Psalm 38:8-22 NKJV
8 I am feeble and severely broken;
I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.
9 Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You.
10 My heart pants, my strength fails me;
As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.
11 My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague,
And my relatives stand afar off.
12 Those also who seek my life lay snares for me;
Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction,
And plan deception all the day long.
13 But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;
And I am like a mute who does not open his mouth.
14 Thus I am like a man who does not hear,
And in whose mouth is no response.
15 For in You, O Lord, I hope;
You will hear, O Lord my God.
16 For I said, “Hear me, lest they rejoice over me,
Lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.”
17 For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.
18 For I will declare my iniquity;
I will be in anguish over my sin.
19 But my enemies are vigorous, and they are strong;
And those who hate me wrongfully have multiplied.
20 Those also who render evil for good,
They are my adversaries, because I follow what is good.
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord;
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
Dr. Luther, in his 1531 “Summaries of the Psalms,” says this: “The 38th Psalm is a psalm of prayer, in which the psalmist laments over his sins, on account of which his conscience despairs and is greatly afflicted and can see nothing but God’s arrows [v. 3], that is, His anger, threats, death, and hell… For to truly feel ones sins and despair over a guilty conscience is the torture over all torture. And since God here holds back His comfort, this terror in the heart must follow, that God is angry with them on account of their sins. But, for all that, he teaches us to hold fast and not despair. Likewise, we too should pray and not despair in any anxiety, although we are sinners and we feel sharply the burden and assault of our sins.”
Psalm 38 is a heartfelt lamentation over sins that have left the psalmist’s conscience in despair. Luther aptly describes this state of the soul as one that can see nothing but God’s arrows – His anger, His threats, and the looming specters of death and hell. To truly feel one’s sins and despair over a guilty conscience, as Luther suggests, is a torment beyond compare.
In our own lives, we may have experienced moments when our sins, like God’s arrows, pierce the very core of our being. Yet, amidst this spiritual anguish, the psalmist teaches us a vital lesson – to hold fast and not to despair. We, like the psalmist, should pray without ceasing and trust in God’s boundless mercy. We may be sinners, deeply aware of the burden of our transgressions, but we have a Savior who bore our sins on the cross and offers us redemption.
As Luther wisely reminds us, we must not despair in the face of sin’s assault on our conscience. Instead, we must cling to our faith in Christ, embrace the promises of God through Him, and seek His righteousness in our daily lives. Then, the comfort of faith will flow once more, and we will find ourselves enveloped in the boundless love and grace of our Heavenly Father.
Let us pray: O Lord, keep your household, the Church, in continual godliness, that through your protection we may be free from all adversities and devoutly given to serve you in good works to the glory of your name; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.