Thursday, April 02, 2015

Psalm 38- Sermon Notes

Psalm 38 A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.
Make Haste to Help Me
March 22, 2015
Lynchburg, Virginia

         The Psalmist is here stricken with his own sins. He is so stricken that he nearly despairs of God. In such a condition, man is sore pressed.
         Furthermore, he is beset with enemies. He is weak and his enemies take the opportunity to hit a man while he is down.
If he feels afflicted by God, where can he turn? If he is unable to withstand his enemies, how will he stand? Only to God, which is what he does.
As we read this Psalm, we should keep in mind the nature of Scripture. It is inspired. God meant for us to have it. This psalm is gut wrenching. David has sinned in some way but he is still God’s man. But he is struggling and desperate.
God wanted us to know this. He wanted us to be able to relate to David’s troubles in our own troubles. David was God’s man, His king, a prophet and yet he suffered greatly. He sinned. He had formidable enemies.
Of course, this is also true of Jesus. But in some ways, we relate better even to David, as he was not God in the flesh but a man fully beset with his own fallen nature. But it pleased our God that Jesus would suffer. It pleased our God that David would suffer. And so we ought not to expect a life without sorrow, without a sense of our own sinfulness, without deep trouble, without enemies.
And, we should respond like David, even in a desperate plea, “Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!”

1  O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.  2 For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.
 The Psalmist here calls upon God’s mercy. He has reason to know that God is angry with him and yet He calls upon God to know overdo His anger.
Do we know God in such a way as to be able to speak to Him, thusly? Would we call upon God to hold His hand of chastisement and punishment from us, even though we deserve it?
He knows that God will chasten him, but he calls upon God to cool off first. This seems a strange way to speak to God. But perhaps not if we appeal to God as Father. Certainly, fathers understand the temptation to chastise in a hot mood. A wise father will let the immediate occasion simmer down before he pronounces a sentence of judgment. In the emotion of anger, a raw judgment may flash out.
Children understand this as well. If they know that they have done wrong, they often ease into the telling. They may want mother or a sibling to tell father about what has happened. Why? Because the child knows that if his good father has while to think about it and work through his own anger first, he is likely to deal more graciously and mercifully after.
David is asking God to simmer down, to cool off, to not discipline in the heat of the moment.
Arrows stick fast (sachat), hand presses sore (sachat). God is upon him and the pain is intense.

3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.  4 For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.  5 My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.  6 I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.  7 For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh.
The Psalmist is keenly aware of his need for close fellowship with God. In this breach, he knows that his health is failing because of sin. He has no soundness in his flesh, no rest in his bones. He is overwhelmed with his sins. He cannot bear the weight of them.
We do not know if his body is literally sick and stinking or if this is a  metaphor for his spiritual condition. But he says his loins are filled with loathsomeness and there is no soundness in his flesh. Clearly, his sins have caused him to become ill in some way. He is suffering, perhaps depression, perhaps other sorts of sicknesses.
In this suffering, He does not blame God. He blames his foolishness, his own sins.
He has no joy. He goes mourning all the day. He is seems stuck in his sin and cannot get out.
You get the picture of a man who is really in despair. He is so weighted down by his sins that he hunched over, ill of mind and body.

8 I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.  9 Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.  10 My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.  11 My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off.
He is feeble and broken. That is not how we normally think of David. He is strong and well put together. His heart is disquiet. The depressed person often seems quiet. Their words cease but the disquietness of their heart is racing thoughts, no peace.
His hope is expressed to the Lord, his desire but it is not answered and he moans and groans in anguish.
He has a racing heart, perhaps panic attacks. His eyes are dim and changed. The usual sparkle is not there. He feels and looks lifeless.
Not only is he suffering personally. His suffering has caused strife among his friends and family. He is broken but he is broken in a way that does not cause others to come to his rescue. Instead, they flee from him. In a sense, he is left utterly alone.
Given the stave of David’s mind in this Psalm, I don’t think we can say that his judgment is totally clear. He says his lovers and friends and kinsmen stand aloof. They are far off. But anyone in his condition would feel like he is being ostracized. Perhaps the reality is not the same as his perception?
Someone caught in the midst of despair or depression often feels this way. They feel abandoned by God, family and friends. They are watching the world around them but not participating in it. This could easily be perceived as others standing aloof when the reality is that the afflicted party stands aloof.  This is a very lonely place.

12  They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.  13 But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.  14 Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs. 
His enemies take his condition and suffering as an opportunity to heap more trouble upon him. Think of Job’s friends here. But David has real enemies and they take his weakness as an opportunity to pounce on him.
He has confessed the weight of his sins. But he may have sins in mind that are completely different than those sins that he is accused of.  One caught in depression suffers from a keen awareness of his sins and failures. But that is not the same thing as real evils perpetrated against others.
David’s enemies spread rumors about him while he was weak. He was so weak, in fact, that he couldn’t even answer them. He was distraught but beyond defending himself against their accusations.

15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God. 
David hope is somewhat feeble in this Psalm but it is not absent. He puts hope in God to rescue him. He knows that he cannot defend himself and so he calls upon God to defend him.
Although this is an extremely difficult place to be, it is not a bad place. If God is your only possible hope, when relief comes, you know that it is from God.

16 For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.
David is aware enough of the situation to realize that his enemies will take advantage of him in his weakness.

17 For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me. 
He is ready to halt. He is ready to give up. He cannot shake his sorrow.

18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin. 
In this condition of great sorrow, David was still honest before the Lord. He did not hide his sins from God. He was sorry for his sins and sought relief and help from the only place he could really achieve it, from the Lord, Himself.

19 But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied. 
David is expressing his own self loathing in this Psalm. He has sinned. He has been foolish. He is burdened and weighted down by it. But he also understands that his sins and the sins he is accused of are different things altogether. His enemies wrongfully multiply. The multiply based upon lies not upon the truth of David’s sorrow.

20 They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is.
It is not inconsistent to be beset with your sinfulness while at the same time following after God. It is true that the Lord desires us to be full of the joy of the Holy Spirit. But it is also true that the Lord desires us to hate our sins and to turn to Him for relief.
It is the common experience of the saints to have seasons of remorse, doing battle with the sins of the flesh and of the mind. At these times of weakness, there is sometimes doubt as well. It is encouraging here in this Psalm that David is in a bad state but He does not doubt God’s love for Him. He turns to God as His only hope.
It is also interesting and true to experience that your enemies do not cut you any slack when you are not doing well. They heap more trouble upon your head. Your friends should understand and encourage you in such times. Do not expect your enemies to do so. Furthermore, at such times, you find out who your friends are.

21 Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me. 
David’s final sentence sounds like a plea of desperation. He feels forsaken so he is calling upon God to not forsake him. It seems as if God is far from him so he is calling upon God to be near.
The fact is that God has not forsaken David. When we turn to God in repentance for our sins, He is near. But we may not have that immediate sense of His nearness. Sometimes we do and it is a great blessing. But sometimes in His wise providence, He leaves us longer so that we cling to Him more.
It is good that David is waiting upon God. God seems far from David but David has no where else to turn, no one else to turn to. If God does not deliver him, he will not be delivered and so he casts himself upon the Lord.

22 Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.
This verse is an excellent one for what it means to be saved. David needs saved from his sins. He needs saved from his physical condition. He needs saved from his enemies. He needs saved from his torment of soul. Essentially, David needs saved in every sense of the word.
He recognizes that this salvation can only come from the Lord. But again, he feels that if God does not save him soon, he will be lost. Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation. Lord, I am trying to hold on but I cannot hold on much longer. If you do not show up and save me soon, I will perish and the evil men will prevail.
         I do not want to trivialize our struggles against sins and enemies. But we do understand this concept when we watch a movie. The hero is beset with his own failures. Furthermore, he has enemies that are trying to bring him down. The hero is the good guy but the enemies use his own flaw to try to destroy him. And the climax of the movie is always that point in which the hero is so beset with his own failure and the threat of the evil enemy that it looks like all is lost. It is only at that point, that he comes to find help, either through repentance and a transformation of his own soul, or outside forces come to save him.
         Unfortunately, the Disney theology is simply, “Believe in yourself.” So, if you think you are strong enough, or great enough, then you will be. But that is not the Biblical theology. Disney brings us to our knees until we believe in ourselves. God brings us to our knees until we believe in Him.
         There is a huge difference. If we believe in ourselves and save ourselves, we get the glory for doing so. If we believe in God and He alone is our salvation, then our suffering and rescue redounds to His glory. And that is what we are called to be and do, servants who glorify our Father in Heaven.

         So, let us not despise the trying time, the trials that prove that God is our Father and our only hope of salvation. And at such times, let us cry out like David, “Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.”

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