Read Psalm 138.
David is a man of praise. There’s no doubt about it. The stories of his life in the books of Samuel and Chronicles tell us as much, as do many of the psalms he penned. Here in Psalm 138, he’s at it again: “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise” (v. 1).
Who are the “gods” mentioned here? That’s up for debate. It could be the dark gods of the nations, and David is saying he will not be intimidated. Though he has a target on his back as the faithful king of Israel, he will continue to worship Yahweh, the one true God. These “gods” could also be angels in the heavenly realms—spiritual beings who praise God at all times (see Revelation 4:8). If this is the case, David, with his song of adoration, is joining in with the heavenly choir.
Whichever idea was in David’s mind as he penned this psalm, we know both realities are true. There are false gods in rebellion, who wish to silence our praise. And when we do lift up our voices, we can know we are not alone. God has ordained praise from His holy ones in heaven.
Worship, then, is an act of spiritual warfare that cuts through the veil separating the natural and supernatural realms. It is no small thing.
Worship is also natural. It is what will automatically and spontaneously flow out of someone when they come face to face with who God is and what’s He’s done for us. It doesn’t always sound like singing, but it magnifies the Lord all the same.
That our world spends so little time worshipping is an indication that it is still a shadowland. David, in his psalm, longs for the day when the darkness will be lifted and other kings will worship the true Lord of the universe: “May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD, when they hear what you have decreed” (Psalm 138:4).
For David, these kings could be considered rivals or enemies to be crushed. But David would rather have them as fellow worshipers. It’s a curious desire only at home in the mind of someone who’s been transformed by the Lord. David understands God’s heart: “Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly” (v 6). God revealed Himself to the world not to crush guilty people for their sins, but to offer a way of salvation, a path of hope. He sent His Son not to judge, but to convert enemies of God into true worshipers (John 3:17).
Like David before him, the apostle Paul understood this. That’s why, as a prisoner, he could stand before the kings of his day—men with the power to deny his freedom and take his life—and say, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains” (Acts 26:29).
It really is true: we become just like whatever it is we worship. That’s why neither David nor Paul should be considered strange. Their time before the throne of God in worship gave them heaven’s perspective, eyes to see their enemies the way God does. One day, they will join in with a multitude of worshipers too large to number (Revelation 7:9). They will be there with the angels, and they will look around to see that every last human being in the group was once an enemy of God.