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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Psalms 38

Verses 1-22


THIS is the third of the penitential psalms, and is appropriately recited by the Church on Ash Wednesday. Of all the penitential psalms it is the one which shows the deepest marks of utter prostration of heart and spirit under a combination of the severest trials, both mental and bodily. The mind of the writer is racked by a sense of God's displeasure (Psalms 38:1, Psalms 38:2, etc.), by grief at the desertion of friends (Psalms 38:11), by fear of the machinations and threats of enemies (Psalms 38:12, Psalms 38:19, Psalms 38:20). His body is smitten with disease, the flesh without soundness, the bones full of aches, the loins agonized with a sense of burning, the heart palpitating, the strength and sight failing (Psalms 38:3-10) And through all there is the feeling that the whole is the result of his own sin (Psalms 38:3-5, Psalms 38:18). Still the writer is not reduced to despair. He clings to God (Psalms 38:1, Psalms 38:9, Psalms 38:15, Psalms 38:21, Psalms 38:22). He accepts his sufferings as a just chastisement. He confesses his iniquity, and is sorry for his sin. He prays to God (Psalms 38:1, Psalms 38:21); he pours out his complaints to him (Psalms 38:9); he hopes in him (Psalms 38:15); finally, he calls upon him as "his Salvation" (Psalms 38:22).

The psalm is ascribed to David by the title, but is not generally allowed to be his. It is assigned commonly to an unknown sufferer. Still, some modern critics, notably Canon Cook, in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' accept the statement of the title, and find the psalm very suitable to the circumstances of David "at the period just preceding the revolt of Absalom." Canon Cook holds that "at that time there are indications that David was prostrate by disease, which gave full scope to the machinations of his son and his abettors." If this were so, the Davidical authorship would certainly he probable; but the absence of any mention of such an illness from the Second Book of Samuel is a difficulty which cannot easily be got over.

The psalm falls into three divisions: From Psalms 38:1 to Psalms 38:8; from Psalms 38:9 to Psalms 38:14; and from Psalms 38:15 to the end. Each part begins with an appeal to God, whereon follows a description of the writer's sufferings. Part ill both begins and ends with an appeal to God.

Psalms 38:1

O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath (comp. Psalms 6:1, where the first of the penitential psalms begins similarly). The prayer is for the cessation of God's wrath, rather than of the "rebuke" which has resulted from it. Neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure (see the comment on Psalms 6:1).

Psalms 38:2

For thine arrows stick fast in me. (On the "arrows" of the Almighty, see above, Psalms 7:13; and comp. Job 6:4; Psalms 18:14; Psalms 45:5; Psalms 64:7; Psalms 77:17, etc.) It has been maintained that by "God's arrows" only sickness is meant (Hitzig); but the contrary appears from Deu 32:1-52 :23425. Hengstenberg is right, "The arrows of the Almighty denote all the chastisements of sin depending on God." And thy hand presseth me sore. The verb used is the same in both clauses; but it is difficult to express both ideas by one term in English. Dr. Kay makes the attempt by translating, "For thine arrows have sunk deep in me; yea, thine hand sank heavily on me."

Psalms 38:3

There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger. The psalmist begins with a description of his bodily troubles; and, first of all, declares that there is "no soundness in his flesh," i.e. no healthiness, no feeling of vigour, no vital strength. Neither is there any rest in my bones, he says, because of my sin. His bones ache continually, and give him no rest (comp. Psalms 6:2; Psalms 22:14; Psalms 31:10; Psalms 42:10; and Job 30:17, Job 30:30).

Psalms 38:4

For mine iniquities are gone over mine head; i.e. they overwhelm me like waves of the sea. Together with my bodily pain is mingled mental anguish—a sense of regret and remorse on account of my ill-doing, and a conviction that by my sins I have brought upon me my sufferings. As an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. They press me down, crush me to the earth, are more than I can bear.

Psalms 38:5

My wounds stink and are corrupt. The writer reverts to his bodily pains. He has "wounds," which "stink" and "are corrupt;" or "fester and become noisome," which may be boils, or bed-sores, and which make him a loathsome object to others (comp. Job 9:19; Job 30:18). Because of my foolishness. Because I was so foolish as to forsake the way of righteousness, and allow sin to get the dominion over me.

Psalms 38:6

I am troubled; literally, bent; which some take physically, and explain as "twisted by violent spasms," others, psychically, as "warped in mind," "driven crazy." I am bowed down greatly; i.e. bowed to earth, crooked, as men are in extreme old age, or by such maladies as lumbago and rheumatism. I go mourning all the day long. My gait is that of a mourner—I stoop and move slowly.

Psalms 38:7

For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease; my loins are full of burning (Kay, Revised Version). A burning pain in the lumbar region is apparently intended. And there is no soundness in my flesh. Repeated from Psalms 38:3.

Psalms 38:8

I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. In concluding his accounts of his physical condition, the writer passes from details to more vague and general statements. He is "feeble," i.e. generally weak and wanting in vigour—he is "sore broken," or "sore bruised" (Revised Version), i.e. full of aches and pains, as though he had been bruised all over—and the "disquietness of his heart" causes him to vent his anguish in "roarings," or groanings.

Psalms 38:9-14

In this second strophe the physical are subordinated to the moral sufferings; the former being touched on in one verse only (Psalms 38:10), the latter occupying the rest of the section. Of these the most tangible are the pain caused by the desertion of his "lovers," "friends," and "kinsmen" (Psalms 38:11), and the alarm arising from the action taken, simultaneously, by his ill wishers and adversaries (Psalms 38:12). These afflictions have reduced him to a condition of silence—almost of apathy, such as is described in Psalms 38:13, Psalms 38:14.

Psalms 38:9

Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. This has been called "the first indication of hope in this psalm;" but there is a gleam of hope in the prayer of Psalms 38:1. Hope, however, does here show itself more plainly than before. The psalmist has laid "all his desire" before God, and feels that God is weighing and considering it. He has also opened to him "all his groanings"—uttered freely all his complaint. This he could have been led to do only from a conviction that God was not irrevocably offended with him, but might, by repentance, confession, and earnest striving after amendment (Psalms 38:20), be reconciled, and induced to become his Defence (Psalms 38:15) and his Salvation (Psalms 38:22).

Psalms 38:10

My heart panteth. This verse, which reverts to the bodily sufferings, seems a little out of place. But Hebrew poetry is not logical, and cares little for exact arrangement. Three more bodily troubles are noticed, of which this is the first—the heart "pants," i.e. throbs, or palpitates violently. My strength faileth me. The strength suddenly fails. As for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me. The sight swims, and is swallowed up in darkness (comp. Job 17:7).

Psalms 38:11

My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; or, from my stroke (comp. Psalms 39:10, where the same word is used). The psalmist feels himself to be "stricken, smitten of God" (Isaiah 53:4). He looks for comfort and sympathy to his friends, but they, with a selfishness that is only too common, hold aloof, draw away item him, and desert him (comp. Job 19:13, Job 19:14). And my kinsmen stand afar off; or, my neighbours. The stricken deer is forsaken by the rest of the herd (comp. Matthew 26:56, Matthew 26:58).

Psalms 38:12

They also that seek after my life lay snares for me. To the desertion of friends is added the persecution of enemies, who take advantage of the debility and prostration caused by sickness to plot against the writer's life, to "lay snares for him," and devise evil against him. Those who assign the psalm to David suppose the devices described in 2 Samuel 15:1-6 to he referred to. And they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long; literally, speak malignity; i.e. calumniate me—bring false accusations against me.

Psalms 38:13

But I, as a deaf man, heard not. I took no notice, i.e. I made as if I was deaf. And I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. So far this psalmist, whether David or another, was a type of Christ (see Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:63; Matthew 27:14; 1 Peter 2:23).

Psalms 38:14

Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs; i.e. I was like a man who is unable to answer, to reprove, or rebuke an adversary. So great was my self-restraint.

Psalms 38:15

For in thee, O Lord, do I hope. Thus I acted, because my hope was in thee. I looked for thy interposition. I knew that thou wouldst "maintain my right, and my cause" (Psalms 9:4) in thine own good time and in thine own good way. I said to myself in my heart, Thou wilt hear—or rather, thou wilt answer (Revised Version)—O Lord my God; and I was content to leave my defence to thee.

Psalms 38:16

For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me; rather, for I said, I will be silent, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me. I feared lest by answering rashly or intemperately I might give my enemies occasion against me. I knew by experience that, when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me. They are always on the watch to catch at any slip on my part, and make it a ground for magnifying themselves and denying me. Hence my silence.

Psalms 38:17

For I am ready to halt. I am weak and helpless, liable at any moment to stumble and fall. And my sorrow is continually before me; i.e. my sin, which I sorrow over, which lies at the root of all my distress (comp. Psalms 51:3).

Psalms 38:18

For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin. The four "fors," beginning four consecutive verses, are somewhat puzzling. Canon Cook suggests that they introduce four reasons for the psalmist's silence (Psalms 38:13, Psalms 38:14) and abstinence front self-justification:

(1) because God hears him, and will make answer for him (Psalms 38:15);

(2) because, if he spoke, he might give further occasion to his enemies (Psalms 38:16);

(3) because he feels in danger, and is conscious of sin (Psalms 38:17); and

(4) because he has no course open to him but confession and contrition.

If we are justified in attributing the psalm to David, and in assigning its composition to the period immediately preceding Absalom's rebellion, we must look upon it as opening to us a view of David's condition of mind at that time which is of great interest.

Psalms 38:19

But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong. The psalmist goes back to the thought of his enemies, to whom he has made no answer, and whom he has not ventured to rebuke (Psalms 38:13, Psalms 38:14). He remembers that they are full of life and strength; he calls to mind the fact that they are many in number; he puts on record the cause of their enmity, which is not his sin, but his earnest endeavour to forsake his sin and follow after righteousness (Psalms 38:20); and then, in conclusion, he makes a direct appeal to God for aid against them—first negatively (Psalms 38:21), and then positively in the final outburst, "Make haste to help me, O Lord my Salvation" (Psalms 38:22). And they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied. This suits well the time of Absalom's conspiracy, when day by day more and more of the people forsook David and joined the party of his son. (2 Samuel 15:12, 2 Samuel 15:13).

Psalms 38:20

They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries (comp. Psalms 35:12). Because I follow the thing that good is; literally, because I follow good.

Psalms 38:21

Forsake me not, O Lord (comp. Psalms 27:9; Psalms 71:9, Psalms 71:18; Psalms 119:8). God never really forsakes his saints (Psalms 37:28). He withdraws sometimes for wise purposes the sense of his presence and favour, so that they feel as if they were forsaken; but this is only temporary; O my God, be not far from me (comp. Psalms 22:19; Psalms 35:22; Psalms 71:12).

Psalms 38:22

Make haste to help me, O Lord my Salvation (see Psalms 22:19; Psalms 31:2; Psalms 40:13; Psalms 70:1; Psalms 71:12, etc.). This so frequent cry always shows imminent peril; or at any rate, a belief in it. The writer hero was in danger doubly—from disease and from his enemies. Thus he might well cry out.


Psalms 38:4

Conviction of sin an element of true Christian life.

"As a heavy burden." Jonah, when carried down in his living tomb to "the roots of the mountains," with the sea-weeds about his head, was not plunged in a deeper sea of trouble than David in the experience this psalm records (comp. Psalms 32:3-5). He felt that his troubles were the just and wise chastisement of his sins; and they lead him to confession (verse 18). He humbly bows under God's hand; but only prays that he may feel that chastisement is not in wrath, but in mercy (verse 1; cf. Hebrews 12:5, etc.). These words supply a starting-point for some remarks on conviction of sin as an element in true Christian life.

I. CONVICTION OF SINq.d. sorrowful sense of blameworthiness before God—SPRINGS FROM A TRIPLE ROOT:

(1) an awakened and enlightened conscience;

(2) definite memory of particular sins;

(3) clear and affecting views of holiness.

1. The natural effect of persistent sin is to deaden conscience (Ephesians 5:19). Conscience may be awake, but completely perverted by ignorance or false belief; e.g. the heathen mother flinging her infant into the Ganges (Acts 26:9). When the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the mind, and applies the truth to the heart, sin is seen and felt to be "exceeding sinful" (Romans 7:7-13). Hence to a tender, rightly informed conscience, things appear sinful in which an ungodly heart discerns no harm.

2. We sin in many other ways than in deliberate acts of conscious transgression. We "leave undone what we ought to do;" fail in intention, in mixed unworthy motives, even when our action is good; selfishness, cowardice, sloth, unfaithfulness; falling (how far!) short of the Divine standard—love to God with all the heart, mind, soul, strength, and to our neighbour as ourself. We may know all this, confess it, seek pardon; but it does not oppress and burden conscience like some definite act of sin—perhaps long past—which stands out with frightful clearness in the memory (Psalms 51:3).

3. The measure of the sinfulness of sin is its opposition to holiness. The Bible standard of holiness is God's character revealed to us, above all, in Christ (1 Peter 1:15, 1 Peter 1:16). Therefore our view of our own sinfulness will depend on our clear and affecting apprehension of God's holiness. The robe that looks white in dim light will betray all its spots and stains in midday sunshine.

II. EXPERIENCE GREATLY VARIES, EVEN IN REAL CHRISTIANS, REGARDING CONVICTION OF SIN. With some, overwhelming; with others, consciously deficient. This may arise from either of the sources spoken of, or a combination—tenderness or dulness of conscience, remembrance of particular sins, closeness of converse with God, and deep and lofty views of holiness. Some Christians may be patterns, but none are models, for others.

III. DIM, FEEBLE SENSE OF SIN AND OF ITS EVIL SEEMS CHARACTERISTIC OF THE CHRISTIANITY OF TO-DAY. There is a great advance in prevailing views and teaching regarding Divine love; but no corresponding advance regarding Divine righteousness and holiness. This tends to enfeeble Christian life and work. Nothing is more dangerous than the use of exaggerated language to express our inner life. Let no Christian for whom they would be exaggerated and unreal adopt the words of the text. But let us seek a quickened conscience, a faithful self-knowledge, above all, nearness to God, that we may see all sin, and our own, in the light both of his holiness and of his love.


Psalms 38:1-22

Sin stinging like an adder.

This has been called one of the penitential psalms. It may be called so without any severe strain of language; and yet its penitential tone is very far removed from that of either the thirty-second or the fifty-first psalm. There is little doubt that there is a sincere acknowledgment of the sin; but here the main stress of the grief seems to be attributable rather to the suffering consequent upon the sin, than to the guilt of the sin itself. And we cannot resist the conviction that an undue reticence (which, alas! often results in an infrequent and inadequate warning against sins of the flesh) has somewhat warped and fettered the remarks of many expositors. For the physical suffering which is here detailed with distressing precision, points to sin as the cause thereof—to that sin which is one of the seriously poisoning influences in our social fabric, and against which no pleadings can be too tender, and no warnings can be too loud. Let us first study the case, and then utilize it.

I. THE CASE STATED. Even before entering into detail, it is obvious that the case is one of intense suffering. The details, however, will show us but too clearly what the suffering was, and how it was accounted for.

1. There had been the commission of sin. Psalms 38:3-5 give us three terms—"sin," "foolishness," "iniquity." The sin was one which brought about a great deal of:

2. Bodily disorder. Note the following expressions:

(1) "My flesh" (Psalms 38:3).

(2) "My bones" (Psalms 38:3).

(3) "My loins" (Psalms 38:7).

(4) "No soundness" (Psalms 38:3).

(5) "No health" (Psalms 38:3).

(6) "Wounds" (Psalms 38:5).

(7) "Ulcers" (Psalms 38:5, Hebrew).

(8) "Offensive" (Psalms 38:5).

(9) "Burning" (Psalms 38:7).

(10) This alternating with deathly coldness (Psalms 38:8).

(11) "Palpitation" (Psalms 38:10).

(12) The frame bent and bowed with the suffering (Psalms 38:6).

(13) "Failing strength" (Psalms 38:10).

(14) "Dimness of sight" (Psalms 38:10). £

Surely this puts before us, in no obscure fashion, the terrible physical woe which the writer was enduring.

3. Great mental anguish.

(1) God's arrows struck very deeply into his soul (Psalms 38:2).

(2) God's hand pressed heavily upon him (Psalms 38:2).

(3) He went abroad as a mourner (Psalms 38:6).

(4) He roared—groaned aloud—all the day long.

It may not be always possible to affirm that such and such suffering is the effect of this or that specific sin. But sometimes we can. And it is no wonder if sins of the flesh bring fleshly suffering. It is an ordained law of God that it should be so. Hence the sufferings are rightly regarded as "the arrows of God."

4. In his trouble, lovers and friends stand aloof from him. Even neighbours and kinsmen drew themselves afar off (Psalms 38:11). Earthly friends are like swallows, who come near in fine weather, and fly away ere the weather turns foul.

5. He was laden with reproach, and even beset with snares. (Psalms 38:12.)

6. He did not and could not reply. To the charges laid at his door he had no justifications to offer, and therefore said nothing (cf. Psalms 38:14, Hebrew). This was so far wise.

7. Though silent to man, he pours out his heart to God. He calls God his God; even though guilt lies heavily on the soul.

(1) He declares the whole case before the mercy-seat (Psalms 38:9).

(2) He confesses the sin (Psalms 38:18).

(3) He deprecates the Divine displeasure (Psalms 38:1).

(4) He appeals for help (Psalms 38:22).

Note: There is a great difference between men who "are overtaken in a fault," and those whose life is one perpetual sin of alienation from God. David lived in an age when lustfulness was scarcely recognized as wrong at all, save where the holy Law of God had gleamed on it with the searching light of Heaven. If David fell into this sin, it was because he was injured by the low conventional standard of his day. If he regarded it as sin, and mourned over it, it was because he was under the educating influence of that Word which was as "a lamp to his feet, and a light unto his path."

8. While David moans his sin as threatening him with destruction and ruin, he looks for salvation in God and God alone. (Psalms 38:22.) "O Lord my Salvation."

II. THE CASE UTILIZED. Here is evidently a psalm which is one of a number that contain a rehearsal of the writer's private experience. They profess to be that, and therefore, unless some good reason to the contrary is shown, we rightly assume that they are that. The expositor who desires to deal faithfully with all the psalms, and with the whole of each psalm, will often find himself between two opposite schools. On one side, there are those who would enclose every psalm within the limits of a naturalistic psychology; while there are others who seem to regard every psalm as referring directly or indirectly to Christ. £ But while the second and forty-fifth psalm. can by no means be accounted for by a rationalistic psychology, so this thirty-eighth psalm can by no means be applied to the Messiah directly or indirectly. Let us not select facts to fit a theory; but study all the facts, and frame the theory accordingly. In this personal moan and groan we have:

1. Suffering following on sin. Of what kind the sin was there can be little question. And if we wonder that David could fall into such sin, we may well ask—What can be expected of a man who had six wives (2 Samuel 3:2-5)? The Law of God might, indeed, be the rule of his life, but he was injured and corrupted by falling into the conventionalisms of his day; and hence in his private life he came far short of his own professed ideal. Is not the like incongruity between the ideal and the actual often seen even now?

2. If it was owing to "conformity to the world" that David thus sinned, it was because he had before him God's revelation of the evil of sin that he was so bowed down under a sense of the guilt thereof. The revealed Law of God stood high above the level to which he had attained; hence a shame and self-loathing on account of sin, which would nowhere else have been known.

3. Smarting under the sense of guilt, David yet tells God all. He knew God to be one "pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin;" and hence the burdens of sin and guilt, as well as of care, were laid before the mercy-seat (Psalms 32:5).

4. At times, however, words fail; then the desire and the groaning are perfectly understood. (Psalms 38:9.) Who does not understand something of this that knows anything of the "energies of prayer"? There are "groanings which cannot be uttered." As there are "songs without words," so are there "prayers without words." For the grief consequent upon sin may be, and often is, aggravated by the desertion of those friends who will smile on us when we are prosperous, and will turn their backs on us when adversity comes. But, even so, it is an infinite mercy to be shut up to God, and to let the heart lie "naked and opened" before One who will never misunderstand, and who will never forsake us.

5. For our God is "Jehovah our Salvation." That is his revealed name, and to it he will ever be true. See how gloriously "the sure mercies of David" are set forth in Psalms 89:26-33. God is "a just God, and a Saviour" (Isaiah 45:21). Hence we should never let our consciousness of guilt drive us from him; rather should it always make us "flee unto" him "to hide us."

6. Hence only those who have the light of God's revelation can possibly have any gospel for men smarting under the guilt of sin. We do not know any one passage in Scripture in which the combination is more remarkable of a man whose sin has brought deepest shame and agony upon him, and who yet is laying hold of God under that beautiful, that matchless name, "my Salvation" (Psalms 89:22). Very often, indeed, the word "salvation" in the Old Testament means mainly, if not exclusively, temporal deliverance. Here, at any rate, it cannot be so limited; for the salvation required to meet the case of woe thus laid before God must be one which includes cancelling guilt, purifying from corruption, and healing disease. And that revelation of God as our Salvation which was made in germ to the Hebrews, is disclosed more fully to us under Christ. He is "made wisdom from God unto us, even righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; that (according as it is written) he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Corinthians 1:31). In the very volume where sin is dealt with most seriously, it is also treated most hopefully; and the very revelation which cries with trumpet-power, "All have sinned," also cries, "Look unto me, and be ye saved."—C.


Psalms 38:1-22

Thoughts in affliction.

The preacher saith, "In the day of adversity consider" (Ecclesiastes 7:14). We should "call to remembrance"—

I. THE HAND OF GOD IN AFFLICTION. Our afflictions may be various, and have various causes. But we should look higher than mere human instrumentality, or the action of natural laws. We should acknowledge the hand of God (Psalms 38:2). What a change this makes l It soothes our resentments. It calms our fears. God sees all. He knows how we suffer. He who has stricken us can heal our wounds. He who has "pressed us sore" is able to pour joy into our hearts.

II. THE CONNECTION OF SIN WITH AFFLICTION. If there is suffering, there must have been sin. We may not be able to trace the connection; and we may greatly err and wound others cruelly if we say that certain sufferings are the result of certain sins. But, while we are not to judge others, we should judge ourselves. Our sufferings ought to bring our sins to remembrance. And the more strictly we scan our lives, and the more severely we search our hearts, the more will our sins increase, till their pressure and weight become intolerable, and we cry out, "They are too heavy for me" (Psalms 38:4).

III. THE INADEQUACY OF ALL HUMAN AID IN AFFLICTION. Affliction is a great revealer. It not only shows us much as to ourselves, but also as to others. It proves who are true and who are false; who are worthy and who are unworthy; who may be trusted to stand by us, and who will wax cold and forsake us, "having loved this present world." Job bitterly complained of his friends: "Miserable comforters are ye all." The psalmist was still more sorely tried: "My lovers and friends stand aloof from my sore" (verse 11). Even when true and willing, our friends can do but little for us in our greatest straits. Counsel is good. Sympathy is better. Generous aid is better still. But the best of all, the only help that goes to the root of the matter, is when some true friend, like Jonathan, "strengthens our hands in God."

IV. THE DIVINE RESOURCES OF THE GODLY IN AFFLICTION. There is prayer. The disciples in trouble came to Jesus and told him all. So we may pour out all our heart to God (verse 9). There is compression. It is a marvellous relief to bring our sins to God (verse 18). The burden that is too heavy for us will fall off when we cast ourselves as humble penitents at the foot of the cross. There is renewed consecration. Whatever comes, we must hold fast to our hope. Every danger and strait, every great fear that pales the face and makes the heart grow faint, should lead us to the renewal of our vows, and the reinvigoration of our purpose to "follow only what is good" (verse 20). Above all, there is refuge in God. From the beginning, and all through, the psalmist is with God, confessing, pleading, appealing; and in the end he gathers up all the desire of his heart in the earnest cry, "Forsake me not, O Lord! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord my Salvation!" (verses 21, 22).

Thus he found comfort; and so may we also. Jerome said, "If any sickness happen to the body, we are to seek for the medicine of the soul;" and the true and only Physician of the soul is Christ.—W.F.


Psalms 38:1-22

A fearful picture of the sufferings which a great sin can cause.

Supposed to be one of David's penitential psalms.


1. Dread of God's further anger. Guilt makes a man full of fear and apprehension (Psalms 38:1).

2. His sin was realized as an intolerable burden. (Psalms 38:4.) A load that he was unable to carry; or a great wave passing over his head and threatening to overwhelm him.

3. His sin was an enfeebling and disquieting sorrow. (Psalms 38:6, Psalms 38:8.) Continual, unintermittent, that made life one lasting agony.

4. Mental suffering brought on great bodily suffering and prostration. Body and mind react upon each other when any great trouble comes upon us; and we are reduced to the deepest pitch of misery.


1. His friends are alienated, and refuse him any comfort. (Psalms 38:10, ]1.) When we feel forsaken of God and man, then our cup of agony is full, This was our Lord's experience at the Crucifixion.

2. His enemies also seek to give him his death-blow. (Psalms 38:12, Psalms 38:19, Psalms 38:20.) They endeavour to take advantage of his fall to ruin him and take his life. How bad men "rejoice in the iniquity" of the righteous!

3. Conscious of sin, he is obliged to be silent. (Psalms 38:13, Psalms 38:14.) Consciousness of guilt makes him unable to refute the false charges of his enemies. Of what avail is it to speak when we are deeply self-condemned? This is an aggravation of our punishment, when we cannot defend ourselves. before our foes.


1. If God did not hear him, his enemies would rejoice over him. For he himself was so weak that he had no strength to contend with them (Psalms 38:16, Psalms 38:17).

2. He will earnestly repent and confess his sin. (Psalms 38:18.) This is our only way of restoration to the favour of God or man. Repentance is the earnest turning away from the sin with sincere loathing of mind.

3. An imploring cry for speedy rescue. (Psalms 38:21, Psalms 38:22.) When we feel as on the brink of death, we do not think of "God's time;" we are impatient for deliverance, and we cry for present help in our time of trouble.

LESSON. Think into what straits and suffering a man's sins have power to bring him, and what his opportunity of salvation is in Christ.—S.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 38". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.