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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
Title:I Will Wait Upon the LORD (Part 2): In the Day of My Sin
Text:Psalms 38 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Hebrews 12:1-13

Text: Psalm 38



  1. The Punishment

  2. The Acknowledgement

  3. The Hope


  1. Psalm 94: 1, 6, 7

  2. Psalm 32: 1, 2, 4

  3. Psalm 38: 1, 8, 10

  4. Hymn 1

  5. Psalm 37: 3-5

  6. Hymn 81: 1-4


Words to Listen For: kidney stone, lash, knees, echo, rank


Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is a penitential psalm?  What words is it like, and what can we learn from that?

  2. What is the two-fold occasion to David to write this psalm?

  3. What’s the difference between punishment and discipline?

  4. What’s worse than God’s discipline?

  5. Explain the “but God” echo in this psalm.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved children of the Lord,

There is a REAL POWER in words.  It’s true.

There is something important about choosing your words very carefully.

For example, just this last week, I spoke with a couple about to be married, and we were talking about the words in our marriage form.

The vow for the bride includes the phrase: Do you promise to love and OBEY him…  And we discussed whether it should be OBEY, or SUBMIT, the pros and cons to each word - what it does and doesn’t mean.

The choice of words is vital.  We heard this last week with the discussion of REWARD and GIFT in terms of what we receive from our Lord.  A gift is undeserved, a reward is earned, and our salvation is both.  We don’t deserve it, but it was earned for us, by Christ on the cross.

And now today.  This afternoon.  What is before us has been categorized as a PENITENTIAL PSALM.

It isn’t the only penitential psalm in Scripture…it is one of 7 psalms that are known as penitential: the psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.

Now, the first time that I heard this designation - Penitential - for a split second, my mind went to the word Penitentiary.  Another word for jail.  For prison.  And I thought: Are these psalms written while in PRISON?  Is that what the word means?


But the connection isn’t “PRISON,” but “penitence.”  Repentance.  And this makes a lot more sense.  Though some of the human authors of the Bible wrote from prison - think of many of the letters of the Apostle Paul - the psalms weren’t, with the possible exception of Psalm 56.

So…penitential…penitentiary…is this just an interesting tidbit, a weird fluke of the English language, that certain words seem like they are related, but they’re not?

Actually…no!  In fact “penitentiary” comes from the very same root!  A penitentiary is a house of correction, a place where prisoners are confined….for punishment yes…but also for reformation and rehabilitation.

A penitentiary done right, is actually something beautiful, something that is overflowing with grace and love.  A penitentiary says, first of all: I love society, I love the people here, and you’re hurting them.  I need to protect them from you.

But that’s not where it ends.  Because a penitentiary also says to the prisoner: I LOVE YOU…not just the way you are, but more than that.  A deeper love than that: I LOVE YOU…TOO MUCH FOR YOU TO STAY THE WAY YOU ARE.  I WANT THE BEST FOR YOU, AND I’M WILLING TO PUT IN THE WORK.

A penitentiary is, like so many other things in this life…a picture of the gospel.

There are consequences to sin.  We must reap what we sow.

And yet…for the child of God, the consequence for our sin, is correction.  It is loving discipline.  It is our Heavenly Father taking us into His arms and saying, “Oh dear…my darling child…what have you done?  This will hurt you, and I love you too much for that to happen.  I will teach you the right way.  Just follow me.”

And it is in this comfort, this assurance that comes with our status as a beloved, darling child of God that we can profess:


  1. The Punishment

  2. The Acknowledgement, and finally

  3. The Hope



It is always important, when we open Scripture, whether we do so together here on Sundays, or you open Scripture around the dinner table with your family, or in your personal devotions…it is important for us to ask a few questions of the text before us.

First of all, which human author wrote this text?  Do we know?  We know, of course, that God Himself authored the Bible.  The Bible is HIS WORD, the Bible is inspired BY HIS HOLY SPIRIT.

But the Spirit did use human authors, with their own experiences, their own writing styles, and personal histories.

You can tell the difference between a psalm written by David, and an epistle written by Paul.

Which human author wrote this text…and WHY.  Why was this text written?  Was it written to comfort, to encourage, to spur to action, to rebuke?

When we ask these questions of the text before us this morning, we learn that this IS a psalm of David…but, unlike other psalms, we do not find a specific instance.  A specific occasion is not mentioned at the beginning in the superscription under the psalm number and before verse 1.

But as we read the psalm, the occasion of writing is clear.

The occasion for David to write this psalm is two-fold: sickness and sin.

We have a very specific description of David’s sickness in verses 3 through 8

  • No soundness in my flesh

  • No health in my bones

  • My wounds stink and fester

  • I am utterly bowed down

  • My sides are filled with burning

  • Feeble and crushed

  • There is tumult in my heart

But, we see that, though this is one of the reasons that David writes this psalm, it is definitely not the only reason.

There is no soundness in my flesh


There is no health in my bones


My wounds stink and fester


David has recognized that this illness, this sickness, this weakness…is from the hand of the Lord - because of his sin.

And this recognition is something that we have lost in these modern times.  When there are issues in our lives, whether it is illness, an issue at work, or school, a breakdown of a relationship, or financial difficulty…when we pray about these things, we pray for RELIEF from them, rather than praying for FORGIVENESS for our sins.

Far too quickly, we pray ONLY for healing, rather than forgiveness.  We pray that we will be delivered, and don’t give a second thought to the reason God might be laying His hand of discipline upon us.

What we assume, is that we are Job.  When there is difficulty, we remember Job and think that this must be our reality too - each and every time it is a grand supernatural conspiracy, we are the innocent party, and what is happening to us has nothing to do with us.

But the reality is…we aren’t Job all the time.  Sometimes…sometimes we are David.

Now…we must be VERY CAREFUL with this.  Not every illness is caused by our sin.  It is foolish, it is even HATEFUL and BLASPHEMOUS to go to someone who is suffering and tell them that their pain is their fault.  That their cancer, their kidney stone IS BECAUSE OF THEIR SIN.

This is what Job’s friends did, and God was very displeased with them.

This isn’t your call to make.  This is something that WE must consider for ourselves when we encounter difficulty: is this the result of a fallen world…is this the result of sin in the WORLD GENERALLY, or this this the result of sin IN ME?

We must be very careful - not every one of our difficulties is caused by OUR SIN…but we should also not be so arrogant as to say the opposite - that LITERALLY NOTHING is our fault.  That it is IMPOSSIBLE that God would EVER DISCIPLINE US…EVEN ONCE.

God does discipline His children - we read this in our reading from Hebrews 12

Verse 5 - My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him.  For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.

Picking up on this truth, C.S. Lewis famously and so wisely said: God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

There WILL BE TIMES when God disciplines you.  It will happen.  For our reading goes on: If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

The believer who has never had a moment of difficulty, never a moment of sorrow, never a flicker of doubt or pain…this is a concerning thing.

But so often, we think it is the opposite, don’t we?

As children of God, so blessed in Him, so loved by Him…so often, when difficulty comes our way, we panic and wonder if we really are children of God.  “If you loved me…you wouldn’t have let this happen.”  But that’s simply not true.  That is FEAR talking…not FAITH.

Again, let me emphasize ONE MORE TIME so that you don’t miss it or mistake what I am saying here…not every difficulty, not every illness, not every challenge in our lives is the result of a particular sin.  But sometimes they are.  And it is between you and God to figure that out.  I cannot come to you in the hospital and tell you that this is the result of your sin.

I am not the Almighty, and I will never claim to be.  Only He can tell you this.  Only He can make this clear to you.

But in this specific instance in David’s life…David knows.  It has been revealed to him that this illness, this affliction IS because of his sin.

And so he prays

Verse 1 - O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.

Notice what David DOESN’T PRAY.

David doesn’t argue.  He doesn’t say “It’s not my fault!  I don’t deserve this!”

Because it is a VERY DANGEROUS THING to demand our rights before God.  To demand to receive what we deserve.  Because, truly, what all people DESERVE…is punishment.  Eternal punishment.  We have all sinned.

And in this particular case, God has made it clear to David that what he is experiencing is the result of David’s sin.

But David doesn’t just passively receive it either.  He begs, he pleads, he struggles with God.

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.

David is pleading with God…not for God to take away His rebuke, not for God to stop the discipline…but rather, David is pleading with God to not rebuke him in ANGER.  Please God...DISCIPLINE ME...DISCIPLE ME...but don't PUNISH ME.  I need you to show me your mercy and your love, do not treat me as my sins deserve, but don't let me off the hook either.  Use my sins and weakness as an opportunity for growth and maturity.

And this plea to David’s Heavenly Father is a reminder for all earthly fathers.  A reminder for all earthly parents - remember…you’re bigger than your child.  If you discipline in anger, if you lash out against your child…you could do REAL DAMAGE.

NEVER discipline in anger.  Because what you intend as discipline then becomes PUNISHMENT.  It becomes a way for you to release your anger and your frustration.  Never, never, never.  Never PUNISH your child, only DISCIPLINE.

Because…again…just like last week, just like the introduction…WORDS MATTER.

David is asking God not to PUNISH HIM, but rather to DISCIPLINE HIM.

And what exactly is the difference?


Punishment has to do with retribution.  Taking a pound of flesh.  You did the crime, now you have to do the time.  Punishment is only about JUSTICE.  There is no love in punishment.

But discipline…discipline is all about learning.  All about DISCIPLING - same root word there.  Discipline is about training in righteousness.  Discipline comes from a deep and abiding love, a place of grace and mercy, a place that says “I love you too much for you to remain the way that you are.”

  • Punishment comes because your child did something wrong.

  • Discipline comes because you want your child to do what is right in the future.


Now, when we look at this psalm, it is impossible not to be curious as to the identity of the particular affliction of David.  We want to be the doctor here.  Some have suggested it is a kidney problem, others point to leprosy.

But…what we have to realize is that the doctor has already been here.  The Great Physician has already come.  He has made a house call and has diagnosed the psalmist.  The cause of this illness is sin…and the cure is repentance.

And, after a time, after what was likely a struggle, a struggle with pride, with stubbornness, with his sinful nature, the psalmist David acknowledges his sin.  Our second point.

Now, you may be wondering, you may be asking yourself: “where is the PROOF that David struggled?  Why do you say that this acknowledgement was ‘after a time’?  I didn’t read that in this psalm!”

And that is absolutely fair.  And yet…I think we can say that this is how it went…with some degree of certainty.

Why “after a time?”

Well, there are three reasons that we can conclude this.

First of all…David is human.  Stubbornness is part of our corrupted nature.  An oversensitivity to the sins of others and an insensitivity to our own sins and shortcomings is par for the course.  Due to the fall into sin, our affections have been corrupted, our minds and hearts have been weakened, and even recognizing our sin, much less acknowledging it…is a process for us.


Secondly, as we sung earlier in the service from Psalm 32, this is something that has happened to David before.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

The similarities between the two psalms is so striking that it is possible that both Psalm 32 and 38 speak of the same event.  In any case, keeping silent and not acknowledging sin is a very HUMAN thing to do, and it is a very DAVID thing to do as well.


And thirdly…if David immediately confessed his sin…why this response from God?

Remember what we heard from C.S. Lewis - God SHOUTS to us in our pain - it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

In this instance, THIS pain was God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf DAVID.

This difficulty, this illness, this affliction was a call to REPENTANCE.

God is saying: David…your sin is serious.  Your sin is serious, and you have to acknowledge it.  But also…my love for you is serious, so this is discipline, not punishment.

David…you do not have to PAY for your sin, but you must ACKNOWLEDGE it.  As my child, your sins will, one day, be put on another and they will be paid…HE will receive the punishment for this sin…but you need to receive the discipline.  BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.


Because…think of it beloved…as difficult, as painful as God’s discipline is…do you know what is WORSE?

The absence of God’s discipline.  That is FAR WORSE.

As our reading says: For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

What is worse than God’s painful providence, God calling you out for your sins?


Let’s use the language of this psalm, the language of this specific discipline to really drive the point home

Verse 7 - My sides are filled with burning

Sometimes beloved, sometimes earthly fire may prevent hellfire.  Sometimes earthly fire may prevent hellfire.  Temporary suffering may prevent eternal suffering.

And so, in moments of difficulty we can and we should thank God for loving us enough to discipline us.

And we see very clearly that David acknowledges this is no random illness.  This has not come to him by chance, but it is the will of the Lord.

YOUR arrows

YOUR hand

YOUR indignation

3 times “your.”

This is from YOU O God!

But let us not see this as David BLAMING God.  No, for the 3 times YOUR is followed up by 3 times MY

Because of

MY sin 

MY iniquities

MY foolishness


David is acknowledging 2 things:

  • This is FROM GOD

  • This is BECAUSE OF ME


What David is feeling in this psalm is not just REGRET.  He does not just regret his sin, he does not just regret that he has been found out by God.  It is more than REGRET, it is CONVICTION.

It is repentance.  This affliction has had its desired affect.  David is brought to his knees, and he PRAYS.


Verse 9 - O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.

David brings his sorrows before the Lord.  Even though he deserves this because of his sins, he is not expected to deal with it alone.  For the Father who disciplines also comforts.  The Father who allows pain also relieves it.

And for David, not only is his Heavenly Father his BEST COMFORTER, it seems He is his ONLY comforter.

Verse 11 - My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.

David has been abandoned by those close to him, and his enemies all gather around

Verse 12 - Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.

There is no comfort, there are only enemies.


But David refuses to hear - I am like a deaf man

For it is not human comfort that he truly seeks

And it is not human hatred that he truly dreads

But rather, what is happening is on a much bigger scale.  This isn’t about a temporary illness…this is about eternal salvation.

Lord - I need YOUR divine comfort.

God - I need to be assured that this is discipline and not punishment.  I need to be assured that you and I are still in a good relationship.  David is asking, David is pleading, He is hoping…in our modern language - “God…you and I…we’re good, right?”

“Nobody has come close to me but YOU, O Lord.  Please…tell me that you have come in love to discipline!  Please O God, I confess my iniquity to you, I am sorry for my sin - now O God, I turn to you, pleading with you to come in love to comfort.”  This is David’s hope.  Our final point.

In verse 15 we finally find hope.  The first 14 verses were without much hope.  Without much comfort.  And it is important that we have psalms like this…because this is life sometimes.  There are days, weeks, even months where there is very little hope.  Very little joy in our lives.

But it is SO MUCH MORE than simply the psalmist being RELATABLE.  Not only do we feel HEARD, not only do we see our experience represented…but we are encouraged.  We are taught what we must do when we are feeling helpless and hopeless.  We need to pray as David prayed.

The first words out of our mouth should not be complaints, but rather, a penitential cry.


O Yahweh.  Look on me in my distress.  Hear my cry for help.  You are sovereign - this is in your hands.  You are Good - this must be accomplishing good SOMEHOW.  Please teach me.  Please help me in my distress.

And in verse 15, we see this call to Yahweh - LORD in all capital letters -  the covenant God once more.

But for you, O LORD, do I wait

We see here an echo of the “but God” of the gospel.

The gospel in two words - BUT GOD.

We sinned - BUT GOD

We were dead in our sins - BUT GOD

We rebelled against Him - BUT GOD

We are weak - BUT GOD

And the right response to the gospel is to repeat it in our prayers.


For the psalmist, he contrasts the LORD His God, Yahweh, with his friends, with his enemies, and with himself.

Verse 11 - My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.

  • BUT GOD you will answer.

    • BUT GOD, you will not forsake me, you will come to me and show me your care.

Verse 12 - Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.

  • BUT GOD you will answer

    • BUT GOD, you do not seek my hurt, you seek my good!  You are disciplining me in love!  You seek my life.  You are doing this that I may have life and life abundantly!

Verse 13 - But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth

  • BUT GOD you will answer

    • I have no answer that I can give.  I have no solution, I have no power to fight my disease, I have no power to fight my enemies, I have no power to compel love from my family.  BUT YOU DO.  You will answer.  You will care for me, you will support me, you will answer me in love and power.


But for you, O LORD, do I wait

And finally, we see “our line” in this psalm.  This concept of waiting upon the LORD.  Finally we see the WORD “wait” even though the concept has been shown throughout.

For, do you remember how waiting upon the LORD was defined last time?  Let me remind you:

First, pray.  Seek His counsel, submit to His wisdom, recognize His power.

Pray in this way: Heavenly Father, I feel trapped.  I feel as though there is no way out.  I am like Solomon at the beginning of his reign -  I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in…give therefore your servant understanding.  Please show me the way to go.  I cannot do it my own strength, please show your strength.  Fill me with strength that I might do your work, or fill me with patience that I may watch you do your work and rejoice.

First, we must pray.  Then we must listen for that still small voice.  We must seek out God’s will.

There are times when waiting means BEING STILL - confine your actions to prayer.

But there are other times when waiting on the LORD means action. Prepare, train, work, fight, argue, struggle.  Even in action, wait upon the LORD.  Maintain that humble reliance upon Him.

And this is what David has done all along.

He prays, he cries out to the LORD - O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger.

There is no action that David can do, he can only lie on his bed and cry out to the LORD.  And those last words here are important.

It is not that the only thing David can do is lie on his bed and cry.  Simply crying over your circumstances is not waiting on the LORD.  Your tears must come before the LORD in prayer.  And we know that our God gathers our tears in His jar, He records them on His scroll (Psalm 56).  When we cry, we must cry upwards.  We must cry towards.  We must cry out to the LORD, for He will help us.

But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God who will answer.

Again, just like last time, very briefly focus with me on these two names of our God.

LORD and Lord.

LORD in all capitals - Yahweh.  The covenant God.  The God who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  The God who is defined by hesed, faithful, selfless love.

For you O Yahweh do I wait.

I am waiting on you, because you have promised good to me.  I am your child, you are my Heavenly Father, you tell me I can expect good from you, and this is what I am doing.  I am waiting to see your loving comfort and provision.

It is you, O Lord my God who will answer.

It is you, Adonai, master, sir, ruler of the universe, who will use ALL OF YOUR MIGHTY POWER AND AUTHORITY to answer me.


It is as the catechism so comfortingly states - He is ABLE TO DO SO as Almighty God (Adonai, Lord, Master, Sir, Ruler of the Universe), and willing also as a faithful Father (Yahweh, our covenant God).

David is preaching to his own soul.

God, I feel your hand upon me, I feel your arrows sink into me…but I KNOW that you are good.  I KNOW you are faithful.  You are Yahweh.  MY GOD.

And I KNOW that you are powerful.  You are Adonai.  My Divine King.  What you set your mind to do in your love, your power will not deny.  Everything you wish to do for your children WILL HAPPEN.

And Yahweh, Adonai, please come quickly.  I am waiting…but hurry!


Verse 17 - For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me.

Please God - it’s BAD.  I am in CRISIS.  Come quickly!  I can’t continue.  I can’t live like this.

And David, our psalmist, our example, so wisely, even in his sorrow, he shows us that he knows how to rank his problems.


Verse 18 - I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.

This is a recognition that THIS is the first crisis.  The most serious issue is spiritual.  It’s not ultimately about my family, my friends, my enemies…it is about my spiritual health.  Before anything else, put all of that aside…God…you and I…are we good?  Can we be good?  I am a sinner.  I have sinned, against heaven and against you.  And I am sorry for my sin.  I don’t deny it, I don’t excuse it.  I am guilty, please wash me clean.


And then, only then, does David move on to his second crisis.

Verse 19 - But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty and any are those who hate me wrongfully.

This is important too!  David’s physical life.  His physical safety.  God created us body and soul, Christ redeemed us body and soul, and so we are important to Him, body and soul.  But FIRST the vertical - man and God - and THEN the horizontal - man and man.

And what is the ultimate hope of the psalmist in his distress?  What is his ultimate plea?

Our final verses - Do not forsake me, O LORD!  O my God, be not far from me!  Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.


There is a specific time in this psalm where our Saviour comes into play.

Because while David’s suffering CAN be seen as a picture of the suffering of Christ - no soundness in our Lord’s blessed flesh - it was torn apart by whips, it had thorns pressed into it and nails pounded through it…that’s not the point.

While David’s abandonment by his family CAN be seen as a picture of the disciples in those last moments - 10 fled, one denied Him, and one betrayed Him…that’s not the point.

While David had those who sought his life, and our Lord Jesus Christ had those who plotted His death…that’s not the point.


What is the point here?  How can we see our Saviour Jesus Christ in this psalm clearly and powerfully?

It is in these final two verses - Do not forsake me, O LORD!  O my God, be not far from me.

Does that ring a bell?


A horrible cry.

A wail.

A deep groan from our Lord on the cross, as He hung there, between heaven and earth, judged, rejected, and cursed by both.

A lament that was left unanswered.

For where the psalmist WAS ANSWERED, where the psalmist WAS HEALED, where the psalmist was DISCIPLINED…our Lord Jesus Christ was left in silence and in darkness.  He was not healed, but He died. He was not disciplined…but He was PUNISHED.

Our Saviour received the full wrath of God so that we, 2000 years later, and so that the psalmist, 1000 years earlier…did not have to suffer it for a MOMENT.

As God’s people, there is no wrath for us.

Let me say that again.  THERE IS NO WRATH FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.  There was a cup, and Jesus drained it.  He drank it dry.

He received the wrathful punishment, that we might only receive the loving discipline.

Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.

Salvation for the psalmist, salvation for us, does not only COME FROM the Lord, but salvation IS the Lord.  Salvation is Jesus Christ - His very name means Yahweh is salvation.

What we DESERVE…what each and every one of us DESERVES is wrath.  What each one of us DESERVES is jail.  What we deserve is an eternity in prison, away from every good and wonderful thing.  Away from God, forsaken by Him.

But instead, instead, we only get the good element of a penitentiary - that reformation, rehabilitation, and discipline of the Lord.  We receive that loving correction, that loving rebuke…and in the end, the prison doors swing open wide and we are set free.

For our Saviour has suffered hell, He has taken that eternal damnation upon Himself, that we might receive eternal blessings.  Eternal life.  Eternal love.  Eternal hope.

So, my beloved, but more importantly, God’s beloved…wait upon Him.  Your sins, though they are powerful, cannot compete with His love.

Come to Him, wait upon Him, in your distress, in your sin.  For He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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