Today [Psalm Thirty-Eight]. When You Have Failed Miserably: Now What? In this psalm David is writhing in the aftermath of his own sin in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba. He stands guilty before God. Both his friends and his enemies have turned away from him and betrayed him. Despondency overwhelms him. There will be times in your life when you will grapple with unthinkable struggle such as this. In this psalm we see a way forward by the mercy and lovingkindness of God.
[Psa 38:1-22 KJV] 1 [[A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.]] 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. 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. 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.
This psalm is thought to have been composed after the prophet Nathan confronts David regarding his sin with Bathsheba. David’s demeanor is completely the opposite of what is found in his other writings. He is despondent and heart sick. He has little hope of salvation. He sees no way out of his situation. Jewish treatment of this psalm regards it as a dirge reflecting the distress of the people of God who feel abandoned by God in a time of trial.
The psalm begins with David imploring that God not rebuke him in his sore displeasure. When sons offend they always presume upon their father’s displeasure. They feel guilty and in David’s case he is looking more at his own misconduct rather than the proven mercy of God that has been manifest in his life many, many times. Going on to verse 2 David speaks of the arrows of God piercing him deeply. In this David is no doubt referring to the words of the prophet Nathan who exposed David with a parable and declared before the court “thou art the man!”. What David calls the hand of God pressing sorely upon him is really the weight of his own guilt that he sees no way to address. Was God’s hand heavy upon David? His guilt was without doubt and there were consequences for his actions, but in the end David survives and goes on to find the mercy of God even in the most dark of situations and circumstances.
There will be times that you will fail and fall. This is the human condition. You will find yourself in a situation for which there is no excuse to be given. This psalm is given in the context of David’s entire life. He has sinned grievously. There are not mitigating factors. He has gone on to commit murder to cover things up. The terror of facing the consequences for his actions drives him to despair.
Perhaps we could never see ourselves as committing any such acts but as Jeremiah says in Jer. 17:9 “the heart of man is deceitfully wicked, no man can know it”. Paul agrees with this in the New Testament saying in Rom. 7:18 that he realized that in his flesh dwelled no good thing. Paul also had taken innocent life but like David goes on to find his destiny in God. Each of these men could have responded very differently and died in ignominy, obscure, miserable and unknown. I had a friend who committed dire acts even though walking as a believer. God sent me to him to encourage him to humble himself in his situation. Unlike David and Paul he refused and now sits in prison for the rest of his life. Let us learn the lessons of David’s suffering and however painful run TO God instead of AWAY from God even in the most difficult of situations.
11 My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off. 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. 15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God. 16 For I said, [Hear me], lest [otherwise] they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify [themselves] against me. 17 For I [am] ready to halt, and my sorrow [is] continually before me. 18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin. 19 But mine enemies [are] lively, [and] they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied. 20 They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow [the thing that] good [is]. 21 Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me. 22 Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.
There will be times in life that you will not know whom you can trust. Friends and close intimate relationships will fail you and falter in their commitments. You will see people around you who instead of helping you when you are hard pressed will take advantage and desire to merchandise your life while you bleed out in a time of suffering. That is the human condition. Man will fail you every time. We should not be surprised or allow bitterness and forgiveness to rob us of our peace. When you are betrayed don’t think that it is a strange thing. Sometime we place demands upon people that being made of sinful flesh they are just incapable of living up to. Get your eyes off of man and keep them upon God. Forgive release and bless.
In verse 13 David is struck dumb by the enormity of what he is facing. In verse 14 there is no reproof in his thinking for the sins of others. He feels completely unqualified to sit in judgment of others. He is coming to the end of himself. In a sense this is a good thing because he (no doubt like many of us) refrains from hurling accusations at others in order to make excuses for himself. To the degree we hurl accusations at others we expose the enormity of our own unconfessed guilt. When we point the finger at others we are only establishing our own greater sin in the very same manner. David is past all of this. He is empty and spent standing without excuse before God.
Finally in verse 15 David, true to his character reaches for the redemptive red cord of God’s faithfulness. He has come to the end of himself and places his hope in God. When everything in life goes wrong and it seems there is no future – put your trust in God. Look to Him for mercy, lovingkindness and forgiveness. Others want to destroy David in his sin and they will certainly make the attempt but David in verse 18 declares his own iniquity and not the sins of others. In childlike simplicity he is sorry for his sin and throws himself upon God’s mercy.
In settling accounts with God David still has to contend with those who seek his hurt. In verse 19 he describes those that hate him wrongfully. How does David arrive at this conclusion? After committing murder and adultery how can he accuse anyone of mistreating him? Here is the perversion of human judgment. Those that judge David and work to destroy him are themselves ultimately and likewise guilty before the court of heaven. They bear the blood guiltiness of their own sinful condition. When you are wronged and suffer irretrievably lost remember that vengeance belongs ultimately to God alone. Why? Because we are not qualified to judge the sins of others when our own disqualification before God is so great. Those who protest the sins of others testify by their own attitude that they have undealt with and unconfessed sin in their own lives.
In verse 30 David cries out to God to save him because he is following after what is good. What good is David talking about? What possible good can David point to in his own life after such horrible crimes. Here we find what true repentance looks like. After getting past your own dark sins – and refusing to make excuses, you must prepare yourself to go on. Your enemies might look at your repentance and mock and accuse you of hypocrisy but you must go on as David did. There came a day after lying in sackcloth and ashes that David got up, bathed himself and put the crown of rule back on his own head. No one did it for him. Man may not restore you but it is ultimately up to you to get up and dust yourself off and move on life. It doesn’t matter what man thinks. Men will very seldom truly forgive in the worst of situations. You cannot stay in the grave yard of regret, cutting yourself with the accusations of others. Receive the forgiveness of God. Take your eyes off of men and their harsh judgments. Get on with life.
In the end of the psalm David calls upon God asking for help. He implores with God not to forsake him. He is amending his ways and moving on but the specter of his own failure haunts him even after it is long past. You will experience this. In the midst of great upheaval in your life and tremendous error at times you will eventually get past it. Yet the weight of past sin can re-emerge and pull you back into despair. David is determined to immerse himself in the love of God and look not at his past but at the mercy of God and the faithfulness of God to help him move on.
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