allowance one day. He peeled off the top dollar and gave it back to me. I asked him what the dollar was for. Looking up at me, he said, “That’s for taking care of me.” I kneeled down to his level and said: “Son, this dollar is my gift to you. You could never repay me for taking care of you. I do that because I love you, and I always will.”
Sometimes, when I feel distant from God, I’m reminded of that event as an example of how God feels about and deals with me. David sings God’s praise, for God’s character that leads to redemptive action, writing, “Though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly” (v. 6).
In the incarnation of God in Christ, we see the ultimate witness of the “high” regarding “the lowly.” In Christ, God kneeled to us where we are in order to redeem us. God will never fail to remain faithful to those he loves.
In David’s psalm, we see these two examples of thanksgiving. There is praising God for God’s character. Then, there is thanking God for the good things God’s character delivers to us, even when it seems God is absent.
David could not have summed it up better than with these words from verse 8: “TheLord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, OLord, endures forever.” The goodness and righteousness of God is ultimately shown in the good and right ways God deals with us. For who God is and what God does, the only appropriate response is our praise and gratitude.
After all, we all need someone to thank!
Glen Schmucker is a hospice chaplain in Fort Worth.