Make Haste To Help Me, O Lord

“But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; and I am like a dumb man who does not open his mouth. Yes, I am like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no arguments. For I hope in Thee, O Lord; Thou wilt answer, O Lord my God. For I said, ‘May they not rejoice over me, who, when my foot slips, would magnify themselves against me.’ For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin... Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!”

Psalm 38:13-22

The psalmist’s description of himself as both deaf and dumb is a perplexing analogy. Perhaps he means that he has no answer for himself and his conduct. His sins stand as evidence of his utter incapability of saving himself, and he can make no excuses. While this is a good point, and is very true for most of us, the next statement adds another dimension: “For I hope in Thee, O Lord; Thou wilt answer…” Like someone incapable of hearing and speaking, the writer depends on God alone for answers. He cannot “explain away” his sin, so he employs the Almighty to judge him in righteousness. He will not waste his time dealing with his enemies’ reproaches and accusations, so he asks God to be his sole defender.

“For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.” There is a degree to which we should have anxiety about sin. As long as it is motivating us to do better and repent, a little heart-wrenching can be quite productive. But we must be wary of perpetual stress over sin. Some people spend their whole lives afraid of God and His wrath. In some ways, poor preaching is at fault – spending too much time telling people how sinful they are without also building up the grace, majesty, and glory of promises of the gospel (Ephesians 1:13-14). The psalmist may be speaking in poetic terms, but there is great danger in holding on to guilt for too long. When iniquity has been otherwise resolved, it is no longer useful to dwell on it – the writer was so bad at letting go that he was making his body physically ill from the stress! Paul explains that guilt (sorrow) can have two outcomes, depending on our approach (2 Corinthians 7:8-10).

When we finally embrace the idea that we cannot save ourselves, and it is God’s mercy alone that brings us back from the precipice of condemnation, then we can get back to the divine work before us. He is a forgiving God (Jeremiah 31:34), whose mercy is only as far away as our humble confession (1 John 1:9).