Intro: Psalm 38 serves a twofold purpose. 1) It is a psalm of repentance in which David is taking ownership of his sin and its consequences. 2) It is a psalm that ask for deliverance from those who are trying to use David’s sin against him. It is a psalm that seeks the Lord’s mercy.
A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.
1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.
13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!”
17 For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
accuse me because I follow after good.
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!
Main Point: In Psalm 38 David ask for the Lord’s mercy. David starts by describing his poor condition (1-11). He has been afflicted by the Lord for his sin. David acknowledges that his sin is his own doing, and he never once tries to tell the Lord that his discipline was undeserved. Instead he pleads mercy. This psalm is truly about mercy, and grace from first to last. Even when David turns and ask for deliverance from his enemies (12-22) he doesn’t make his usual forceful argument as to why the Lord should deliver him. David simply writes “Do not forsake me, O Lord!” This psalm is about a sinner who knows that the greatest gift he can ever receive is mercy.
Interesting Points: David’s use of the imagery of God piercing him with an arrow is a striking one, isn’t it? This is a major wound and life-threatening normally. This wasn’t some minor conviction of sin. This was a major deal and a major intervention in David’s life by the Lord. Think about what David is describing here. In today’s language this is the equivalent of getting shot with a gun. What would have to happen to you for you to say in your prayers “you shot me with a M-16”?
My mind goes immediately to the ordeal with Bathsheba simply because of the way that the Lord specifically had to intervene in David’s life to convict him of his sin. There are many other places in his life that could have fit this scenario. However, I think most of them come after his affair with Bathsheba. If you just glance through 2 Samuel 12 and beyond you see all of the trouble that David encountered late in his life. This psalm very well could have been prompted by one of those occasions.
Verse 5 is a reminder of what sin does and is. It is death, and the smell of death comes with it. It is nasty and gross. It is no fun cleaning it up, and there is often pain in the cleaning of the wound that it leaves. It is also a reminder that we commit sin because of our own foolishness. As the Apostle James tells us, we should not say that the Lord is tempting us. It is because of our own choices and desires.
On a side note many christians go through life making excuses for their sins. Some point the finger at the Devil; some try to get a little more sophisticated and point the finger at their parents. But we should all remember that our sin is our own, and there is no one else to blame.
I also like very much how David says in verse 13 and 14 that he acts like he doesn’t hear the things that his enemies say, and he doesn’t answer them. In verse 15 he gives the reason why. He does not answer because he is waiting upon the Lord, and it is the Lord who will answer his foes. David need not speak because it is the Lord who will speak on his behalf.
Verses 17-20 also have an interesting juxtaposition. David is lowly, and contrite. Yet his enemies are vigorous and strong. This teaches us that outcomes are not determined by strength or might, but by whom the Lord favors.
David closes, as I will close, reminding the Lord and himself that he has no salvation apart from the Lord. All David can do is wait upon the Lord, and ask the Lord to deliver him. Let us all remember that this is all we can do. As sinners we must simply come and ask mercy, and the Lord is sure to give it.The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Quotation information. Purchase an ESV.