John T. Willis

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sinners approach God in Worship--Psalm 38

The composer of Psalm 38 has been stricken with severe illness (verses 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 17). His disease is probably some form of leprosy because verse 5 refers to foul and festering wounds, verse 7 speaks of the lack of soundness in the flesh, and verse 6 says the psalmist is utterly bowed down and prostrate. The reason for this severe sickness is that he is a great sinner--verses 2, 3, 5, 18. His enemies use his severe illness as a proof that he is a great sinner against God, and they eagerly anticipate his death (verses 12, 16, 19-20). Even his own friends, companions, and kinsmen wonder whether his affliction does not prove his alienation from God, and thus stand aloof from him (verse 11). The composer prays fervently that God will stop chastening him (verse 1), preventing his enemies from rejoicing over his desperate situation (verse 16), and stand by him to help him in his terrible circumstances (verses 15, 21-22). Psalm 38 falls into three parts:

1. The psalmist prays fervently that God will not abandon him. Introduction and Conclusion. 38:1, 21-22.
    a. The psalmist uses FOUR negative verbs in his plea to God: Do not rebuke me; do not discipline me; do not forsake me; do not be far from me. These verbs assume that God is a loving father who disciplines his children when they do wrong.
     b. The Psalmist uses ONE positive verb in this plea: Make haste to help me. God is the only dependable help in every situation of life.

2. The Composer describes the severity of his Illness. 38:2-14.
    a. As a result of God's "anger" and "wrath" (verse 1), God's "arrows" have sunk into the body of the psalmist and God's "hand" has come down on him. 38:2.
    b. The psalmist explains that there is no soundness in his flesh (see also verse 7) and no health in his bones because of his sin. His iniquities have gone over him; they weigh down on him like a heavy burden too heavy for him. 38:3-4.
    c. The psalmist's wounds grow foul and fester; he is utterly bowed down and prostrate and does around mourning; he is utterly spent and crushed. 38:5-8.
    d. The poet's longing cries out to God; his sighing is wide open; his heart throbs; his strength fails; the light of his eyes is gone. 38:9-10.
    e. The composer's friends and companions stand aloof from his affliction; his neighbors stay away off from him. At the same time, his enemies plan a way to destroy him. He is like the deaf and the mute. Thus, he has nothing more to say. 38:11-14.

3. The Psalmist gives God FOUR reasons to deliver him from his severe illness. 38:15-20.
    a. In spite of all his tremendous problems, the psalmist declares that he will "wait" for the Lord, anticipating his answer. Thus, the first reason the composer gives for Yahweh to deliver him is that he depends on God. 38:15.
    b.  The second reason the writer gives for Yahweh to deliver him is that his enemies and his severe illness make his condition unbearable, and he is ready to fall if God does not intervene and deliver him. 38:16-17.
    c. The third reason the psalmist gives for Yahweh to deliver him is that now he confesses his sins and is sorry for his foolishness. 38:18.
    d. The fourth reason the composer gives for Yahweh to deliver him is that while he is trying to follow after good, his enemies render him evil for good and have hated him wrongfully. 38:19-20.

When severe difficulties in life arise, the only appropriate response is to turn to God for help.

Share YOUR reversals and disappointments and defeats and victories and positive thoughts with others.

Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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