Book 1 – Psalm 38 of 41: the repenting King

Unlike the previous Psalms, Matthew Henry remarks that “this is one of the penitential psalms” as it is full of grief and complaint from the beginning to the end, as a result of David’s sins and his afflictions.  Adam Clarke observes the various conjectures made in relation to this chapter, and muses that most likely it refers to some severe affliction which David had after his illicit commerce with Bathsheba.

Look, in particular, at v.3 – “There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.  Compare this against Proverbs 3:7-8: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones“.  Contrary to refreshment, as Solomon teaches his son in the book of Proverbs, a man’s self-centered wisdom will not bring the healing and refreshment to his flesh as he may initially perceive.  David experienced this first hand from his own sin.

Accordingly, this chapter is the full extent of the ramifications of sin – and even the heart of a repentant man is not freed from the shackles of shame.  Yet, despite such shame, as promised in Psalm 37, He will still uphold us.  David’s heart pours out clearly in this chapter – “My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes – it also has gone from me.” (v.10)  How beautiful are David’s words – how honest, and how often do we see the same shared at our churches today, when someone asks how we are doing?  Do we not respond with our usual “Good”, “It is well with me”, even when we are wallowing in our guilt, shame, disgust, and pain?  Just like Job, David states that his friends and companions now stand aloof from his plague (v.11); further observing that a sinner is muted aurally and orally (Isaiah 6:9-10).

Nevertheless, the climax, just as in the book of Ecclesiastes, is found in the final verses.  “But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer” (v.15).  Can anyone but our intimate and loving God provide such warmth and security?  Do you turn to God in your pain?  Is not God the reason for such pain, He who set down the mandates and strictures as to what is or isn’t sin, what is or isn’t of benefit to us?  Yet, David goes back to the source – he is pained for hurting the LORD, for grieving Him, and he experiences the ramification of his downfall; yet, He recognises the LORD’s faithfulness and graciousness found in Christ Jesus.  It is Christ Jesus Whom David waits for, as he repents – “I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin” (v.18).  No flowery language – David speaks it like it is.  Yet, even when David seeks to do good, his enemy now seeks to destroy him – and we know that, despite David’s shortcomings in his unholy union with Bathsheba, the LORD did not forsake him and instead, indeed modeled the gospel salvation for David in 2 Samuel 24.

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Book 1 – Psalm 38 of 41: the repenting King

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