Psalms 38-41
(How Long?!)
June 10th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Come quickly to help me,
   my Lord and my Savior

- Psalm 38:22 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

This set of chapters concludes Book I of Psalms with themes of forgiveness and mercy written in a style known as a lament. Psalm 38 indicates that the author believes he is suffering physical pain because of his sins and prays for healing: “my wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly (Ps 38:5 - NIV).” He closes this Psalm pleading with the LORD to come quickly and help him.

In the 39th Psalm, the author seeks forgiveness before death, knowing “how fleeting is my life (Ps 39:4 - NIV).”

    "Ah, GOD, listen to my prayer, my
       cry—open your ears.
    Don't be callous;
       just look at these tears of mine.
    I'm a stranger here. I don't know my way—
       a migrant like my whole family.
    Give me a break, cut me some slack
       before it's too late and I'm out of here."

    - Psalm 39:12-13 (MSG)

Psalm 40 also begins with praises to God, who, says the Psalmist, “heard my cry and lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on rock (Ps 40:2 - NIV).” He continues with a pledge to do God’s will and reminds God of how he has spoken of God’s faithfulness. The Psalmist then concludes by again asking the LORD to come quickly to help, just like in Psalm 38.

Psalm 41 is the final chapter in Book I of the Psalms. It begins by noting that those who care for the weak are blessed, then asks for mercy and protection. This Psalm and Book 1 concludes with a doxology of praise, which is genrally assume to not be from the original Psalm, but rather added by an editor involved in the grouping of the Psalms: “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen (Ps 41:13 - NIV)."

Reflection and Application

There are more Psalms of lament then any other type of Psalm in the Psalter. We have already seen quite a few in addition to the ones we read today - all four in today's readings are known as laments. Altogether, the Psalms of Lament probably make up more than one-third of the 150 Psalms. You might have noticed that most of them follow the pattern listed below (1):

    An Address to God
    The Lament Itself
    Confession of Trust in God
    Exclamation of Certainty
    The Vow of Praise

You might want to look for this pattern when you encounter the next lament.

The primary author of laments and other Psalms in Book I is presumed to be David, second King of the United Kingdom of Israel. He was very successful as a King and military leader, but committed grave sins and experienced many personal trials.

Despite his shortcomings, David is notable for his persistence. He kept coming to God in faith during all circumstances: He praised God with words, music and dancing during good times and petitioned for forgiveness, help, and protection during bad times. He even appeared to be angry and impatient in a number of Psalms.

We can exercise our faith in God by also praying in all circumstances, and sharing our disappointments directly with him, as did David, Job ( Job 7:11), and Moses ( Numbers 12:10-15).

David created these Psalm as an offering to God and a guide for us. Many of the Psalms were written as lyrics that were meant to be sung. We are not far off when we read them as poems, but the original raw emotions become clearer when they are sung in a soulful manner. For example, Bono (aka Paul David Hewson, born in Ireland on May 10, 1960), of the rock group U2, penned a song titled “40” that is based on the 40th Psalm. He did a commendable job translating it into a contemporary lyrical style with musical accompaniment and he sings it with sincere passion:

    I waited patiently for the Lord
    He inclined and heard my cry
    He brought me up out of the pit
    Out of the miry clay

    I will sing, sing a new song
    I will sing, sing a new song

    How long to sing this song?
    How long to sing this song?
    How long...
    How sing this song

    - Excerpt from '40' written by Bono

We recommend to you an audio-video clip of Bono and his audience singing "40" at the Bill Hybels (of Willowcreek) Leadership Summit 2006. This video also includes an excerpt of Bono speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast. Click the play button on the YouTube object below to listen to this clip and imagine the same emotions welling up in King David when he penned this Psalm thousands of years ago:

"40," performed by Bono

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What was your favorite concert of all time?
    2. What original forms of praise based on our own lives can we create, offer up to God and leave as a guide for future generations?
    3. What are you waiting for the LORD to do for you? How long have you been waiting? How long will he make you wait? How long will he allow you to sing your song of prayer, waiting for the answer? How long…
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in Heaven you brought us out of the pit - help us to be patient in waiting for you

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Irish Musicians


    (1) Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984, p. 281

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Psalms 42-44 (As the Deer Pants)

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