“They shall sing in the ways of the Lord.”
— Psalm 138:5


     The time when Christians begin to sing in the ways of the Lord is when they first lose their burden at the foot of the Cross. Not even the songs of the angels seem so sweet as the first song of rapture which gushes from the inmost soul of the forgiven child of God. You know how John Bunyan describes it. He says when poor Pilgrim lost his burden at the Cross, he gave three great leaps, and went on his way singing--

“Blest Cross! blest Sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me!”


     Verses 1-3 speaks of the praise and worship that the genuine lover of God offers to his Master as he ponders all that His Lord has done for him:

1      I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You. 

2      I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. 

3      In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul. (Psalm 138:1–3) 


     David tells us that we ought to be praising God, and not for just a general sense (though that is certainly a valid way to go about praising our God), but for specific ideas and works on God’s part for us.  David tells us some specific things about what praise and worship of God ought to look like:

1.      It ought to be heartfelt and just mechanical, that is, it ought to offered with feeling and energy, not in a mechanical and routine kind of a way. (1a)
2.      It ought to be offered regardless of who is there (or who is not there)! (1b) There must be nothing has an effect of the offering of our praise (one way or the other).  This is especially so in regards to those for whom the offering of praise might be offensive or even foolish. (1b)

1     I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You. 

2     I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name


3.      The praise and worship we offer is to be offered in accord with the guidance and requirements of God in His Word.  David tells us that praise and worship is more than just the feeling or words give in God’s direction.  He (the Lord) had laid out and ordained a manner in which He desired the Israelites to approach Him; in fact, He could NOT be approached or worshipped in any other fashion meaningfully.  The giving of the intent of worship and praise in a general and personal sense is, of course, acceptable.  But formal worship and praise was to patterned according to the revelation God had given in the Scripture. (2a)

1     I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You. 

2     I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.


4.      Notice that the second part of verse 2 is joined to the first with a conjunction.  This tells us that it is joined to the first part of the verse.  It gives us the idea of offering God’s Name which refers to God’s character, not merely the appellation by which men referred to Him.  In this context, it refers to the essence of what He has been revealed to be.  It speaks of His “reputation” if you will(2b).
     In the OT the words for praise mainly used are hālal, the root meaning of which is connected with making a noise; yādâ, which was originally associated with the bodily actions and gestures which accompany praising; and zāmar, which is associated with the playing or singing of music. In the NT eucharistein (lit. ‘to give thanks’) is the favorite word, implying on the part of the person who praises the attitude of one more intimate with the person praised than in the more formal eulogein, ‘to bless’.
     The whole of the Bible is punctuated with outbursts of praise. They rise spontaneously from the ‘basic mood’ of joy which marks the life of the people of God. God takes pleasure and delight in his works of creation (Gn. 1; Ps. 104:31; Pr. 8:30–31), and all creation, including the angels, expresses its joy in praise (Jb. 38:4–7; Rev. 4:6–11). Man also was created to rejoice in God’s works (Ps. 90:14–16) and fulfils this purpose by accepting God’s gifts (Ec. 8:15; 9:7; 11:9; Phil. 4:4, 8; cf. W. Eichrodt, Man in the Old Testament, 1951, p. 35).
5.      Notice also that there is a further reason given for this offering of praise and worship.  It is not that His nature (as stated - His Name) is in any way insufficient.  But praise and worship must be more than simply saying that we praise Him.  In the OT there were particulars that had to be a part of the offering or the offering was not considered to be effective and would be rejected by God.  While that set of requirements is not,  by any means cast utterly away, we do need to recognize that our Lord Jesus completely satisfied the Law, including the ceremonial aspects of it by means of His perfect life and sacrificial death. 

I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.


     “For”, used twice in this second part of the verse (V2).  It is used mean on account off, on behalf of, toward, and other terms of that sort.  It essentially alters or increases the meaning of the phrase to speak of the worship and praise offered as “because” or “on account of” lovingkindness or truth.  “Lovingkindness” speaks of gentleness or kindness extended toward the object of the phrase.  Here is used in a general sense, His love, kindness, gentleness extended toward His people.  It is very similar to the NT phrase in John 3:16 where God, we’re told “so loved” the “world” (all of it - not a mere part).   
     David worships and praises because of or on account of this love or kindness extended and demonstrated toward men.  “Truth” is actually used in a couple fashion in the Bible.  It speaks of that which is objectively so, that is not false.  That is, it is the verifiable fact of intellectual knowledge which can be ascertained as so.  Far more commonly, it speaks of the existential and moral, of truth as the attribute of a person. Joseph’s brothers are detained in prison ‘that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you’ (Gn. 42:16).  The basic form of the Hebrew word speaks of whether they are dependable, consistent, of reliable character. It is significant that of the Heb. words translated ‘truth’ the latter is sometimes rendered as ‘faithfulness’ (Dt. 32:4; Ho. 2:20).
     It seems like David is referring to this latter use…He praises God because God is utterly dependable and faithful to His people.  It is almost like he is saying that he has virtually tested God and has seen Him demonstrate that He is reliable, faithful worthy of trust.  He is reliable and consistent and can be trust to do as He has promised.  Hence he goes on and says that, another reason for his praise toward God, is that He has given and will always fulfill His Word.  Namely… God does what He has said that He will do.
      Believer, do you recollect the day when your fetters fell off? Do you remember the place when Jesus met you, and said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; I have blotted out as a cloud thy transgressions, and as a thick cloud thy sins; they shall not be mentioned against thee any more for ever.” Oh! what a sweet season is that when Jesus takes away the pain of sin. When the Lord first pardoned my sin, I was so joyous that I could scarce refrain from dancing. I thought on my road home from the house where I had been set at liberty, that I must tell the stones in the street the story of my deliverance. So full was my soul of joy, that I wanted to tell every snow-flake that was falling from heaven of the wondrous love of Jesus, who had blotted out the sins of one of the chief of rebels. But it is not only at the commencement of the Christian life that believers have reason for song; as long as they live they discover cause to sing in the ways of the Lord, and their experience of his constant lovingkindness leads them to say, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” See to it, brother, that thou manifest the Lord this day.

“Long as we tread this desert land,
New mercies shall new songs demand.”

 


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