We Christians are thankfully aware of our ritual and spiritual indebtedness to the Old Testament. Along the biblical lines it is refreshing and enlightening to be reading a psalm and suddenly encounter teaching as relevant as some of those in the New Testament. Psalm 138 provoked some of my interest in seeing some of those connections. Hope for Israel, as for us, must be founded on spiritual principles.
The psalm begins with a heart-warming proclamation of the name (vv. 1-3). David said he loved God with his whole heart. In our speech, we adore God in body, mind and spirit, with the totality of our being. The “gods” the psalm mentions probably refers to the various objects, often carved from stone, which other nations revered.
At this juncture a closer analysis of the Name puts the prayer into a spiritual context. Beginning in Genesis 1:1-2, God began unveiling His nature. He spoke the heavens and earth into existence. His spirit “moved upon the face of the waters” (v. 2). In Genesis 2:4 the Bible adds a different dimension to the being of God, calling Him the “LORD God.” The LORD, literally YHWH, meaning “to be,” is a reference to His self-existence, as recorded in Exodus 3:14. In Exodus 6:6 that Name is associated with Israel’s freedom from bondage, Israel’s Redeemer. God as the Almighty God, El Shaddai, appeared to Abraham (Gen. 17:1) and affirmed His special relationship with Israel (Gen. 6:3), at which time He called His name JEHOVAH (KJV), called YAHWEH in other translations. At times the Bible identifies God as the Lord of Hosts, with particular association with Israel, the first biblical reference being found in 1 Samuel 1:8. The double name Lord God occurs in 2 Samuel 5:10. Psalm 59:5 addresses the LORD God of hosts, as the God of Israel. David, as we see, in praying to the Name, invoked God’s protection of Israel.
The New Testament writers also exalted the Name as given in Philippians 2:9, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow….”
The theological development began with John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 enlarges on the plural form of God in Genesis 1:1 and the reference to Spirit in 1:2. We also note the plural pronouns for God “us” and “our” in 1:24.
The Holy Spirit led John to see the connection with the living Word, Jesus, who is God’s Son. At the baptism of Jesus, the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are named (John 1:33). The lamb of God, so named by John (1:36), slain (Rev. 5:6), now reigns with the One on the throne (Rev. 7:9). John leads to a magnificent climax in describing our Lord’s victorious return, riding on a white horse (Rev. 19:11) with “a vesture dipped in blood and his name is called The Word of God” (v. 13).
The Bible next shifts attention to spreading knowledge about God through national leaders (vv. 4-5) Religion in many cultures is established by political leaders. For example, when the Protestant Reformation occurred in the middle of the 16th century, Germany was divided, with the Lutherans in one section and Catholics in another. A citizen’s religious orientation depended on the political leadership. Religion was contractual, not personal.
The Bible changed the emphasis to make the Name personal (vv. 6-7). God knows the lowly and has a special concern for them, considering the plight of the proud from “afar off” (v, 6).
Jesus placed on the shoulders of His followers the responsibility of taking the good news of His Name to all the nations, teaching them one by one. Once the instructed have made a personal commitment to Jesus in repentance and faith, they are to be immersed in the Name of the triune God, of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Working to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) has been the key driving force behind the Southern Baptist Convention.
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