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DAVID’S DISTRESS AND CONSOLATION
Psalms 38:1-19.38.9. O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure: for thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt, because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease; and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble, and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.
IT will be of great use to us through life to treasure up in our minds the dealings of God with us on some particular occasions. As his care over us in our difficulties may well call for “a stone of remembrance, which shall be called our Eben-ezer,” so his merciful attention to us at the first commencement of our humiliation before him may well be written in indelible characters upon our hearts. The Prophet Jeremiah, looking back to some season of peculiar distress, records his experience in terms of lively gratitude [Note: Lamentations 3:1-25.3.4; Lamentations 3:12-25.3.13; Lamentations 3:17-25.3.21.]: and, in like manner, David opens to us all his views and feelings when he sought the Lord after a season of darkness and distress; and he tells us that this psalm was written by him “to bring to remembrance” the troubles he then endured, and the tender mercies of God towards him.
From the part we have just read, we shall be led to consider,
This was exceeding great.—Let us notice,
The source and cause of it—
[He traces it to sin as its proper cause [Note: ver. 3, 4, 5.]: and sin is the true and only source of all trouble — — — Sin is an object of God’s abhorrence; and wherever it exists unlamented and dominant, he will visit it according to its desert. In whomsoever it be found, whether he be a king on his throne, or a beggar on a dunghill, he will make no difference, except indeed to punish it in proportion to the light that has been resisted, and the aggravations with which it has been committed. Doubtless the sins of David were of most transcendent enormity, and therefore might well be visited with peculiar severity: but we must not imagine that his are the only crimes that deserve punishment: disobedience to God, whether against the first or second table of the Law, is hateful in his sight, and will surely subject us to his “hot displeasure” — — —]
The extent and depth of it—
[His soul was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s wrath. “God’s arrows” pierced his inmost soul: and his hand was heavy upon him, and “pressed him sore.” His iniquities, which, when they were yet only committed in desire and purpose, appeared light, now were an insupportable burthen to his soul; insomuch that “he roared by reason of the disquietness of his heart.” Here then we see what sinners may expect in this life. Verily such experience as this is little else than a foretaste of hell itself — — —
But his body also was afflicted with a grievous disease, which had been sent of God as an additional mark of his righteous indignation [Note: ver. 3, 5, 7.]. And no doubt, if we could certainly discover the reasons of the Divine procedure, we should often see diseases and death inflicted as the chastisement of sin [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:30.]. David viewed his disorders in this light: and those, without any additional load, were heavy to be borne; but, when added to the overwhelming troubles of his soul, they almost sunk him to despair. Let those who think lightly of sin, view this monarch in the state above described, and say, whether sin, however “sweet in the mouth, be not at lust the gall of asps within us [Note: Job 20:12-18.20.14.]:” yes, assuredly, it will sooner or later “bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder.”]
But in the midst of all this trouble, he makes mention of,
Whilst deeply bemoaning his sin, he was assured that God was privy to all the workings of his soul, beholding his desires, and hearing all his groans. Now this was a great consolation to him, because he well knew,
That God, in the groanings of a penitent, recognizes the voice of his own eternal Spirit—
[Groans are the natural expressions of inward pain and anguish; and when they arise from a sense of sin, they are indications of a penitent heart. But no pious disposition is found in man till it is planted there by the Holy Ghost. God is “the Author of every good and perfect gift,” and must “give us to will, no less than to do” whatever is acceptable in his sight. As for groanings on account of sin, they are more especially said to be the fruits of the Spirit, who thus “helpeth our infirmities, and enables us to express those feelings which are too big for utterance [Note: Romans 8:26.].” To man such inarticulate sounds would convey no distinct idea; but God understands them perfectly, because “he knoweth the mind of the Spirit:” and he delights in them, because it is in this way that “the Spirit maketh intercession for us,” and because these very intercessions are “according to the will of God [Note: Romans 8:27.].”
What a consolatory thought is this to one that is overwhelmed with a sense of sin! “He knows not what to pray for as he ought;” and perhaps the load upon his spirit disables him for uttering what his unembarrassed judgment would dictate: but he recollects that God needeth not any one to interpret to him our desires: he understands a sigh, a tear, a look, with infallible certainty: he sees all the self-lothing and self-abhorrence that is contained in such expressions of the penitent’s feelings; and in answer to them, he will “do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.”]
That to such expressions of penitence all the promises of God are made—
[It is not to the fluent tongue, but to the contrite heart, that pardon and peace are promised. “To this man will I look,” says God, “even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit,” “to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones [Note: Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2.].” “He will fulfil, not the requests only, but the desire also, of them that fear him,” and “of them that hope in his mercy.” If only we look unto him we shall be lightened,“ yea, we shall be saved with an everlasting salvation [Note: Psalms 102:17; Psalms 102:19-19.102.20. Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 45:22.].” The publican who dared not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote on his breast, and cried, God be merciful to me a sinner! went down to his house justified, when the self-applauding Pharisee was dismissed under the guilt of all his sins.
Now this is an unspeakable consolation to the weary and heavy-laden sinner. Had he to look for grounds of worthiness, or even for any considerable attainments, in himself, he would be discouraged; but finding that the invitations of God are made to him as wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and that the promises are suited to him in that state, he comes to the Lord Jesus Christ, and finds rest and peace unto his soul.]
From this view of the Psalmist’s experience we see,
What an evil and bitter thing sin is—
[”Fools will make a mock at sin,” and represent it as a light and venial thing: but let any one look at David in the midst of all the splendour of a court, and say, what sin is, which could so rob him of all earthly pleasure, and bring such torment upon his soul. Was that a light matter? If we will not be convinced by such a sight as this, we shall learn it by sad experience in the eternal world, where the worm that will prey upon our consciences shall never die, and the fire that shall torment our bodies shall never be quenched. O that we might be instructed, ere it be too late!]
What an enviable character is the true Christian, even when viewed under the greatest disadvantages—
[We cannot conceive a Christian in circumstances less enviable than those of David in the passage before us: yet compare him with an ungodly or impenitent man under the most favourable circumstances that can be imagined, and ask, Whose views are most just? — — — Whose feelings most rational? — — — Whose prospects most happy? — — — With the one “God is angry every day;” on the other he looks with complacency and delight: the joys of the one will soon terminate in inconceivable and everlasting misery; and the sorrows of the other in endless and unspeakable felicity [Note: Luk 16:19-26 and Isaiah 35:10.]. The sinner in the midst of all his revellings has an inward witness of the truth of our Lord’s assertion; “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”]
Of what importance it is to attain just views of the character of God—
[If God be viewed merely as a God of all mercy, we shall never repent us of our sins: and if he be viewed as an inexorable Judge, we shall be equally kept from penitence by despair. But let him be seen as he is in Christ Jesus, a “God reconciling the world unto himself, and not imputing their trespasses unto them,” let him be acknowledged as “a just God and yet a Saviour,” and instantly will a holy fear spring up in the place of presumption, and hope dispel the baneful influence of despondency.
Know then, Beloved, that this is the very character of God as he is revealed in his Gospel: he is “just, and yet the justifier of them that believe in Jesus:” he is to the impenitent indeed “a consuming fire:” but, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Let the groaning penitent then look up to him with cheerful hope; yea, with assured confidence, that God will not despise even the lowest expressions of penitential sorrow: however “bruised the reed may be, the Lord Jesus will not break it; nor will he quench the smoking flax,” though there be in it but one spark of grace, and a whole cloud of corruption: never did he yet “despise the day of small things;” “nor will he ever cast out the least or meanest that come unto him.” Only come to him in faith, and “according to your faith it shall be done unto you.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 38". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent