Lord, Take Pity on Me

Psalm 38

Many friends / neighbors of mindset: constitutional right to wellness. Illness or discomfort – doctor’s job to come up with pill or shot to make it better, now. Sickness is malfunction of body; if we know how body works, should be able to fix it, make it work right. A view of mankind that fails to account for primary element of what makes us human beings created in the image of God: spiritual aspect, have both body and soul. Material and spiritual are distinct but in union with each other, having influence over each other, inseparable from each other except at death.

Biblical Christian view of sickness and suffering must bring spiritual aspect into consideration; some would say that takes priority over physical. Make sure your spiritual house is in order, then go see the doc if necessary. Not talking about hangnails and head colds; this is serious illness by nature of severity and/or duration. Point being: sickness may have cause or purpose that is not physical. Emphasis on “may”; just as wrong to say “all sickness is caused by sin” as to say “no sickness is caused by sin”. More on that at the conclusion. Bear in mind – frequency of Jesus’ connecting physical healing and spiritual principles in various ways.

Psalmist David convinced here that his condition was result of his own foolish and sinful actions. Seems it took him a while to get to that point, to clever up! As he cries out to God for mercy, uses different names by which to address God:

v.1 – Yahweh, LORD v.9 – Adonai – Lord v.15 – adds Elohim, God, to Yahweh and Adonai

These names will form basis of exposition of this one of seven penitential Psalms. Each name reveals particular truths about or aspects of God and his character. That sets up basis for particular kind of relationship, is reflected in how Psalmist addresses his pleas to God.

Yahweh, pity my physical condition; Adonai, pity my emotional condition; Elohim, pity me, I’m your child.

A. Yahweh – pity my physical condition v.1-8

God as the independent, unchanging and self-existent God of revelation and redemption ex. 3:14-15 “I am he who is”

ruler/subject, judge/plaintiff sort of relationship – desire for relief (4)

doesn’t question justice of punishment; cries out because of crushing weight that is too much to bear

poor guy is absolute wreck, a broken man physically and emotionally

whole body is sick, health is broken (3)
overwhelmed with guilt (4)
unable to heal properly from injury (5)
in debilitating pain from head to foot (6a)
grieving because unable to escape guilt (6b)
feverish, in danger of succumbing to illness (7)
physically and emotionally exhausted, at the end of his rope (8)

pleads for mercy in his just punishment, not escape from consequences

has a right view of his own behavior

deprived of health because of his sin (3)
overwhelmed by his iniquities (4)
present condition result of his own
foolishness (5)

word used repeatedly in Proverbs; indicates here serious lapse of moral judgment

more than dumb choice, a morally wrong choice

if goal of correction is to bring sinner to right view of his sin, it’s worked

not only feels the pain of corrective discipline, acknowledges God as the source (2-3a)

accepts that his loss of health orchestrated by God in response to his sin (3)

overwhelmed and revolted by sinfulness of his sin (4, 6, 8)

has come to end of his own resources, throws himself on the mercy of the court, begs that his sentence might be limited to time served; anything in addition to that would crush him beyond recovery without any further corrective benefit.

B. ’adonay – pity my emotional condition v.9-14

The singular form means “master, owner.” Stresses man’s relationship to God as his master, authority, and provider.

doctor/patient, pastor/parishioner relationship – desire for understanding (9) feel my pain

he is completely open book before all-seeing eye of God

God knows his heart’s desire – to do what is pleasing to God, to no longer be object of displeasure (9a)

God knows his repentance is sincere, not just for appearances (9b)

outward behavior consistent with repentant heart: doesn’t get defensive when accused of wrongdoing (14)

his mental / emotional state having negative effect on physical well-being

heart palpitations (10a)
physical weakness, lack of energy (10b)
spark of life/good health gone from his eyes (10c)

similar to deadness seen in victims of long-term abuse

not just sin and God who get credit for his despondent condition

family and friends want nothing to do with him (11)

attitude of “boy, this guy really messed up and God’s gonna get him; I don’t want to stand too close”

those who had promised to be there for him whatever happened discovered circumstance not included in “whatever”

“my near ones stand far away” (11b)

profound sense of aloneness, of isolation makes his situation unbearable

compounded by fact that isolation is choice on part of friends, not necessity – they’re within sight, within reach almost, but not engaged in relationship

the kind of rejection that is incredibly painful

enemies want to do him in (12)

talk about kicking someone when they’re down! enemies seeking to capitalize on his vulnerability

not simply seeking to gain an advantage, they want him dead

double-whammy – their treatment is unjust and unjustified, he has no resources with which to defend

lacks physical and emotional strength, intellectual focus; completely preoccupied with subject at hand (13)

C. ’elohîm – pity me, I’m your child v.15-22

used of God’s sovereignty, creative work, mighty work for Israel and in relation to His sovereignty. All-powerful creator.

father/child relationship – desire for closeness (21)

Lord, you’re my only hope (15)

first step in recovery for both disobedient and future children of God – point to which all sinners, saved or not, must come before God will restore to fellowship

praying to God for deliverance (16) because there is no alternative

I really can’t go on like this any longer – I’m at the end of my rope (17)

just as toddler needs parent’s hand to keep from falling, so returning sinner needs Father’s hand to keep from stumbling

real bottom line: this sin issue must be resolved; it’s what is separating us, it’s gotta go (18)

second step in recovery – genuine repentance: sorrow for sin, not its consequences, and turn away from it

closely coupled with desire for unhindered fellowship, especially for one who has previously experienced it

I deserve to be treated as your child: they’re my enemies because I do what’s right (20)

only those who are part of the family do what is right in God’s sight

on basis of relationship: your child needs you

don’t abandon me – situation would be truly and finally hopeless

don’t be distant – broken relationships are too painful; need restoration

hurry and help – my God is my salvation and my only hope

Sin by its very nature can be the cause of illness – cancer, cirrhosis, AIDS, etc. Not specifically what is in view here although it could have parallels. Are times we work at cross-purposes with God when we rush to relieve our own suffering or that of others. When that happens, may end up getting in deeper, prolonging the need for God’s design to be worked out. May also miss out on incredible blessing if we fail to rightly consider the purpose of suffering or trial.

May not be able always to discern God’s purpose in our suffering. However, should at least make the effort, not just write it off as strictly physical, result of genetics or circumstances. Especially true of long-term stuff, what we would term chronic illness. Also, those situations where symptoms multiply as time passes.

Questions to ask when suffering from illness or experiencing trials (James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, 3 vols. [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1994], 1:333):

* “Have I sinned or gotten off the track of obedience to what I know I should be doing, and is this setback God’s way of getting me back on track and into fellowship with him?”

* “Is God using this to trim off some rough edges of my personality and develop a more Christ-like character in me?”

* “Is God using my suffering as a stage upon which his name and wisdom may be glorified? Is it a place for me to show that I love him for who he is, entirely apart from whatever material and physical benefits he may have given me?”

May God give us grace to see his hand at work in all our circumstances, rely on him for strength and wisdom to glorify him whatever our lot in life.

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