Psalm 138:6
Though the LORD be high, yet has he respect to the lowly: but the proud he knows afar off.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Knoweth afar off.—Or, recognises from afar. From His exaltation Jehovah looks down alike on the lowly and on the proud, but it is to show a gracious interest in the former, while the latter are merely marked as persons to be kept at a distance. “Lowliness and humility are the court dress of God; he who wears them will please Him well.”

Psalm 138:6. Though the Lord be high — And neither need any of his creatures, nor can be benefited by them. Yet hath he respect unto the lowly — Unto such as are mean and obscure in the world; to me, a poor contemptible shepherd, whom he hath preferred before great princes; and to such as are little in their own eyes. But the proud he knoweth afar off — But, as for the great men of the world, who are lifted up in pride, he looks upon them, as they do upon others, with scorn and contempt, and keeps them at a great distance, as disdaining to admit them into his presence.138:6-8 Though the Lord is high, yet he has respect to every lowly, humbled sinner; but the proud and unbelieving will be banished far from his blissful presence. Divine consolations have enough in them to revive us, even when we walk in the midst of troubles. And God will save his own people that they may be revived by the Holy Spirit, the Giver of life and holiness. If we give to God the glory of his mercy, we may take to ourselves the comfort. This confidence will not do away, but quicken prayer. Whatever good there is in us, it is God works in us both to will and to do. The Lord will perfect the salvation of every true believer, and he will never forsake those whom he has created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works.Though the Lord be high - This might be rendered "For lofty is Yahweh - and the humble he sees - and the proud he knows from afar." The idea is, that God - so high and exalted - sees and knows all of every rank among people. The mind of the psalmist had been impressed with a sense of the greatness and majesty of God, but (as if it might be said that one so great could not regard man, so humble and insignificant) he adds, that the fact of God's exaltation does not prevent his noticing the affairs of people: that the lowly in life need not fear lest they should be overlooked; the proud need not hope that they will escape the notice of his eye.

Yet hath he respect unto the lowly - Those in humble life; the obscure; the unknown. It does not mean here that he has any special favor toward them, but merely that he sees them. Their low and obscure condition does not prevent his observing them, and they need have no fear that he will overlook them, or that they will be forgotten. Compare the notes at James 4:6; notes at 1 Peter 5:5.

But the proud - Those of lofty rank, and of lofty feelings; the haughty.

He knoweth afar off - From afar. Though he is exalted - though he is in heaven - yet he is not so far removed but that he sees them, and knows them altogether. Distance from him is no protection for them; nor can the wicked hope to escape notice from the fact that God reigns over distant worlds.

6, 7. On this general principle of God's government (Isa 2:11; 57:15; 66:2), he relies for God's favor in saving him, and overthrowing his enemies.

knoweth afar off—their ways and deserts (Ps 1:6).

6 Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me, thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.

8 The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever - forsake not the works of thine own hands.

Psalm 138:6

"Though the Lord be high." In greatness, dignity, and power, Jehovah is higher than the highest. His nature is high above the comprehension of his creatures, and his glory even exceeds the loftiest soarings of imagination. "Yet hath he respect unto the lowly." He views them with pleasure, thinks of them with care, listens to their prayers, and protects them from evil. Because they think little of themselves he thinks much of them. They reverence him, and he respects them. They are low in their own esteem, and he makes them high in his esteem. "But the proud he knoweth afar off." He does not need to come near them in order to discover their utter vanity: a glance from afar reveals to him their emptiness and offensiveness. He has no fellowship with them, but views them from a distance; he is not deceived, but knows the truth about them, despite their blustering; he has no respect unto them, but utterly abhors them. To a Cain's sacrifice, a Pharaoh's promise, a Rabshakeh's threat, and a Pharisee's prayer, the Lord has no respect. Nebuchadnezzar, when far off from God, cried, "Behold this great Babylon which I have builded;" but the Lord knew him, and sent him grazing with cattle. Proud men boast loudly of their culture and "the freedom of thought," and even dare to criticize their Maker: but he knows them from afar, and will keep them at arm's length in this life, and shut them up in hell in the next.

Psalm 138:7

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me." If I am walking there now, or shall be doing so in years to come, I have no cause for fear; for God is with me, and will give me new life. When we are somewhat in trouble it is bad enough, but it is worse to penetrate into the centre of that dark continent and traverse its midst: yet in such a case the believer makes progress, for he walks; he keeps to a quiet pace, for he does no more than walk; and he is not without the best of company, for his God is near to pour fresh life into him. It is a happy circumstance that, if God be away at any other time, yet he is pledged to be with us in trying hours: "when thou passest through the rivers I will be with thee." He is in a blessed condition who can confidently use the language of David, m "thou wilt revive me." He shall not make his boast of God in vain: he shall be kept alive, and made more alive than ever. How often has the Lord quickened us by our sorrows! Are they not his readiest means of exciting to fulness of energy the holy life which dwells within us? If we receive reviving, we need not regret affliction. When God revives us, trouble will never harm us. "Thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me." This is the fact which would revive fainting David. Our foes fall when the Lord comes to deal with them; he makes short work of the enemies of his people, - with one hand he routs them. His wrath soon quenches their wrath; his hand stays their hand. Adversaries may be many, and malicious, and mighty; but our glorious Defender has only to stretch out his arm and their armies vanish. The sweet singer rehearses his assurance of salvation, and sings of it in the ears of the Lord, addressing him with this confident language. He will be saved, - saved dexterously, decidedly, divinely; he has no doubt about it. God's right hand cannot forget its cunning; Jerusalem is his chief joy, and he will defend his own elect.

Psalm 138:8

"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." All my interests are safe in Jehovah's hands.

"The work which his goodness began,

The arm of his strength will complete;

His promise is yea and Amen,

And never was forfeited yet."

God is concerned in all that concerns his servants. He will see to it that none of their precious things shall fail of completion; their life, their strength, their hopes, their graces, their pilgrimage, shall each and all be perfected. Jehovah himself will see to this; and therefore it is most sure. "Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever." The refrain of the former Psalm is in his ears, and he repeats it as his own personal conviction and consolation. The first clause of the verse is the assurance of faith, and this second one reaches to the full assurance of understanding. God's work in us will abide unto perfection because God's mercy towards us thus abideth. "Forsake not the works of thine own hands." Our confidence does not cause us to live without prayer, but encourages us to pray all the more. Since we have it written upon our hearts that God will perfect his work in us, and we see it also written in Scripture that his mercy changeth not, we with holy earnestness entreat that we may not be forsaken. If there be anything good in us, it is the work of God's own hands: will he leave it? Why has he wrought so much in us if he means to give us up? - it will be a sheer waste of effort. He who has gone so far will surely persevere with us to the end. Our hope for the final perseverance of the believer lies in the final perseverance of the believer's God. If the Lord begins to build, and does not finish, it will not be to his honour. He will have a desire to the work of his hands, for he knows what it has cost him already, and he will not throw away a vessel upon which he has expended so much of labour and skill. Therefore do we praise him with our whole heart, even in the presence of those who depart from his Holy Word, and set up another God and another gospel; which are not another, but there be some that trouble us.

Unto the lowly; unto such as are mean and obscure in the world; to me, a poor contemptible shepherd, whom he hath preferred before great princes, and to such as are little in their own eyes.

But the proud he knoweth afar off; but for the great men of the world, who are lifted up in pride, he looks upon them as they do upon others, with scorn and contempt, and at a great distance, as disdaining to admit them into his presence. But the words may be, and by divers interpreters are, rendered otherwise, And he who is high, or the lofty one from afar, (i.e. from his high and holy place, even the highest heavens, where he dwells, notwithstanding that distance,) doth know them, or will own them. So this is the repetition of the former sentence, as is very usual in this book. And this seems best to suit, as with the foregoing, so also with the following words, and thus all will be understood of one and the same sort of persons. Though the Lord be high,.... Above all the earth, and all the nations of it, and the highest of men in it; above the heavens, and the angels there, who are his creatures and at his command; above all the blessings and praises of his saints: the perfect knowledge of him is so high as not to be attained; and his thoughts and ways are higher than ours, as the heavens are higher than the earth; he is indeed the most High, higher than the highest; see Psalm 113:4. According to Arama, here begins the song,

"the kings of the earth shall sing in the ways of the Lord?''

yet hath he respect unto the lowly; for good, as the Targum; that are low in their own eyes, humbled under a sense of sin, convinced, of the insufficiency of their own righteousness to justify them, and made to submit to the righteousness of Christ; ascribe the whole of their salvation to the free grace of God; patiently and quietly bear every afflictive providence; think the worst of themselves, and the best of others; and, being the followers of the lowly Jesus, learn of him, imitate him, and become like unto him: these the Lord has a gracious respect unto; he looks upon them with a look of love; he has respect to their persons in Christ, and to their sacrifices for his sake, which are those of a broken and contrite heart; he regards their prayers, though low and destitute, and gives more grace unto them; yea, he condescends to dwell with them, and in due time highly exalts them; see Isaiah 57:15. David may have in view his own low state and condition as a shepherd, in which he was when the Lord took him, and raised him to the throne of Israel;

but the proud he knoweth afar off; the Targum adds,

"to destroy them:''

such who are proud of themselves and what they have; of their wisdom and knowledge, of their strength or beauty, of their wealth and riches; or of their righteousness and holiness; of the purity and goodness of their hearts, and power of their free will, they vainly think themselves possessed of; and despise others below them in these things, or the practice of them: these the Lord takes notice of, and looks upon them at a distance with scorn and contempt; nor will he admit them to nearness to him, nay, opposes himself to them, and sooner or later abases them; see Proverbs 3:34. The Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions render it, "high things he knoweth afar off"; things too high for creatures, that are out of their reach; he sees and knows all persons and things, whether in heaven or in earth. Others render them, "and the high One knoweth afar off" (u); knows the lowly, owns and acknowledges them for his own; takes care of them, provides for them, and protects them: and then the sense is the same with the preceding clause.

(u) So Pagninus; "quamvis", Junius & Tremellius.

Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth {e} afar off.

(e) Distance of place cannot hinder God to show mercy to his, and so judge the wicked though they think that he is far off.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. For though Jehovah is high, yet he seeth the lowly] Exalted as He is, Jehovah never loses sight of the lowly, and in due time raises them up (Exodus 3:7; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2; Psalm 113:5 ff.): and the haughty he knoweth from afar; no distance hides them from His eye, and they cannot escape the punishment they deserve. Cp. Psalm 94:7 ff.; Job 22:12 ff.; and for know see note on Psalm 1:6.Verse 6. - Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly. Notwithstanding all God's glory and greatness, he condescends to look upon the lowly, to consider their needs, and to supply them (comp. Isaiah 57:15). Hence David feels sure that he will not be overlooked (see vers. 7, 8). But the proud he knoweth afar off. God keeps proud men at a distance, does not draw near to them, much less make his abode with them, but leaves them to themselves until they are ripe for punishment. The second part of the Psalm supplicates vengeance upon Edom and Babylon. We see from Obadiah's prophecy, which is taken up again by Jeremiah, how shamefully the Edomites, that brother-people related by descent to Israel and yet pre-eminently hostile to it, behaved in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans as their malignant, rapacious, and inhuman helpers. The repeated imper. Piel ערוּ, from ערה (not imper. Kal from ערר, which would be ערוּ), ought to have been accented on the ult.; it is, however, in both cases accented on the first syllable, the pausal ערוּ (cf. כּלוּ in Psalm 37:20, and also הסּוּ, Nehemiah 8:11) giving rise to the same accentuation of the other (in order that two tone-syllables might not come together). The Pasek also stands between the two repeated words in order that they may be duly separated, and secures, moreover, to the guttural initial of the second ערוּ its distinct pronunciation (cf. Genesis 26:28; Numbers 35:16). It is to be construed: lay bare, lay bare (as in Habakkuk 3:13, cf. גּלּה in Micah 1:6) in it (Beth of the place), of in respect of it (Beth of the object), even to the foundation, i.e., raze it even to the ground, leave not one stone upon another. From the false brethren the imprecation turns to Babylon, the city of the imperial power of the world. The daughter, i.e., the population, of Babylon is addressed as השּׁדוּדה. It certainly seems the most natural to take this epithet as a designation of its doings which cry for vengeance. But it cannot in any case be translated: thou plunderer (Syriac like the Targum: bozuzto; Symmachus ἡ λῃστρίς), for שׁדד does not mean to rob and plunder, but to offer violence and to devastate. Therefore: thou devastator; but the word so pointed as we have it before us cannot have this signification: it ought to be השּׁדודה, like בּגודה in Jeremiah 3:7, Jeremiah 3:10, or השּׁדוּדה (with an unchangeable ā), corresponding to the Syriac active intensive form ālûṣo, oppressor, gōdûfo, slanderer, and the Arabic likewise active intensive form Arab. fâ‛ûl, e.g., fâshûs, a boaster, and also as an adjective: ǵôz fâshûs, empty nuts, cf. יקוּשׁ equals יקושׁ, a fowler, like nâṭûr (נאטור), a field-watcher. The form as it stands is part. pass., and signifies προνενομευμένη (Aquila), vastata (Jerome). It is possible that this may be said in the sense of vastanda, although in this sense of a part. fut. pass. the participles of the Niphal (e.g., Psalm 22:32; Psalm 102:19) and of the Pual (Psalm 18:4) are more commonly used. It cannot at any rate signify vastata in an historical sense, with reference to the destruction of Babylon by Darius Hystaspes (Hengstenberg); for Psalm 137:7 only prays that the retribution may come: it cannot therefore as yet have been executed; but if השׁדודה signified the already devastated one, it must (at least in the main) have been executed already. It might be more readily understood as a prophetical representation of the executed judgment of devastation; but this prophetic rendering coincides with the imprecative: the imagination of the Semite when he utters a curse sees the future as a realized fact. "Didst thou see the smitten one (maḍrûb)," i.e., he whom God must smite? Thus the Arab inquires for a person who is detested. "Pursue him who is seized (ilḥaḳ el̇ma'chûdh)," i.e., him whom God must allow thee to seize! Thy speak thus inasmuch as the imagination at once anticipates the seizure at the same time with the pursuit. Just as here both maḍrûb and ma'chûdh are participles of Kasl, so therefore השּׁדוּודה may also have the sense of vastanda (which must be laid waste!). That which is then further desired for Babylon is the requital of that which it has done to Israel, Isaiah 47:6. It is the same penal destiny, comprehending the children also, which is predicted against it in Isaiah 13:16-18, as that which was to be executed by the Medes. The young children (with reference to עולל, עולל, vid., on Psalm 8:3) are to be dashed to pieces in order that a new generation may not raise up again the world-wide dominion that has been overthrown, Isaiah 14:21. It is zeal for God that puts such harsh words into the mouth of the poet. "That which is Israel's excellency and special good fortune the believing Israelite desires to have bestowed upon the whole world, but for this very reason he desires to see the hostility of the present world of nations against the church of God broken" (Hofmann). On the other hand, it cannot be denied that the "blessed" of this Psalm is not suited to the mouth of the New Testament church. In the Old Testament the church as yet had the form of a nation, and the longing for the revelation of divine righteousness clothed itself accordingly in a warlike garb.
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