Through the Bible in a Year: Psalm 38-41, Proverbs 14

This Week’s Readings

Monday, May 28: 2 Samuel 21-24
Tuesday, May 29: Psalm 26-29, Proverbs 11
Wednesday, May 30: Psalm 30-33, Proverbs 12
Thursday, May 31: Psalm 34-37, Proverbs 13
Friday, June 1: Psalm 38-41, Proverbs 14

On Monday, we will begin 1 Kings.

The overall year’s plan is here.

Psalm 38

Here we get a picture of how thoroughly David mourned over his sin, crying out to God and staying close to God despite a conscience that was killing him. It sounds like he was also suffering from some sort of physical judgment from God, but he awaited God’s mercy in confident trust anyway.

Even our own sin must not deter us!

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners! Purify your hearts, you double-minded! Lament and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up. (Jam. 4:7-9)

Quite a picture of thorough repentance, isn’t it?

Psalm 39

I have to wonder if Psalms 38 and 39 were written right after each other concerning the same judgment. Psalm 39 doesn’t feel so trusting. ("Turn your gaze away from me that I may smile before I depart and am no more"—v. 13, NASB.) David seems beat down, which is probably what God wanted to happen in sending him whatever disease of judgment David is talking about here. Perhaps Psalm 38 was written toward the start of his judgment and Psalm 39 toward the end.

Psalm 40

Psalm 40 proclaims David’s deliverance from all his troubles, though verses 12 and 13 make it sound like he’s still in them.

Verse 4 reminds us that there are those who do not continue in trust in God when they face trials and afflictions. They turn to proud or wicked men who don’t follow God, and they look for earthly answers rather than waiting patiently for the Lord, as David says he did in verse 1.

Sacrifices

Modern Christians almost exclusively teach that the reason we don’t sacrifice animals anymore is because Jesus was the final sacrifice, offered once for all (Heb. 7:27).

There is, of course, truth to this. Jesus did offer himself up for us, brought us the New Covenant, gave us the Spirit, and delivered us from our sins. However, the earliest Christians, members of churches started and taught by apostles, did not explain the cessation of Old Covenant sacrifices the way we do. They used passages like Psalm 40:6-8 (in today’s reading), and there are many of them.

They explained that God never wanted sacrifices (Jer. 7:21-23), and sacrifices don’t purify. A sacrifice offered by an impure person is rejected by God. It does him no good. Ask Cain about that, Adam’s son (see also Amos 5:21-22). Instead, sacrifices are purified by the offerer. A person who has purified their heart with the true sacrifices of God, a broken heart and a contrite spirit, will have their sacrifices accepted (Ps. 51:16-19).

Hebrews 10:5-10 talks about the fact that God is not looking for sacrifices and quotes several passages, including Psalm 40:7-8, to establish that.

Psalm 41

I looked at some commentaries, and I couldn’t find any that took a guess at when this was written. It’s a psalm of David, so I was wondering who was this close friend who turned on him (v. 9).

My thought was that maybe it was Ahithophel, who was his counselor, but then who sided with Absalom when Absalom had his few days in power. But if that’s so, why isn’t this psalm more despairing? Possibly, though, his discussion of his enemies and their expectation of his death is a reference to the Absalom uprising.

Otherwise, I have no commentary on this psalm.

Proverbs 14

I like to leave proverbs without comment, but there’s a couple here I need to address.

First I just want to tell you that there’s something I find humorous or poignant about, "The stable is clean when you have no oxen, but much revenue comes from the strength of an ox" (v. 4).

Then verse 7: So many Christians waste their breath and vex their emotions arguing with a fool. It is important to know that overall, people are not that interested in truth. When someone has their ears blocked and refuses to listen, presenting stronger arguments is not going to make any difference at all. You should leave the presence of a fool, otherwise you will eventually become like him, an argumentative person with no ability to listen to others.

Verse 12 is one of the more famous Bible verses, memorized and quoted by Christians everywhere.

Verse 24 says that riches are the crown of the wise. Remember, the blessings of the Old Covenant were physical blessings because it was an earthly covenant made with an earthly Israel. We are the Israel of God, and our covenant is a spiritual one with spiritual (and thus eternal) blessings. A wise man under the New Covenant has treasures stored up in heaven, not on earth (Matt. 6:19-21).

Verse 33 is a little difficult to understand. The NASB reads, "Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, but in the heart of fools it is made known."

Wisdom is made known in the heart of fools? I don’t think so!

The LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, changes this around and says wisdom is not known in the heart of fools. The LXX is a translation, not an original, but it was translated almost a thousand years before our earliest Hebrew manuscripts. Sometimes it is a better witness of the Hebrew text than the Hebrew texts we possess.

It has also been suggested that this proverb means that wisdom rests quietly in the heart of a man of understanding, but fools blurt out what they think is wisdom without any check on their tongue.

My guess is that the "not" was lost somewhere in the transmission of the Hebrew text and that the proverb originally said that wisdom is not known in the heart of fools.

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