(Give each person a large paper clip and ask them to bend it into several different shapes. Give them a few moments to complete their task of bending the paper clip.)
Say: Your paper clip represents your life. We might be shaped in ways we didn’t anticipate, but we’ll end up better liking the person we become if we learn to give God thanks in all situations for the work He is doing in and through us. Read 1 Thess. 5:18!
(Reshape your paper clip to look like a person bowing.)
When we make thanksgiving and praise to God a daily habit we are changed more into the likeness of Jesus!
Psalm 138 is a thanksgiving psalm, which means it was a response to something God had done for the psalmist, David. In this Psalm, David stated that he would give God thanks with his whole heart. That may not always be our first instinct, but as we strengthen our allegiance to God, it will become more and more natural.
Give God Thanks! Read Psalm 138:1-3
1. What phrase expresses David’s sincerity in giving thanks?
2. What does it mean to “halfheartedly” do something?
3. How would you describe doing something “with all your heart?”
4. What makes the difference in “halfhearted” and “wholehearted”?
5. Before whom did David say he would sing praise?
We can’t see heavenly beings with our physical eyes. And at the time David was writing this psalm, the temple hadn’t been built so he was bowing toward the Tabernacle. A thankful heart does not depend on what can be seen with our eyes.
6. What may cause a person to hesitate in giving thanks to God?
7. What roadblocks get in the way of a person developing an attitude of thankfulness?
Read verse 3 again. Note that David was referring to a previous experience—he has shifted from talking about what he would do to what had happened in the past.
8. Would anyone like to share an experience when God answered a specific prayer?
9. What motivates a person to express thankfulness?
10. Are some motives better than others?
This psalm seems to indicate that thankfulness is a matter of willingness. Thankfulness is often expressed for what God has done. But worship is expressed for who God is. In the next section, let’s pay attention to why David wrote that all earthly kings will worship the Lord.
All Kings Will Bow! Read Psalm 138:4-6
God has a special relationship with His people, Israel. Israel is the nation to whom God has made specific promises of blessing. Yet, verse 4 says that all the kings on earth will thank God when they hear what God has promised.
1. What generally happens when an earthly kingdom is vanquished by another?
2. What will happen when earthly kingdoms are concurred and subjugated by the Lord? (It is cause for thanksgiving and praise!)
3. According to verse 5, why would other kings of the earth sing of the Lord’s ways? (“The Lord’s Glory is Great.”)
Although God’s promises were made to Israel, God is clear throughout Scripture that all nations will benefit from the blessings God poured out on His chosen people. When God first blessed Abraham, He told him that He would make Abram into a great nation (see Gen. 12:3). Ultimately, this promise has its fulfillment through Jesus Christ, who, though He is a descendant of Abraham according to the flesh, is the Savior of all people through His death and resurrection (see Rom. 1:4).
4. Which is a better motivator of thankfulness to God: love or fear? Why? (Some kings would be prompted out of thankfulness for the Lord’s promises, ways, or greatness, and others would give thanks out of fear for God’s recognition of their haughtiness and for their own failure to recognize the humble.)
5. How does God treat the humble? (See James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” See 2 Chron. 7:14.)
6. What is God’s attitude toward the proud? (See James 4:6; Prov. 16:18—“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Prov. 11:2—“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Prov. 6:16-19 “There are six things the Lord hates, no seven things He detests; haughty eyes, …”)
Sadly, sometimes our thanks might be self-focused rather than God-focused. God sees through our arrogant or haughty attitudes.
In our last few verses for today, we’ll see how David expressed confidence in God’s love, omniscience, and power.
God Will Fulfill! Read Psalm 138:7-8
From the time Samuel anointed David to be the person God had chosen to replace Saul as king of Israel he almost always faced danger from some enemy. Initially it was Saul, then other armies, then his own son, Absalom. David was well acquainted with danger. But David’s enemies failed because he trusted God, not his own skill. No foe could take David’s life as long as he gave it to God!
1. What three conclusions had David come to realize in verse 8? (David’s life had meaning; God’s love is eternal; and God would complete what He had begun in David’s life.)
2. How does enduring a danger or a trial make a person more aware of God’s will and working in his or her life? (What we believe about God shapes how much we let Him guide us.)
3. How does enduring it foster a thankful attitude?
4. How has God’s extended hand equipped you to manage danger, anger, or unexpected obstacles?
5. How can we work for God’s purpose despite setbacks? (God is very practical and will use many means to help us fulfill our purposes in Him.)
Summarize and Challenge!
Looking back over these eight verses actions for which the psalmist was thankful are: God’s constant love, constant truth, answering prayer, increasing strength, noting the humble, recognizing haughtiness, helping with anger from enemies, extending His strong hand, fulfilling His purpose, and eternal love.
1. What are some ways we can develop a truly thankful attitude toward God?
2. How can we express joyful thanks to God when we feel grumpy, entitled, frustrated, or otherwise unthankful?
We know the “church answers,” but still struggle to choose thankfulness.
Like David, we can choose “I will” with such actions as naming elements to be thankful for even amidst the junk, talking to God about our frustrations and knowing He’s been there, or by taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
We give thanks to God not for everything, but “in everything” (1 Thess. 5:18). This can only be done through the power of God’s Spirit!
Our challenge: Create a habit that will ensure regular thankfulness to God. Will it be a dialogue with Him while taking your shower, a calendar reminder, or something else?
Make thankfulness and praise to God a lifestyle!