The gift again is mercy. The prayer is that we might experience the riches of God’s mercy. Mercy produces joy and gratitude, despite our circumstances. Our circumstances might not change, but we can always have incredible joy and gratitude that we have been given God’s merciful love instead of the wrath that we deserve.
I don’t think the lesson of Psalm 38 is meant to be a clear-cut “1. Bad things are happening to you because you sinned, 2. Confess your sins and the bad things will stop happening.” I say this because the psalm itself doesn’t have much clear-cut about it. The suffering the psalmist experiences is ambiguous in its source. It starts out as a result of God’s wrath toward sin but without announcing it, becomes stimulated by enemies who want to kill and harm without cause and the psalmist is once again seen as an innocent victim (verse 20). I think the lesson or point of this psalm is to once again guide us to run to God’s mercy and grace when we are experiencing suffering, even when the suffering continues. A unique feature of this psalm is its reminder to us that God’s wrath is real, so how much more should we 1. do our best not to sin, and 2. run to Jesus for his grace and forgiveness to cover our sin and satisfy God’s wrath. Once you are a Christian / believer, this is a once-and-for-all covering. Jesus’ work is finished. But it’s healing and freeing to remember what it is we deserve from God (apart from Jesus) so that we can so much better enjoy and experience his undeserved gifts of grace and mercy that he lavishes on us. When we start acting like God could never be wrathful because he’s just not like that (though Scripture says otherwise), we lose out on how big of a gift his mercy and grace to us really is.
Meanwhile God isn’t trying to deprive people of delight, he’s trying to draw us toward real delight. He’s trying to draw us toward a solid foundation that doesn’t eventually evaporate. I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-29. Psalm 36 takes it up to an even more worshipful notch though. It lays out the path of the sand, the path that evaporates, and it lays out the path of the rock. The path that holds up when life’s trials come. The path that holds up for all of eternity. But then it uses these two paths to lead us into worship. It leads us to praise God for his love and faithfulness that reaches to the skies, his righteousness that’s like the highest mountain, and his justice that is deeper than the ocean. What imagery! What beauty. It leads us to his unfailing love. His priceless, unfailing love. There is no better picture than this in all of Scripture. God loves you so much. His love for you is worth more than all the money, gold, and treasure in the world. And his love for you never, ever fails.
I wonder what examples a psalmist would use for our epitomes of power today that we look to to deliver us… No businessman is saved by the size of his portfolio; no politician escapes by his great following. Possessions and wealth are vain hopes for deliverance, despite all their momentary comfort, they cannot save. Just as kings, physical strength, and horses were not sinful in the ancient world, I’m not saying portfolios, politics, and possessions are sinful today. But am I saying that we look to these things to deliver us. They are the things we spend most of our worry, anxiety, and stress on.
Noah interviews his friend and mentor Kevin Butcher about his new book Free (available April 6th).
I think one of our greatest shortcomings as Christians today is left-brained knowledge of God without right-brained experience of God’s loving presence. That when my heart is longing for the faux and fleeting feeling that “just one more thing” can give me–one more purchase…one more flirtation…one more TV episode…one more experience–that instead of gratifying this empty desire, I can instead stop and gaze upon God’s beauty. I can instead sit in God’s presence. I can gaze upon his face smiling down on me (Numbers 6:24-26). I can seek his face. That his loving and majestic face is the answer to my heart’s longing.