Overwhelmed or Overcoming?
(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of David. (1) Blessed (is) he who considers the poor. In the day of evil, Yahweh will deliver him. (2) Yahweh will protect him and preserve his life. He will be blessed in the land, and you will not surrender him to the will of his foes. (3) Yahweh will sustain him on his bed of illness. In his illness you will restore him to full health. (4) I said, “Yahweh, show favor to me. Heal my soul for I have sinned against you.” (5) My enemies speak evil against me: “When will he die and his name perish?” (6) Whenever one comes to see me, he utters empty words while his heart gathers slander. When he goes out, he tells it abroad. (7) All who hate me whisper together against me. They imagine the worst about me. (8) They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him. He will not get up again from where he lies.” (9) Indeed, my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. (10) But you, Yahweh, be gracious to me and raise me up that I may repay them. (11) By this I know that you are pleased with me that my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. (12) As for me in my integrity, you have supported me and caused me to stand in your presence forever. (13) Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.
This passage is anchored by the word, “blessed,” a term that both opens and closes the psalm. First, it is used to describe how Yahweh graciously deals with those who belong to him (vss. 1 & 2). In the final verse, it is Yahweh who is called “blessed” for having sustained the psalmist in all his trials (vs. 13). In the body of the psalm, David recounts two types of afflictions that have marked his life. He suffered physically because of what was apparently a life-threatening illness (vs. 3 & 4). He then experienced great emotional anguish because of his enemies (vss. 4-8) and the betrayal of a close friend (vs. 9).
The author uses two contrasting groups of synonyms to describe his distress. Negatively, he portrays his enemies as those who “speak evil” (vs. 5), “utter empty words,...gather slander...(to) tell it abroad” (vs. 6), “whisper together” (vs. 7), and “say” negative things (vs. 8). Positively, David uses the following verbs to explain how Yahweh has upheld him: “sustain...restore” (vs. 3), “show favor” (vs. 4), “be gracious...raise up” (vs. 10), “are pleased” (vs. 11), “support...cause to stand” (vs. 12). David closes the psalm with a great outburst of praise to Yahweh for all he has done to comfort him through all he has endured (vs. 13)
I. Introduction: Yahweh blesses those who honor him. (1 & 2)
- in physical illness (3 & 4)
- in emotional distress (5-12)
III. Conclusion: Blessed be Yahweh! (13)
Yahweh is worthy of praise because he graciously sustains us in times of physical and emotional distress.
American football fans are familiar with a penalty called “piling on.” This occurs when too many defensive players unnecessarily jump on the ball carrier after the tackle has been made. This term well describes how life can seem for us at given moments when we encounter too many problems, face too many opponents, and feel completely overwhelmed by all that is happening to us. David wrote of such a time when he not only suffered a life-threatening illness but was also taunted by his enemies.
At such moments we need strong reminders that God is still on our side despite all that we are undergoing. Paul used two rhetorical questions in Romans 8 to give us much needed encouragement in such times. First, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31)? Then, a few verses later, he asked: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom 8:35)? Keeping in mind the obvious answer to both questions can make a huge difference when it seems that everything is piling on us. When we feel overwhelmed, we can overcome as we remember that Yahweh is on our side and has promised never to leave us nor to forsake us.