Daybreak: Psalms 137:1 through 139:24
“In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.” (Psalm 138:3)
Our daughter was just a few weeks old when she was admitted to the hospital with a high fever. My husband and I hoped and prayed that the cause was some minor and quickly-dealt-with virus, but that was not the case. After a series of tests and many anxious hours, we learned that our baby had congenital rubella syndrome. She was (as they called it back then) a “rubella baby.” I had somehow contracted rubella while I was carrying her and had passed it on to her before she was born. The doctors told us that the syndrome can entail a number of serious incurable conditions including deafness, eye abnormalities, heart disease, and mental impairment. In our baby’s case, the initial manifestation was spinal meningitis. We did not know what the future would hold regarding other possible effects.
Our baby’s diagnosis began a difficult time in our lives. During my daily trips to the hospital, I realized there was nothing I personally could do to make her condition go away, but I reached out to God continually for reassurance. How I leaned on Him to give me strength and courage to face whatever lay ahead for us and our baby!
When I read today’s focus verse, I think about that time in our lives, because God certainly did strengthen us. On one trip to the hospital, I recall how the Lord brought a song to my mind that spoke of our Heavenly Father’s care and how He watches over us as a mother tenderly watches over her baby. While my husband and I could do very little for our tiny daughter, it was such a comfort to know that God was watching over her!
More than thirty years later, I look at our healthy, beautiful daughter and know she is our miracle. God heard our prayers and those of the family of God who also prayed for our little one. He touched her, and today there are no residual effects of the physical challenges she had as an infant.
When we face times of crisis in our lives, we may not know what lies ahead, but our Heavenly Father does. We can trust Him! When we cry out to Him, He will answer and provide what we need. What an assurance it is to know that we are never alone, and can always reach out to the One who is waiting to lend a helping hand.
Psalm 137 probably was written during the Babylonian captivity. While some Bible scholars consider its nine verses to be prophetic and attribute authorship to David, most conclude that the words expressed exilic grief. The author pledged never to forget Jerusalem, and pleaded for God to render judgment upon Israel’s captors.
Verses 1-2 of Psalm 137 describe the exiles gathering by the rivers in Babylon to mourn their absence from Jerusalem. Harps were used for Temple worship, and the captives may have brought them to Babylon hoping to find solace in music. However, their sorrow was too overwhelming, so they hung them on the branches of the willow trees. Verses 3-4 imply both the insult of being plundered by the Babylonians, and the oppressors’ taunting demand that the exiles sing the songs of Zion which were reserved for Temple worship — an action the exiles would have considered blasphemous.
The mournful tone of the first six verses changes abruptly at verse 7, and becomes a fierce indictment of Israel’s enemies. Although Edom had not participated in the Babylonian conquest, they had rejoiced in Judah’s destruction, and the psalmist beseeched God not to forget.
Psalm 138 is a song of thanksgiving attributed to David. It conveys both individual and universal praise, and concludes with a statement of assurance that God would deliver in time of trouble.
In verses 1-3, David vowed that “before the gods” he would sing praise to the true God. The word “gods” has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Some early translations of the Bible render the word as “angels.” Others use the word “judges” or “kings.” Perhaps the psalmist’s resolve was to praise the true God in the sight of those who worshiped heathen idols. Since the Temple had not yet been built during David’s time, the “holy temple” may have referred to the Tabernacle, signifying the place where God’s presence dwelt.
Verses 4-5 infer that when the kings of the earth learn of God’s marvelous works toward Israel, they will praise God and sing of His wondrous deeds. Some scholars believe the ultimate fulfillment of this verse is prophetic in nature, pointing to the time when all the rulers of the world will worship Christ during the Millennial Reign.
Psalm 139 is considered one of David’s finest psalms. It beautifully portrays God’s omniscience (universal knowledge), omnipresence (universal presence), omnipotence (universal power), and the psalmist’s desire for harmony with God.
In verses 7-12, David emphasized the futility of trying to evade God’s omniscience or omnipresence. The words “heaven” and “hell” in verse 8 denote the skies above or the depths of the dead beneath, and infer that neither are a hiding place from God. In
verse 9, “take the wings of the morning” is a figurative picture of flying to the farthest oceans as swiftly as the morning light moves across the sky.
Verses 13-16 are a clear indicator that God directs the creation of life in the womb from the unperfected embryonic stage to the time of birth. The Hebrew word translated reins in verse 13 literally means “kidneys,” and was used poetically to signify the inner nature. The word covered could be translated “woven,” and denotes that God knits the unborn together in the womb.
In verses 19-22, David affirmed his hatred for evil and those who despised and blasphemed God. “Bloody men” were those who committed violent acts of murder. “Perfect hatred” indicated absolute abhorrence of all the deeds of the wicked.
The psalm concludes with David’s beautiful prayer that God would search his heart and reveal anything that would hinder him from the “way everlasting.”
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- In Psalm 137:3, what two things did the captors require of the exiles?
- The practice of abortion is an evil that has claimed the lives of millions of innocent babies. What does Psalm 139:13-16 teach us about how God regards life?
- Psalm 138:8 contains two statements of confidence. In what way do these statements offer comfort and encouragement to us?
If we trust God with our whole hearts, we can have faith that He will hear us when we call, and give us strength to face each trial that comes our way.