This Week's Focus Passage

David's Repentence

Focus Passage: Psalm 38—Inspired Title

‘A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance’

‘A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance’ is the language of David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is not a heading provided by an editor of a particular translation of the Scriptures, sitting in his office and trying to determine what single line might best epitomize the entire psalm. This is the language of God. It was penned by the Psalmist. The Psalmist, in this case, was David. He was moved, not only in the writing of each and every one of these twenty-two verses—not that the versification is inspired—by the Spirit of God, but equally so in his writing of this ‘title.’

Having said that much, it must at the same time be admitted that the line offered as a ‘title’ in one version suggesting the psalm to be the ‘Prayer of a Suffering Penitent’ is not entirely without merit so long as it is understood that it is not to be considered inspired. This thirty-eighth psalm is, as are virtually all of the psalms, certainly a prayer. It begins with that language of prayerful cry found so often with that conspicuously God-dependent, ‘O Jehovah!’ David then laments his condition of profound suffering with the blessed understanding that it is likely coming from the chastening hand of his Father’s displeasure. He experiences such as sting him like arrows which stay with him; they ‘stick fast in me’ he says, as though pressed down by the hand of God. He is indeed suffering even to the point that he has neither soundness in his flesh nor health in his bones, yet in his God-centeredness, he looked inwardly for the cause, saying, ‘because of my sin.’ In this we witness his penitence and we may truly say that this psalm is a ‘Prayer of a Suffering Penitent.’

In his penitence, David surely brings to remembrance his grievous sins and his foolishness on many occasions. He speaks of them as going over his head, and as being too heavy for him; terms that remind us of the complaint of Cain when he said, ‘my punishment is greater than I can bear.’ Unlike Cain, however, David is not about to flee from the presence of God. Instead, he flees unto the presence of Jehovah. Multitudes have sadly imitated the proud example of Cain, when chastened, rather than imitating David’s humble response. It was David that wrote this psalm to bring to remembrance, but it was surely the Spirit of God that brought David’s sins to his remembrance. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, even according as our Lord has taught us when He announced the sending of Another Comforter—John 16:8—who, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. That David was convicted of his sin ere he wrote this psalm is patent in the sentiments of virtually every verse.

How often have we ever witnessed—even in our own hearts—that disquietness of which he speaks? Have our hearts ever throbbed through groaning and anguish of soul because of our sins? Yea, have we ever beaten upon our chests as Luke’s publican in 18:13, unable to even lift our eyes unto heaven? While it may be an anachronism to speak this way, it seems palpable that David was here, in this thirty-eighth psalm, smiting upon his breast as he cried unto his God. Why is it that there seems to be so little of this in our day? Why do so many seem to treat sin as a ‘little mistake,’ or an ‘oops’? Contrition and repentance seem to be so foreign to our twenty-first century society. O Lord, send thy Holy Spirit in power to us again.

Yes, we may hear of celebrities ‘acknowledging’ a politically incorrect expression and rushing to ‘make it right,’ but is it not almost always the case that their job is on the line; or their position; or their reputation? There is nothing to be seen of serious and true contrition; only a lame ‘I shouldn’t have done that, or I wish I hadn’t said that.’ And there seems, in this our day, very little to be seen of true and honest repentance in the churches. They have largely followed the world; we have largely followed the world. Our remaining sin, our pride, flies in the face of true repentant acknowledgement of sin and wrong-doing. This is certainly not following the behavior and example of the sweet psalmist of Israel. Give attention to his words in the eighteenth verse of this psalm thirty-eight. In unequivocal terms, David pronounces, ‘I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.’ David’s clear repentance is so foreign to men today. Why is that? Must it ever be?

Another psalmist, in Psalm 121, a song of ascents, an unknown author, raises this relevant question, ‘From whence shall my help come?’ and answers his own inquiry with a truth to be embraced daily, ‘My help cometh from Jehovah, who made heaven and earth.’ David’s heart and mind appear to be reverberating with that truth as he continues to depend upon his God. Once more he cries out to Jehovah at the conclusion of this psalm:

Forsake me not, O Jehovah: O my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.

He knows assuredly that God is his provider for all things. It is Jehovah that gives, not only forgiveness, but a repentance that need not to be repented of—for godly sorrow works repentance unto salvation, a repentance which brings no regret. It is made clear to us also, in Acts 5:31, that as faith is the gift of God, so is repentance. Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins. Surely Peter was speaking here of the Israel of God; those alone for whom Christ had died at Golgotha; those that had been placed in Him from before the foundation of the world. These alone He came to save; these alone are the recipients of true faith and true repentance.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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