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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 38

Verses 1-22

Psalms 38

Proper Psalm for Ash Wednesday ( Morning).

Psalms 38-40 = Day 8 ( Morning).

Verse 2


‘Thy hand presseth me sore.’

Psalms 38:2

This psalm, says the inscription, was intended to bring to remembrance—Was it God that seemed to have forgotten? The Psalmist was evidently in a desperate plight, for this psalm has been described as a long-drawn wail, passionate at first, but gradually calming into submission and trust, though never passing from the minor key. Thrice over David invokes the name of God ( Psalms 38:1 ; Psalms 38:9 ; Psalms 38:15).

I. O Lord, rebuke me not.—Three ingredients had been pressed into the Psalmist’s cup of woe. First, God’s judgments; second, the heavy consciousness of sin; and, third, his mental and physical sufferings. Let us never lose sight of God in all the afflictions we are called upon to endure. It is only when we recognise Him that we can suffer aright.

II. Lord, all my desire is before Thee.—Now the chief complaint is the desertion by friends and the hostility of foes. But the complaint is not quite so vehement. The storm begins to abate and sighs itself to rest. There is peace, also, to the tortured heart in the memory that God knows all. God knew all before a word was uttered; that, however, did not make prayer needless, but made it pleasant and easy. We do not say, God knows, and therefore we need not speak; but God knows, and therefore we may tell Him all; and in the telling peace comes.

III. In Thee, O Lord, do I hope: Thou wilt answer.—‘Thou wilt answer’! What a word is this! Will my God verily answer for me to my foes, to the accusations of my heart, to the besetments of Satan? Will Jesus answer for me before his Father, and at the Judgment-seat (2 Corinthians 5)? Then I may be comforted. Mark the four successive fors, as though the Psalmist would pile up the reasons for his confidence.


(1) ‘In this psalm a peculiarity of the penitential psalms is repeated, namely, that the petitioner has to lament not only that his soul and body are worn out, but likewise over external enemies, who come forth as his adversaries and make his sins an occasion of preparing ruin for him. This is owing to the fact that the Old Testament believer, whose consciousness of sin was not so spiritual and deep as in the believer of the New Testament, almost always was sensible of the external act of sin. The enemies which then would prepare for him ruin, are the instruments of the Satanic power of evil, who desire his death, whilst God desires his life, as is likewise felt by the New Testament believer even without external enemies.’

(2) ‘There are passages in the Psalms not expressly quoted or referred to by the Evangelists, which an instinctive Christian feeling has always applied to incidents in our Lord’s life, e.g. Psalms 38:11, cf. Matthew 13:54-57, Luke 23:49.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 38". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.