Sermon from February 21st, 2016

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“Psalm 38 - A Cry for Help”

Psalm 38; Mark 7:31-37

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning and welcome to worship!  Today we continue our study of the penitential Psalms.  These seven Psalms are prayers for forgiveness and deliverance in times of trouble. They are brutally honest about the depravity within us and the depravity around us.  They are a cry for help to the only one who can save us.

So far we’ve looked at Psalm 6, Psalm 51, and Psalm 32.  Today we look at Psalm 38.  Let’s open our Bibles. The first thing we learn is that David composed this song for use in public worship. The second thing we learn is that it is a petition, a prayer, – a cry for help.

“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.” Ps 38:1-2

David is obviously hurting. Is he sick? Is he discouraged? Is he feeling overwhelmed by circumstances?  Are enemies threatening him? Is God punishing him because of some sinful behavior?  We don’t know. The Hebrews tended to lump all these things together.

Is David speaking about himself or the whole nation?  As king, he speaks for himself, but he also speaks for the whole nation. The Hebrews saw these things as continuous. So much so that if we are to think Hebrew, we would see this is about Jesus, it’s about us, it’s about our church, and it’s about our nation.  Psalm 38 is a cry for help for us as individuals and even as a nation.  Do we need help?  Does America need help? Can I have an “amen”?

Often times when something bad happens the first thing we ask is “Why is this happening to me?” “What did I do to deserve this?”  But David doesn’t ask that question. He knows why this trouble has come. He is a sinful man living in the midst of a sinful people.  He is suffering from God’s righteous judgment and he’s suffering the sin of the people around him.

“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. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.” Psalm 38:4-8

David wrote this prayer to be used in public worship. I think David is grieving the depravity of his nation. I have to ask myself, “Do I grieve the depravity in America?”  Does the sickness of the culture around me bring agony to my very own bones?

Jesus felt our depravity in his own bones. Isa 53:4 says, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, he was smitten and afflicted, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.”

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus groaned in anguish of heart while the disciples fell asleep. Too often we find ourselves numb and asleep to our own sin and the sin of our nation. But Jesus willingly took our sin sickness upon himself.  He suffered physical anguish for our sin. When we were unable to see how depraved we were, Jesus took our depravity upon himself and because of his holiness, he felt it to the uttermost.

Let’s go to vs 9 “All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hide from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.” Ps 38:9-10

Even in his agony, David believes God is there for him. He believes that even though no one else knows, or even cares, the Lord knows and cares about his suffering.  Jesus told his disciples that when things got tough they were all going to abandon him, but even when all hope seemed to have died, the Father would never abandon him.

As he died on the cross he shouted, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”  We later learn that as Jesus was obedient to his Father even to death. He laid it all down.  But through it all his Father was right there with him and three days later, his Father raised him to life.

When David writes, “The light has gone from my eyes” he is saying, “I have come to the end of myself. No matter how strong or wise or in control I once was, my strength has failed. I have exhausted my resources, I have no one else to save me except the Lord.” Isn’t it sad that we have to be brought so low before we recognize what has always been true!  Jesus alone is our salvation.

Look at verse 11, “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.”  Ps 38:11-12

Abandonment by friends is often a painful consequence of a suffering.  We don’t know what to say, so we say nothing.  We have no power to make things better, so we disconnect. The grieving person’s pain is so deep; we fear it and run away. Their brokenness brings our absolute dependency on God to close for comfort. We’d rather live in denial.

Vs 13 “I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth; I have because like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.”

Sometimes pain and tragedy are like nightmares from which we can’t wake up.  On one hand we are faced with God’s righteous judgment, on the other, we are overwhelmed with the evil attacks of those who out to destroy us.  Did Jesus identify with our predicament?  “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as sheep before her shearers is silent so he did not open his mouth” Isa 53:7

Remember how Jesus stood silent before Pilate when he was asked to defend himself? Why did he do that?  He had done nothing wrong. The answer seems to be that he came to identify completely with our powerlessness. Rather that justify himself he trusted his Father.

David’s song goes on… “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.” Ps 38:15-16

David turns to the LORD as the only one who can deliver him. But before we get to that, I have a hard question for you. I want you to be honest. Have you ever gloated over someone else’s trouble?  Ever felt the tiniest bit of secret glee when your competitor’s ball rolled out of bounds on the golf course?  Ouch, that hits close to home for me!

Why do we feel a little smug when we can point out someone else’s failures?  Satan loves to accuse us. He loves to gloat over our troubles – and he tempts us to do the same.  Why do we allow him to tempt us into such evil behavior?  Who will deliver us from this stuff?

Look at vs 17-18 “For I am about to fall and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity. I am troubled by my sin.” Ps 38:17-18   Most of us grieve our own sins, but are we willing to grieve the sins of our enemies? Are we willing to pray for God to forgive them in the same way Jesus did?

David knew unless he as the king owned the sin of his nation and prayed for their forgiveness, Israel would fall. Jesus did the same for us. It’s fair to assume that unless we are willing to own the sin and pray for the forgiveness of our nation, we too will fall.
Why? Look at vs 19-20 “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.” Ps 38:19-20

I don’t believe this is primarily about physical enemies, I believe it’s about spiritual enemies, what Paul called “spiritual powers and principalities”.  We have a vigorous enemy and the only way we can battle the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh is with the Word of God, prayer, and the armor of the Holy Spirit. And we do it not just for ourselves, but for our families and for our nation. If we don’t, who will? It’s the job the Lord has given us!

This isn’t a battle we can fight on our own strength. The battle lines run straight through our nation, our politics, our church, even our own hearts.  So where will we go for help?

David ends his prayer with the answer.  Though David did not know his name, It was Jesus who was the hope of Israel 3000 years ago and he’s still the hope of America today.  The depravity of human nature still threatens us from without and within. But we have a Savior who will never abandon us.  And he’s as close as our next prayer.
For the sake of our nation, our families, our community, and ourselves, let’s pray together as Jesus did...

“O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.” Ps 38:21-22


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