160228 Psalm 38:1-22

Last Updated on Monday, 29 February 2016 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Sermon Text: Psalm 38:1-22

Sermon Theme: A Psalm Prayer of Lenten Repentance

During the Sundays in Lent, Pastor Pagels and I are focusing our sermon messages on the "Psalm of the Day" for our Worship Services. This Sunday and next Sunday, we will be spending some time looking at two of the "Penitential Psalms." There are seven Psalms in the Bible that make up the "Penitential Psalms". From the very early days of the Christian Church, the "Penitential Psalms" have been viewed as "especially expressive of sorrow for sin" and "pleading to God for mercy and forgiveness in particular because of guilt." The two "Penitential Psalms" that we will focus on this Sunday and the next are both Psalms that were written by King David. They are Psalm 32 and Psalm 38. Next Sunday, Pastor Pagels will focus on Psalm 32. Today, we will spend some time looking at Psalm 38.

Commenting on Psalm 38, Dr. Martin Luther wrote this: "The 38th Psalm is a psalm of prayer in which the psalmist laments over sins, on account of which his conscience despairs and is greatly afflicted and can see nothing but God's arrows, that is, God's anger, threats, death and hell. These sorrows consume marrow and bone, strength and fluids. They disfigure the appearance and the complexion and alter one's total understanding and demeanor. To truly feel one's sins and despair over a guilty conscience is the torture above all torture." Along with Luther, you and I have a guilty conscience because of our sins. So today, as we consider the Word of God from Psalm 38, we join with King David, the author of Psalm 38, and we join in A PSALM PRAYER OF LENTEN REPENTANCE.

We do not know the exact time in David's life when he was led by God the Holy Spirit to write Psalm 38. But, after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sins with Bathsheba, we know that David felt a very great amount of guilt for the sins he had committed. As he writes in Psalm 38, "Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me...My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear...I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart."

The guilt that David felt affected him physically as well. He writes this in Psalm 38, "Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin...My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body...My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes."

David is even suffering from the way his friends are mistreating him and the way his enemies are attacking him. As he writes, "My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away. Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception...Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous."

David knows that he deserves all the pain and suffering he is going through because of his sin. Yet he pleads in Psalm 38, "O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath...O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior." Notice how David refers to all the suffering he is going through as "discipline". David knows that he is not being punished for his sins, because the Savior-God had promised him that through his descendents would come the Savior of all mankind. The one and only Savior would be punished in David's place for his sins. Through the trials and difficulties of his life, the loving LORD was reaching out to David to draw him ever closer to himself.

As we take an honest look into our hearts and how we live our lives, you and I will confess along with David that all we deserve are God's arrows; that is, his anger, his threats, death and hell. As you and I see our sin and sinfulness, and realize our great guilt before the holy and just God, we join with Martin Luther when he writes that "terror in the heart follows; that God is angry with [me] on account of [my] sins." As you I encounter the bad things that happen in our lives, we may feel as though God is punishing us for our sins; a punishment that you and I rightly deserve.

Yet, at those times we are suffering, first and foremost you and I need to remember that One came and suffered the punishment that your sins and my sins deserve. It is because of Jesus, your Savior and mine, that in our Psalm prayer of Lenten repentance, we are able to join our voices with David and pray, "O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior." In your place, in my place, Jesus our Savior took on God's great anger over our sins. Jesus suffered hell in your place and mine. Jesus suffered the death you and I deserved to die. Because of Jesus our one and only Savior, you and I are forgiven of all of our sins and dearly loved children of our Father in heaven.
My dear friends in Christ, I know that, at times, this is difficult for us to remember. When you are lying in your bed, sick and in pain, and the pain seems to go all the way to your bones, when you are at the hospital with an IV coming out of your arm, when your friends are making fun of you day after day, the devil and our own sinful nature tempt us to see this as God punishing us for our sins. But when those times of pain and suffering do come into our lives, remember the one who came into this world to suffer in your place. When friends turn their backs on you, remember you have a loving Father in heaven whose arms are wide open, to bring you close to him and to hold you. When enemies tempt you to doubt God's love for you, remember the One who, in great undeserved love for you, took on and defeated your greatest enemies of sin, death and the devil. In your Psalm prayer of Lenten repentance, join your voice with David and pray, "O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath."

Having offered your Psalm prayer of Lenten repentance, it is good to remember these words of comfort and encouragement from Hebrews chapter 12, "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: 'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.' Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees."

These final words from Hebrews chapter 12 bring to mind one final point. How do you and I "strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees?" Where do you and I find the peace we are looking for when confronted with our sins? Where do we find the strength to endure the hardships of life? It is in the Word of our God. So my final word of encouragement for each one of us today is this: spend time in your Bibles! Read your Bible at home! Come to worship on a regular basis to hear the Word of God proclaimed! Participate in the Supper the Lord has prepared for you! As you do, you will see with your very own eyes and taste with your very own lips, the very price Jesus your Savior paid to make you a dearly loved child of your Father in heaven.

As I close, I would like all of us to join in our PSALM PRAYER OF LENTEN REPENTANCE. You may remain seated. But, I do invite you to bow your head, and in your heart pray along with me as I read the prayer before us from Psalm 38. We pray:

O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away. Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception. I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth; I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God. For I said, "Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips." For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin. Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous. Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good. O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior. Amen.

 

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