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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 38

Verses 1-2

David viewed his present suffering as an indication that God was very angry with him (cf. Psalms 6:1). He pictured God shooting arrows at him as though God were his enemy in battle and as pressing down on him with His cosmic hand.

Verses 1-12

1. God’s discipline 38:1-12

Verses 1-22

Psalms 38

In this individual lament psalm, which has been called "the penitent’s plea," [Note: Ironside, p. 222.] David expressed penitence that he had sinned against God and had thereby incurred His discipline. This discipline came in the form of opposition from enemies that the psalmist asked God to remove.

The title "memorial" (NASB) or "petition" (NIV) literally means: "to bring to remembrance." It also occurs in the title of Psalms 70.

"Since with God to remember is to act, this word speaks of laying before Him a situation that cries out for His help." [Note: Kidner, p. 153.]

Verses 3-8

These verses articulate the psalmist’s lament over his sufferings. He had evidently lost good health and was in pain (cf. Psalms 6:2). His agony extended to his spirit as well as to his body. His sickness was punishment for his sin (Psalms 38:3; Psalms 38:5).

Verses 9-12

His sufferings had also affected others. The Lord knew his condition (Psalms 38:9-10), his friends were avoiding him (Psalms 38:11), and his enemies were taking advantage of his weakness. They were trying to disparage and destroy him.

Verses 13-16

David paid no attention to the threats of his enemies because he believed God would vindicate him in response to his prayers.

"How different is this sufferer from Job! This man is silently absorbed in his suffering, whereas Job was all too anxious to protest against his friends and to argue with God." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 310.]

David was remarkable for his ability to wait for God (Psalms 38:15). His years of suffering at Saul’s hands, his critics in the tribe of Benjamin, and his treatment by Absalom taught him to do this.

Verses 13-22

2. David’s hope 38:13-22

Verses 17-20

Evidently the psalmist felt as if he were at the end of his rope. He wanted God to respond to his calls for help very soon. David had confessed whatever sin had led to his painful condition (cf. James 5:15). He was anxious about its consequences, but there was nothing more he could do except wait for God to deliver him.

Verses 21-22

The psalm closes with a supplication. David pleaded with God to come to his rescue soon. The Lord had forsaken him and had stood aloof from his suffering long enough. Now it was time to save.

Sometimes believers bring physical, emotional, and interpersonal suffering on themselves by sinning. In such cases, God may discipline us with pain so we will learn not to do the same thing again. In the process, we should reaffirm our trust in God as our deliverer from all our woes.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 38". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.