TEXTS: Psalms 38 to 41
David’s prayer for restoration, recovery and preservation in the texts was borne out of distress occasioned by his moral
failure, the mischief of his enemies who desired his death while he was sick and the treachery of an ungrateful religious ally. Sin always has a predictable, miserable outcome of guilt, emptiness, fear, pain and affliction. God abhors sin in thought, word and action; He expects the transgressor to seek His mercy and forgiveness to avert the crisis and judgment that it brings. Everyone suffering from personal moral failure, ill-health, divine chastisement, assault of enemies and betrayal should pray with faith in God who forgives, restores and preserves in righteousness (Psalm 86:5; Hosea 14:4; Psalm 121:4-8). He also expects everyone who obtains His intervention to be thankful and praise Him for His manifold mercies (Luke 17:12-19). David praised God for His intervention and believers ought to do the same for all the redemptive benefits enjoyed in Christ
(Psalm 103:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 13:15).
PRAYER OF THE AFFLICTED FOR RESTORATION AND RECOVERY (Psalms 38:1-22; 39:1-13; 40:11-17; 41:4; Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19; Deuteronomy 32:29; Luke 15:17-24; Hosea 14:4; 1 John 1:9; 2:1,2)
“O LORD rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure… There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin” (Psalm 38:1-3). The psalmist’s prayer shows his humility, sincerity and penitence as he attributed his grief, afflictions and complaints to “my sin” and “my foolishness” (Psalm 38:3,5). He attributed his failing health or “loathsome disease” and restlessness (verses 3,7), heavy burden of condemnation, guilt-inflicting conscience and mourning (verses 4-6,17), feebleness and failing strength (verses 8-10), desertion
by friends, relations and ingrates (verses 11,20), mischief of enemies (verses 12,16), loss of integrity and moral justification to reprove others (verses 13,14), to the wrath of God he incurred through sin. He recognised that he was suffering from divine displeasure and chastisement in his plea for mercy. “Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand. When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity” (Psalm 39:10,11).
God, our loving Father, corrects His erring children (Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19). “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth… If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons… for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:6,7,10). He also expects His church to discipline erring members and parents to do the same for proper
upbringing of their children. Every believer should see discipline as an act of love and humbly repent, make necessary amends and seek the Lord for restoration. Like the psalmist, they must accept divine discipline and commit themselves to obeying the word and will of God. “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:67,71). Aside David, Samson, Manasseh and Jonah bore chastisement that yielded peaceable fruits of righteousness (Judges 16:21-30; 2 Chronicles 33:9-13; Jonah 2:1-10). God is a Disciplinarian;
He does not gloss over sin. So, believers should live and serve with reverential fear of Him who does not respect persons (1 Corinthians 9:27; Hebrews 12:28).
In calling upon God to remedy his miseries, David took some crucial steps that everyone in a similar situation will find helpful. One, he acknowledged his sinful state; two, he repented of his misdeeds; three, he confessed them to God, saying, “I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin” (Psalm 38:18). Four, he expressed faith in God as the only Hope and Source of salvation: “For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God” (Psalms 38:15; 39:7). Five, he sincerely and wholeheartedly pleaded with God for salvation: “Deliver me from all my transgressions… be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee” (Psalms 39:8; 40:13; 41:4). Six, he sought God with readiness of heart to live righteously in view of his frailty, the brevity of life, vanity of the mundane and endless afterlife (Psalm 39:1-6).
The psalmist’s prayer was based on his understanding of the connection between earthly life and eternity. He knew that anyone who was once saved and backslid would be banished from heaven. Thus, he tearfully pleaded: “Hear my prayer, O LORD… hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more” (Psalm 39:12,13). Life on earth is brief; death is certain and unannounced for the old and young. Eternity draws near each passing day. Sinners and backsliders should urgently repent and seek God for mercy and forgiveness to avoid being lost to a damnable eternity in hell.
To enjoy eternal bliss with God in heaven at the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ, believers should, one, examine themselves continually and watch against reentry of sin (2 Corinthians 13:5); two, read and listen to, imbibe and obey God’s word always (Colossians 3:16,17); three, live daily in holiness and righteousness (1 John 2:28); four, reset their affection and be preoccupied with things of eternal value (Colossians 3:1-3); five, invest their time, talents and treasures in the propagation of the gospel (Matthew 6:19,20); six, preach the gospel to sinners and win back the prodigal by assuring them of God’s promised forgiveness and restoration (1 John 1:9; 2:1,2); seven, pray always for grace to be accounted worthy of rapture (Luke 18:1).
PRAISE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF DIVINE HELP (Psalms 40:1-10; 41:13; 22:3; 103:1-5; 105:1,2)
“I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done…” (Psalm 40:1-3,5). Divine interventions and benevolence should elicit gratitude and praise from believers. The essence of praising God and testifying of His goodness is for people to see His greatness, awesomeness and the need to trust Him for needed miracles. Believers are expected to praise and make known His deeds, for His great salvation and deliverance from the horrible pit and miry clay of sin, depravity and disgrace; for restoration to the path of rectitude and righteousness; for His provisions, preservation and goodness (l Chronicles 16:8; Psalm 107:8).
God created, redeemed and has blessed us to glorify Him (Isaiah 43:7,21; 1 Peter 2:9; Psalm 50:15). We are also commanded to praise Him for who He is and for His wonderful works (Psalms 107:21; 150:2). In all situations of life, believers
should praise God and testify of His mercy, love and care with a humble heart (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Habakkuk 3:17,18). Prior to praising God, David revealed: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). Impatience leads to obtaining a permissive will, which is not the best for any believer.
While praising God for deliverance, the psalmist was inspired to predict the crucifixion of Christ and the establishment of a better covenant (Psalm 40:5-8). The writer of Hebrews clarified that, “when he said, Sacrifice and offering… for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:8-12). The fulfilment of this prophecy shows that the Old and New Testaments agree on the personality of Christ and His mission on earth. Thus, everyone is now required to exercise faith in His atoning death and efficacious blood for salvation and sanctification. While believers praise and worship God, it is important to emphasise the truth about Christ’s redemptive benefits. Christian songwriters and singers should make Christ and His meritorious work at Calvary the main subject of their composition and rendition for the salvation of sinners, and growth and edification of believers.
THE PSALMIST’S ASSURANCE OF DIVINE DELIVERANCE AND PRESERVATION (Psalm 41:1-3,5-13; Isaiah 58:10-11; Proverbs 14:21; Jeremiah 22:16; Zechariah 7:10; 121:7,8; 97:10; 145:20)
“Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him… and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing…” (Psalm 41:1-3). The psalmist was inspired to highlight the eternal truth and blessedness of piety, charity and good works towards the poor. God frowns at the neglect of the poor (Proverbs 21:13). He knew God would act according to His word concerning the fair and just benevolence to the poor (Isaiah 58:10,11; Proverbs 14:21; Jeremiah 22:16; Zechariah 7:10). Thus, he received encouragement and assurance from this truth that, since he had been considerate and liberal to the poor, God would also deliver him from mischievous enemies, who expected his death when he took ill. “Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish? All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt. An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more”. More troubling for the psalmist was the betrayal of a sworn friend who had benefitted from his generosity before adversity came. In the heat of betrayal by a close associate like Ahitophel, David was inspired to predict the betrayal of Christ. “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I
trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). Christ applied this verse to the betrayal of Judas Iscariot: “I speak not of you all…but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (John 13:18). If our Lord endured betrayal and still fulfilled His ministry, believers should follow the footstep their Master.
The Scripture assures us that God will always preserve His people from all evil (Psalm 121:7,8). He delivered and preserved the children of Israel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Daniel, Peter and Paul (Exodus 8:22,23; 9:4; 11:7; Daniel 3:23-26; 6:16-24; Acts 12:5-7; 16:24-27; 28:30,31; 2 Timothy 4:18).
In conclusion, believers should pray without ceasing. And as we receive divine interventions, the natural response is to show gratitude to God in praise and increased devotedness to Him and His cause. Abiding believers who seek God and act right are assured that all their afflictions, trials and adversities will end in praise to God on earth or endless praise in eternity. So, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen (Psalm 41:13).