Desire and Sighing
(9) Lord, all my desire (is) before you, and my sighing is not hidden from you. (10) My heart throbs, my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes, it has also gone from me. (11) My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my affliction. Even those nearest to me stand far away. (12) Those who seek my life lay their snares. Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction and plot treachery all day long. (13) But I am like a deaf person who does not hear and like a mute (person) who does not open his mouth. (14) I have become like a man who does not hear and in whose mouth there is no retort.
In this segment, David continues to describe how it feels to experience Yahweh’s heavy hand of discipline. His body aches, his strength has departed, and his eyes fail (vs. 10). His friends seem distant (vs. 11), and his enemies look like they are ready to pounce (vs. 12).
In an important repetition, David likens himself to a deaf mute who can neither hear nor speak (vss. 13 & 14). He feels cut off and isolated from those around him. Every vital sense is impaired. All he can do in such a situation is pour out his heart to Yahweh in desperate prayer and cast himself on his mercy (vs. 9).
David must rely on Yahweh’s mercy because he feels (9)
- physically infirm (10)
- isolated from friends and family (11)
- threatened by his enemies (12)
- cut off from human interaction (13 & 14)
When brought to the end of ourselves, we turn to Yahweh because no one else can help us.
Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with a set of eight beatitudes, descriptions of those who are “blessed” or highly favored in God’s sight. The first two beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are those who mourn,” remain an enigma to many (Mt. 5:3 & 4). What did Jesus mean by such phrases? Why did he begin his sermon this way?
Psalm 38 helps us answer such questions. Here David describes those who are poor in spirit and who mourn over their poverty. Such individuals feel as though they are under God’s heavy hand of discipline, knowing that they have depleted their own resources and have no place to turn. Only one recourse is left open to them, to cry out to God with desperate words like, “Lord, all my desire (is) before you; and my sighing is not hidden from you” (vs. 9). This verse could be paraphrased, “I come to you with nothing but my sinfulness and sigh because of my destitute condition.” When we recognize and embrace our spiritual neediness, we are finally in the position where God can bless us by pouring out his undeserved grace into our lives.
Spiritual poverty is not a comfortable place to be nor a condition which we easily acknowledge. In his third beatitude, Jesus described those who have learned meekness, that is, a willingness to submit to God’s authority and to receive his instruction (Mt. 5:5). In the fourth beatitude, he spoke of those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Mt. 5:6). When we have reached this point, we are eager to experience the kind of spiritual growth that will result in maturity and Christlikeness.