|The Problem & Solution to Sin|
In Psalm 38, David is greatly afflicted from sin. I think this psalm really reveals to us how deeply David felt about sin—and it offers hope for us who also feel that guilt deep in our souls—that God our Savior is always there to forgive the humble in heart.
1 – 2
Here in verse 1 we see a picture of God many people don’t want to talk about today. It is the God of anger and wrath. We don’t like to think of God being angry at sin and punishing sin. We don’t like to talk about sin at all it seems. What we’re simply seeing here are the two sides of God—mercy and justice. God is merciful and loving, but God is also pure and just. Anything that is not like God is sin. If He didn’t punish sin He would not be just. Does God get angry at sin? You bet He does. But it is a righteous anger. God hates sin, and He should—and you should too.
The problem with us humans is that we are so bound up in sin that we cannot free ourselves from it. Only God can. But first He has to give us the awareness of the fact that we have acted in a way that is not like God—and that’s what He is doing for David. In David’s heart he realizes he has done something offensive to God. And in the next 8 verses he describes how that awareness affects him mentally, emotionally, physically, and even relationally.
3 – 14
In these verses David describes how the consequences of his sin have caused a great sickness in his body. He describes physical symptoms like festering wounds and burning. He describes emotional symptoms like feeling overwhelmed (like he is drowning). He also describes relational symptoms like the fact that his friends and relatives avoid him.
Notice in verse 3 that there is a connection between God’s reaction to sin (“indignation”) and the sin itself. We don’t know we are acting in a way that is not like God until we sense His reaction. The more we are changed into His image the faster that realization comes until we are realizing it before we act and can actually stop sin from happening!
In verse 5 David is not shifting the blame to anyone else but himself. It was his foolishness. And indeed, sin is foolish.
Verse 6: David goes about in mourning. How much do we mourn our sin?
Further, when David is weak in all of these ways, his enemies are seeking to take advantage. In verse 13 David describes himself as unable to listen to or respond to their accusations—he is in such pain and anguish.
But in all of this, David knows where to turn:
15 – 17
David is on the brink of disaster, but he knows to place his trust, not in himself and his own abilities, but on God. And how does that rescue come about? Confession and repentance.
18 – 22
He confesses his guilt and has a right attitude about his sin: anxiety. We should never really be at peace as long as there is unconfessed sin in our lives. But even in that, his enemies don’t give him a break—they still pursue him. And when you confess your sins to God, the enemy will only try to make you feel worse.
He finishes by saying “Hurry to help me, Lord, my Savior.” That should be our hearts cry too.
What is our attitude when the awareness of sin comes into our lives? We can deny it, justify it, or ignore it. God wants us to confess it. “Confess” just means to say it. God already knows your sin. He just wants you to admit it to him. The second part of it is that anxiety. Some translations say “I will be sorry.” It means anxiety, but also sorrow. Telling God what you’ve done is one thing—but if you aren’t sorry what good is it?
Don’t let things get as bad as David did here. Know the character of God and know your own motives, thoughts, words, and actions. When you do something that God would not do, admit it to Him, be sorry, and ask for Him to forgive and change you by the power of His Holy Spirit.
That forgiveness comes as the result, not of your sorrow, but of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on your behalf. God punished Jesus for all the things you have done and are going to do that are not like God. Be sorrowful, but also rejoice in that your sins have been washed away!
One of the questions we have in reading this psalm is—can sin make us sick and does God cause that sickness? The answer is yes on both counts—but not always. You all know this happens—if you are an alcoholic you will eventually destroy your liver and die. Certain sexual sins can lead to devastating diseases and death. And, sometimes, God brings in sickness to get our attention. James Chapter 5 tells us to pray for the sick and “if” they have sinned it will be forgiven. There is a tie between sin and sickness sometimes. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:30 talks about those who misuse communion as a time to party hardy—how it made them sick and some died. But we need to understand that it’s not punishment as much as it is an attention getter.
David had something on his mind but held his tongue. It appears as if he was in danger of buying into the mindset that “you only go around once in life so you’ve gotta grab for all the gusto you can.” It’s the idea that material possessions bring happiness. He knows it’s not true but he’s feeling like he needs a reminder – and he doesn’t want his enemies to know about his attitudes.
2 – 5
His attitude put his entire relationship with God on hold. He wouldn’t even speak good. Finally it got to be too much and he blurts it out. He asks God to remind him how short and fleeting life is so that he won’t become materialistic.
6 – 11
Humanity sets itself to value material possessions. I like the word picture here: “frantically rush around in vain.” David wants to remain an example of a life that is submitted to God’s authority. He knows that if God doesn’t set him straight that others will mock him and his faith in God. He desires to have God’s perspective—that all the things we foolishly run around after will burn up like a moth that gets too close to a flame.
12 – 13
This is the kind of attitude adjustment that David needs—the realization that this is not his home. He, like us, are sojourners here. Our real home is with God in heaven. David doesn’t want this attitude to ruin his time here. Many Christians are so enamored with the world and the run after stuff that they are bummed out when they can’t seem to get it. Instead, David asks God to cheer him up and set his mind of things above.
Matthew 6:19-21 "Don't collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
David remembers that he is a temporary resident in the Promised Land. He was not natively born there. When you give your heart to Jesus you become an ex-patriot. You are a “sojourner”. Your real citizenship is in heaven and so you should have a light touch on the things of this age.
I find Psalm 40 a bit of a curiosity. On the one hand it is one of the most quoted and tremendous praise songs in the book. Yes at the same time it is an incredibly plea for help for a man who feels overwhelmed by sin and in fear for his life. But I think in that juxtaposition, we can learn some things.
1 – 3
In a way, this is the outcome. David called to the Lord, then waited patiently. God heard him and rescued him from the trouble he was in. In response David sings praise to the Lord—and he knows that seeing God come through will be a witness to many others.
The “desolate pit” and “muddy clay” reminds me of Jeremiah 38 when King Zedekiah ordered Jeremiah the Prophet dropped into a cistern where he sank into the mud in the bottom. That was after David’s time, of course, but the picture is still pretty graphic. Sometimes our life situations feel like we are all alone and stuck and can’t move and are slowly sinking. But God rescued him—we don’t know how.
But notice the progression—David trust God and waits for His rescue, God comes through, then uses that difficulty for others to trust in God too. When the Scriptures say (Romans 8:28) that “God causes all things to work together for good” it is often bad things that God puts together in our lives to use for good in the lives of others (and in us too).
4 – 5
In a time of trouble it is very easy to find a solution no matter the cost. Often this means doing things not in a way that brings glory to God. We are more interested in the outcome. God is interested in how the process changes our character and furthers His kingdom. When we do not become proud in our own abilities and take shortcuts to get out of our difficulties but wait patiently on the Lord—we end up “happy” or “blessed.” It’s because God’s plans for us are so much bigger than the circumstances we find ourselves in.
6 – 8
God is not doing away with sacrifices here, but David is realizing that, as Samuel said: “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).
The writer of Hebrews takes up this very psalm to explain how Jesus came to do God’s will and thus take away the need for continual sacrifices. Hebrews 10:1-10. Here, the “volume of the scroll” may simply be God’s will or instruction. God’s “got our number.” We can already find our attitudes and actions written in His Word.
We today fall into this trap—thinking that by being good and sacrificing lots of things that God will be pleased with us and do things for us. That’s legalism plain and simple. God is pleased with you because He is pleased with Jesus and the life that Jesus has given to you. He does things for you in order to change you into His character and further His kingdom.
9 – 10
In Psalm 39 David kept quiet because he was having a problem with God. Here he is overjoyed to make God’s goodness known freely and verbally. How often do we do that? Don’t conceal God’s great love with those around you either.
So now David returns to his problem, and his plea to God:
11 – 13
This is the cry of someone who is truly helpless. He realizes that sins and troubles are more than he can bear. But in this he doesn’t run from God but runs to Him…always the right answer. When our courage fails, that’s when God’s courage begins for us!
14 – 17
Finally David compares those that reject a relationship with God with those who love Him. Those that do not love God will end up ashamed. Those that love Him will rejoice in His deliverance. It is as simple as that!