PSALM 138:2: “I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: What are the “two unchangeable things” that give us assurance in our daily walk with the Lord? The writer of Hebrews makes note of these in the sixth chapter:
“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:13-18 ESV)
I have studied throughout my life from the King James and New King James Versions of the Bible. In all of this time I have been familiar with that particular translation from Psalm 138:2, which is:
“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.” (Psalms 138:2 NKJV)
I, as well as many others, have quoted the end of this verse to emphasize the importance of the Word of God. Noting the NKJV translation, God honors His Word, even above His Name. However, the word translated “above” in the Hebrew can also mean “on the ground of”, “besides”, “in addition to”. This is the translation that the ESV Bible chooses, as well as the NLT. It shines a different light on this verse, without changing the import of the traditional understanding. The New Living Translation emphasizes this even more:
“I bow before Your holy Temple as I worship. I praise Your name for Your unfailing love and faithfulness; for Your promises are backed by all the honor of Your name.” (Psalm 138:2 NLT)
When you see this verse in this different light it also shines light on the verses in Hebrews 6:13-18. One of the best rules of Biblical interpretation, which does not require a degree, and can be used by any honest student of the Bible, is to follow Martin Luther’s sound advice – “Let Scripture interpret Scripture”! Using this sound principle we can get a clearer understanding of the “two unchangeable things” that allow us to be continually encouraged and strengthened in our walk with the Lord. They are – His Name (nature) and His Word (promises).
God has given us His Revelatory Name throughout the Bible to teach us about who He is and how He acts. His name was not revealed in static settings, but in dynamic experiences of the men and women of faith who walked before us. The writer of Hebrews alludes to this revelation and its’ relationship to faith when he writes – “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV) This book was written to Jewish Christians and they understood what he was writing. To believe that “He exists” is to know God by His personal name – “Yahweh”, the Great “I Am”, the “Existing One”. This refers to the Nature and Faithfulness of God revealed through His actions. This is the “first unchangeable thing“!
The second is simply the flip side of the coin. It is His Word, His Promises. God’s Word is powerful, it is efficacious – because of His Name! It is because He has revealed His Nature through His actions that we can trust His Word. His Word is the direct expression of His will for our lives. His actions are the direct expression His love for our lives. He speaks and He acts. He proclaims and He accomplishes. He declares and He creates. We can trust in His Word because He has confirmed it through His action, the greatest being the death and resurrection or Jesus Christ our Lord. His Word is the “second unchangeable thing“!
“As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:18-22 ESV)
Lord, this morning I give You praise for the “two unchangeable things“ that give me comfort, strength, and hope in my daily walk of faith – Your Word and Your Name! I thank You that You have exalted these above all things. It is in Your Name that I learn Your Nature. It is in Your Word that I discover Your Will. It is through Your Name and Your Word that I receive and participate in Your Promises! This morning, I too – “..bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness.” In Jesus Name!