Psalm 38 My Sins are Too Heavy for Me
I think David wrote this psalm at the time of Adonijah's rebellion, when he was old and sick unto death (1Ki 1:1-5
). This is the same timeframe when I think he wrote Psalm 41
At first I thought this psalm was the experience of Romans 7
, but it is different. In Rom. 7, Paul laments his sinful nature and guilty conscience. Here David laments his past sins which are the cause of his present suffering. It is more like Hebrews 12
, the chastening of the Lord.
This psalm has a straightforward narrative-like structure which makes it easy to memorize:
v1 - Plea not to deal with me in anger
vv 2-8 - physical complaints
vv9-10 - turning point. All my heart is poured out before You.
v11 - alone
v12 - ensnared and verbally attacked
vv13-14 - my reaction to the attacks
v15 - why I react that way. Because I hope in You.
vv16-20 - why You will answer
vv21-22 - final plea
- to bring to remembrance - "To be taught to all people as a prayer to be used when beset by misfortune." - Rabbi David Kimchi (1160-1235)
I think Rabbi Kimchi's (aka RaDaK) explanation is good. I have a hard time relating to much of this psalm because the suffering is way beyond my experience. If we have this psalm stored in our memory, it could be very helpful in the future.
This psalm starts almost identically to Psalm 6
and repeats some of it. I think David wrote Psalm 6 when he was younger. Now he remembers that prayer in his old age.
There is only 1 other "to bring to remembrance" psalm, Ps 70
. Psalm 70, which is also through David, is a very short psalm of only 5 verses which repeats the non-messianic parts of Psalm 40, similar to how this psalm repeats parts of Psalm 6.
This psalm is also similar to the book of Job and seems to quote from it (vv2, 3, 11).
"Although I deserve punishment, do not send upon me the full intensity of Your rage." -Stone Tanach
"The anger and wrath of God are rightly a reality to the writer as they are throughout the whole Old Testament. It has remained for our age to make light of the terrible reality of God's wrath as being a delusion." - H. C. Leupold
- Lit. For Your arrows came down on me, and your hand comes down on me.
David may have gotten the 1st half of this verse from Job 6:4
. David is suffering like Job, so he may have gotten help from Job's book. Job however was not being chastened for his sins, but David is.
The 2nd half of the verse repeats Psalm 32:4
, also by David. That psalm is about the blessed state of having our sins forgiven. Here, even though David's sins are forgiven, there are still the consequences of sin.
- Lit. There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation, no peace in my bones because of my sin.
David says that the extreme sickness and suffering he is experiencing in this psalm is due to his sin. I think this refers to David's horrible sin against Uriah the Hittite, because of which the Lord told him he would suffer the rest of his life (2Sam 12:10
There are many instances in the Bible where suffering is caused by sin (i.e. Ps 32,38, 41), and many where it is not (i.e. Job, Ps 13). We should not assume either is the case. It is right to ask the Lord if my suffering is due to my sin and accept the answer.
Martin Luther was a great servant of the Lord. In his old age he was extremely afflicted with physical ailments. His ear ailments made him mentally ill (Bonhoeffer
by Eric Metaxas). Had he asked the Lord if this extreme suffering was due to his sin, and waited on the Lord for an answer, he may have been spared making the horrible defamatory statements he did against the Jewish people and Christians who disagreed with him late in his life. His biographers have said that it would have been better if Luther had died before he made those defamations (Meet Martin Luther
by Anthony T. Selvaggio).(2Chron 16:7-12
- Lit. For my iniquities are gone over my head. As a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
This was my state before I was saved. I considered my sins and good deeds on opposite sides of a balance. There was no comparison between the sins' side of the balance to the good deeds' side, as the sins dwarfed the good deeds. And every year the sins grew much more than the good deeds. When I read a gospel tract that quoted Matt 9:6
, I was amazed and asked and received forgiveness of sins.
Would we still say this to the Lord in some situation after having our sins forgiven? David experienced the blessedness of having his sins forgiven in Ps 32, which I believe was before he wrote this Psalm. I think David means here is that the consequence of his earlier sins are too heavy for him as he describes his suffering in this psalm.
This is my favorite verse in this psalm, and the one I used for the title.
Adultery is the most foolish of sins.
- Lit. ... all the day I go in darkness.
The Hebrew phrase, ad meod
, which I translated as "to the max" here and in v8, means literally "until very", which I understand to mean "to the uttermost". The phrase is used 17 times in the Old Testament. It is used to describe Isaac's and Esau's reactions when they realize that Isaac gave Esau's blessing to Jacob (Gen 27:33-34
), and the greatness of Alexander the Great (Dan 8:8
- Lit. For my loins are full of burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
- Lit. ... I roar from the moaning of my heart.
- This is the first verse of this psalm which is not negative. We should always make all our desires known to the Lord. Then we can pray this in time of extreme trouble.
This is my second favorite verse in this psalm.
One can imagine the LORD reacting, "No, they are certainly not hidden!" - John Goldingay
- Lit. ... and the light of my eyes, they also are no more with me.
The Hebrew word sachar, which I translated as "deals" means to trade like a merchant. Most translate it as "throbs", which meaning it never has. I think it means his heart is trying to work out deals with God and/or itself.
- lit. ... stand aloof from my plague.
Previous to this verse, it was about physical suffering, no soundness in my flesh. vv 11-14 are psychological pain of bearing your suffering alone, without your fellow human beings as comforters. Even when God comforts, there is still a large part of comfort that can only be filled by human beings (2Cor 2:7; etc
- Lit. ... and as a dumb man that opens not his mouth.
"It is well to be deaf to calumny (slander), and dumb in self-vindication. Let God undertake your cause (v15)." - F. B. Meyer
- The second positive verse. This is more positive than v9.
This verse starts with "for", giving the reason why David does not justify himself to men in the previous verse.
"Waiting is not a vague hanging on to see if something will happen, but a keen anticipation of what we know will happen." - John Goldingay
This is one of my favorite verses. I enjoy the faith that is in this verse.
- Lit For I am ready to quit, and my pain is continually before me.
- Lit. For I will declare my iniquity. I am grieved for my sin.
Verses 16-18 all start with "for", each giving reasons why God will answer David's hope in v15
1. Because I said, Lest they boast over me
2. Because I can't take any more
3. Because I confess my sin
4. They are too strong for me
5. They repay evil for good
6. I am pursuing what is good
- This and the next verse are the only requests in this psalm. Previously David just laid his situation before the Lord.
"Lord, righteous and merciful God, do not punish us in Your hot displeasure, as we so richly deserve, but be gracious to us according to Your mercies, for we are poor and miserable. Do not remember the guilt of our many sins, but remember the bloody merits of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Strengthen our hearts with the comforting ministrations of Your Spirit, and preserve us in faith and hope unto our end. Amen." - Martin Luther
12/17/2017 copyright Steve Miller voiceInWilderness.info
in Thy wrath burning hot,
nor in Your displeasure chasten me,
for Your arrows's in me,
Your hand's on me heavy.
From Your wrath there's no soundness in me.
In my bones there's no peace
for my sins did increase.
O'er my head, they are gone over me.
My wounds stink, they're corrupt
due to my foolish stuff.
my sins are too heavy for me.
to the max. Darkening
all the day (7) for my loins are burning.
And my flesh is not sound.
I'm faint and broken down
to the max. My heart moans, I'm roaring.
O Lord, all my longing's
before You. My sighing,
is not hid-den from You.
My heart deals; my strength's left;
of my light, I'm bereft.
My friends and my neighbors stand aloof
and my kins-men afar.
12 Those that have a desire
to take my soul they lay snares for me.
They that seek for my hurt
speak of mis-chievous dirt
and all day meditate on deceits.
do not hear what is said.
As a dumb man I ans-wer nothing.
14 And I am as a man
that cannot understand,
in whose mouth there is no reproving,
for in Thee, I hope, LORD.
You'll answer, God, my Lord,
16 for I said, Lest they boast over me.
When my foot slips to fall,
they against me exult,
for to quit from my pain, I'm ready.
for which I'm grieved within,
19 but my foes are healthy; they are strong.
And they that hate me wrong
are a mult-iplied throng.
And they that repay good deeds
are enem-ies to me
for I pur-sue good deeds.
Do not for-sake me, O LORD, my God.
Do be near unto me.
22 Come, make haste to help me.
O Lord, my salvation, O Lord God.
Psalm 70:1 To the chief Musician. A Psalm of David: to bring to remembrance. Make haste, O God, to deliver me; Jehovah, hasten to my help.
Psalm 6:1 LORD, in wrath rebuke me not,
nor correct in anger hot.
2 O LORD have mercy on me,
O LORD heal, for I am weak.
For my bones are trembling,
6 I am weary with groaning.
All the night my bed's swimming.
I dissolve my couch with tears.
;Job 6:4 For the arrows of the Almighty are within me; Their poison my spirit drinks; The terrors of God are arrayed against me.
33:19 Man is also chastened with pain on his bed, And with unceasing complaint in his bones;
Job 19:13 He has removed my brothers far from me, And my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.
Psalm 32:4 For day and night Your hand on me
was heavy, so my life
dried up as in the summer's heat,
5 To Thee I acknowledged my sin,
and my guilt did not hide.
I said, I will confess my sins
and in the Lord confide.
You forgave the guilt of my sin.
Prov 6:32 Whoso commits adultery with a woman is void of understanding: he that does it destroyeth his own soul.
33 A wound and contempt shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.
15:21 Folly is joy to him that is void of sense; but a man of understanding regulateth his walk.
19:3 The folly of man distorts his way, and his heart is irritated against Jehovah.
22:15 Folly is bound in the heart of a child; the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
24:9 The purpose of folly is sin, and the scorner is an abomination to men.
Ps 22:1 My God, My God, My God, My God,
Why hast Thou forsaken Me,
so far from helping Me?
Why are You now ignoring
all the words of My roaring?
11 Do not be far off from Me
because trouble is near me.
Because there is not a helper,
19 Do not be far, O LORD,
You who are My strength.
To help Me do make haste.
1 Samuel 10:27 But the children of Belial said, How should this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no gifts. But he was as one deaf.
Matthew 26:62 And the high priest standing up said to him, Answerest thou nothing? What do these witness against thee?
1Jo 3:12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.
Genesis 27:33 Then Isaac trembled with exceeding great trembling, and said, Who was he, then, that hunted venison and brought it to me? And I have eaten of all before thou came, and have blessed him; also blessed he shall be.
34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said to his father, Bless me -- me also, my father!
Daniel 8:8 And the he-goat became exceeding great; but when he was become strong, the great horn was broken; and in its stead came up four notable ones toward the four winds of the heavens.
Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with vain words, for on account of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men, but have been manifested to God, and I hope also that we have been manifested in your consciences.
Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing falling into the hands of the living God.
1 Kings 1:1 And king David was old and advanced in age; and they covered him with clothes, but he obtained no warmth.
2 And his servants said to him, Let there be found for my lord the king a young virgin; and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get warm.
3 And they sought for a fair damsel throughout the territory of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king.
4 And the damsel was very fair; and cherished the king, and ministered to him; but the king knew her not.
5 And Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king; and he provided himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.
Hebrews 12:5 And ye have quite forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when reproved by him;
6 for whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.
7 Ye endure for chastening, God conducts himself towards you as towards sons; for who is the son that the father chastens not?
8 But if ye are without chastening, of which all have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9 Moreover we have had the fathers of our flesh as chasteners, and we reverenced them; shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?
10 For they indeed chastened for a few days, as seemed good to them; but he for profit, in order to the partaking of his holiness.
11 But no chastening at the time seems to be matter of joy, but of grief; but afterwards yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those exercised by it.
Rom 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
2 Samuel 12:10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. (2Sa 12:10 DBY)
2Chronicles 16:7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, "Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.
8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand.
9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars."
10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.
11 The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.
12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.
Matthew 9:6a But that ye may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins,
2 Corinthians 2:7 so that on the contrary ye should rather shew grace and encourage, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with excessive grief.
7:7 and not by his coming only, but also through the encouragement with which he was encouraged as to you; relating to us your ardent desire, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I the more rejoiced.
13 For this reason we have been encouraged. And we the rather rejoiced in our encouragement more abundantly by reason of the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
Colossians 4:11b These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.
12/17/2017 copyright Steve Miller voiceInWilderness.info