God’s Word Above His Name

A good friend recently asked me to explain King David’s intended meaning when he said (Psalm 138:2), “You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” Does this mean that God’s Word is more important than God’s name? If that’s what David is saying, then doesn’t this encourage bibliolatry, a worship of the Bible?

The Reputation of God

To understand what David is saying, first notice the word all when he says “above all your name.” If he is speaking about a specific name of God, then this does not make sense. But David is not talking about a specific name of God. He is talking about the reputation of God. And so the word all makes sense. David is talking about all of God’s reputation and fame.

The Promise of God

Next, consider what David means when he mentions the word of God. Is he referring to the Bible as a whole, or is he referring to something specific that God had said or promised? To answer this question, consider two words that David uses in this verse:

  • Lovingkindness – this is a special Hebrew word that means something like “unfailing loyal love and kindness.”
  • Truth – this word means faithfulness, trustworthiness and reliability.

These words most likely refer to the covenant promise that God made to David in 2 Samuel 7, when He promised him an everlasting royal dynasty. No dynasty lasts forever, and no human king deserves such a thing. So it was unfathomable for God to make this covenant with David, who recognized that he was undeserving of such a promise.

The Trustworthiness of God

When David said, “You have magnified Your word above all Your name,” he is not saying that the Bible is more important than the name of God. Instead, he is saying that God put His reputation on the line by making an astonishing, unprecedented and undeserved covenant with David; and by keeping this covenant, He surpassed His own reputation in the world as God.

One commentary (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown) says it this way:

  • “God had given [David] a vast promise (God’s “word,” i.e., the Davidic Covenant) that exceeded all that David had previously known of God (i.e., His “name”).”

Two of my friends, both serious Old Testament Hebrew students and teachers, share these thoughts about Psalm 138:2:

  • “God has put His name/reputation on the line by giving out His Word (i.e. promise). He has made a promise (perhaps the Davidic covenant in particular): if He were to fail to keep it, His character would be besmirched. In other words, His character is only as good as His Word;  if He can’t keep His own promises, then His reputation as an omnipotent and truthful God suffers.”
  • “It really is an incredible statement, and one that we frankly see worked out in our lives all the time. We know God is faithful, but the extent to which He actually keeps His promises in our lives is truly remarkable and far beyond what we would even expect of a God with an immutable faithfulness like His.”

May we, along with David, give thanks to God with our whole heart (Psalm 138:1) for His steadfast faithfulness in fulfilling His undeserved promises to us. His faithfulness to promises truly exceeds what we could ever ask or think.

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