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Bible: What Does Psalms 135-139 Teach Us About God's Attributes?

Updated on August 21, 2016

Praise and Thanksgiving


Psalms 135-139: Praise and Thanksgiving to the LORD/Vengeance Belongs to God/Yahweh is the Lord of Lords and the Omniscient, Omnipotent Creator

Yahweh is Great, and He is Good

Addressed to a group similar to the one in Psalm 134 [that is, temple servants (v. 2)], this song exhorts praise to the LORD for three reasons:

(1) because He is good (v. 3a);

(2) because praising Him is pleasant (v. 3b); and

(3) because He chose Israel for Himself (vv. 1-4).

The writer confesses the supreme greatness of God (v. 5), and asserts the LORD’s sovereignty over His creation (vv. 5-7) as well as Israel's enemies in Egypt (vv. 8-9) in the wilderness (vv. 10-11a), and in the land of Canaan (vv. 11b-12).

The LORD's reputation as a great King and a Judge over His people will last eternally (vv. 13-14); idols, on the other hand, are lifeless (vv. 15-17), and their worshipers are likewise dead, spiritually speaking (v. 18; cf. Ps. 115:4-8).

Verses 19-21 command the houses of Israel, Aaron, and Levi to praise the LORD.

[God is worthy of our praise because of who He is].

Mankind's Proper Response to Mercy

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Psalm 136

Yahweh's Mercy Endures Forever

A song of thanksgiving, this psalm features the repetition of the phrase "for His mercy endures forever" which serves almost as a liturgical response to various facts concerning God and His acts.

[Biblical writers usually employ repetition as a mnemonic aid].

Verses 1-3 focus on the believer’s need to give thanks for His goodness and for His being the supreme God and Lord of all.

Then the psalmist zeroes in on Yahweh’s miraculous acts, especially those in the books of Genesis and Exodus.

Among these signs are His role as Creator (vv. 4-9), His salvation of Israel from Egypt (vv. 10-15), and His victories over heathen kings for Israel's sake (vv. 16-25).

He concludes with a final exhortation to give thanks and the familiar echo/refrain (v. 26).

[God has been merciful from start to finish in His relationship with His people; thanksgiving is the believer's proper response].



Psalm 137

A post-exilic psalm, this song recalls Israel's melancholy (because her foes mocked her continually) to sing about Zion while in captivity (v. 3).

Overwhelming sadness precludes joyful song, but promotes bitter weeping and lamentation (vv. 1, 4).

Israel, despite her enemies' cruel jokes, vows never to forget Jerusalem (vv. 5-6), and issues imprecations against her brutal oppressors whom she knows God will someday destroy (vv. 7-9).

[Desiring to take one's own vengeance upon enemies manifests a natural, fleshly attitude; leaving the hatred at God's feet and allowing Him to work out their punishment in His time constitute the righteous policy].


Jesus is the Omniscient, Omnipresent LORD

Psalm 138

Jesus is Lord!

David promises to praise God wholeheartedly for His covenant love and His truth (vv. 1-2) and for supplying him strength through answers to prayer (v. 3).

He is convinced that one day all rulers will acknowledge the LORD as Lord because of His words (v. 4), His glorious greatness (v. 5), and His condescending grace (v. 6).

[Every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.]

As for himself, the psalmist believes God will revive him while enduring his troubles and save him by His mercy (vv. 7-8).

[Having an abiding understanding of who his God truly is, David depended upon Him and consequently experienced His working on his behalf.

What more could a believer expect?]


Does the LORD know completely about you?

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Psalm 139

God is Omniscient and Omnipresent

Synopsis of the chapter:

1) David meditates upon God's omniscience (vv. 1-6), His omnipresence (vv. 7-12), and His role as Creator (vv. 13-18).

2) Verses 19-22 issue an imprecation against David's “perfectly hated” enemies.

3) The psalmist rounds off his work with a prayer for divine examination and guidance (vv. 23-24).

God has perfect knowledge of David—both his everyday activities (vv. 1-3) and his thoughts and unsaid words (vv. 2b, 4a); He also protects the psalmist from danger (v. 5).

These facts really "blow" David's mind (v. 6).

He realizes that he cannot go anywhere—heaven, hell, “uttermost part of the sea”—without God’s being there to sustain him (vv. 7-10).

He also acknowledges that the LORD formed his body from his unborn substance (“inward parts,” “frame”) [vv. 13, 15), and planned from eternity the events of his life (v. 16).

David stands amazed at God’s wondrous concern for him (vv. 17-18).

As for those who despise him, the psalmist prays that the LORD might destroy them (vv. 19-22).

Yet he also requests that God examine his heart to make sure that he is thinking (about them and himself) as he ought (vv. 23-24).

[Persecution forms the backdrop to this psalm; therefore, the LORD causes David to think about how His overwhelming Presence, enveloping the king’s life as it has and does, reduces his daily trials to insignificance by comparison].

© 2013 glynch1


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