Psalm 39 describes David’s struggle with human wickedness. He begins so concerned about his own sinful speech that he resolves not to speak at all in the presence of the wicked. However, it’s so painful holding his thoughts in that he ends up speaking anyway, not to the wicked, but to God. He urges God to help him understand his own mortality and comparative impermanence. All of mankind is equally impermanent. As a result, he puts his trust in God to rescue him from sin rather than continuing to punish him. If God does not deliver him soon, it will be too late.
Psalm 40 expresses David’s rejoicing in God’s deliverance. He waited, God rescued him, put him in a safe place, and gave him reason to praise Him. Anyone who trusts in God is blessed because God regards people like that. As a result, David offered himself to God and glorified Him. Now, he is confident that despite his desperate situation, God still will deliver him. He looks forward to seeing God disappoint those who want to see him suffer, but he expects that God will give those who seek Him reason to rejoice.
Psalm 41 explains the importance of generosity. God will protect those who are gracious to the poor, even when they are ill. This is particularly important to David, because his enemies are expecting him to die and gossiping about him. David’s illness has led even his close friends to turn against him. However, David knows that God will deliver him and show His delight in him.
Psalms 42-43 were originally the same psalm, but for some reason were divided up when the book of Psalms was organized. However, even now, their original unity is obvious. The original psalm was structured like one of our gospel hymns, with verses and a chorus. Psalm 42:1-4 is the first verse, 42:5a is the chorus, 42:5b-10 is the second verse, 42:11 is the chorus again, 43:1-4 is the third verse, and 43:5 is the final repetition of the chorus.
Content-wise, the combined psalm is about the psalmist’s suffering and hope for deliverance. He longs for God like a deer pants for water (Our hymn “As the Deer” is taken from this psalm, though it’s much more optimistic in tone than the original). He’s suffering and lonely, and he yearns for God’s deliverance. However, he tells his soul not to be miserable because he knows that God will rescue him eventually.
The second verse adds more information about the suffering of the psalmist. His situation is so bad that he feels like he’s drowning, he feels like God has forgotten him, and his enemies are mocking him because God hasn’t rescued him. However, he continues to counsel his soul to peace.
The concluding verse of the original, in Psalm 43, asks God to rescue the psalmist from his enemies and wants to know why he continues to suffer. He pleads with God to bring him to His temple so he can praise Him. Once again, though, he urges his soul to be still because he trusts in God.
Rise, O Christ, within our hearts;
Come with hope and warning;
Till the night of doubt departs,
Shine, O star of morning!
Break upon our minds this hour;
Dawn in Your perfection;
Prove Yourself the Son with power
By Your resurrection.
Rise, O Christ, upon our woe;
Through Your word, remind us:
Everywhere Your people go,
Still Your light shall find us.
On the midnight of our tears,
Shed Your consolation;
Chase away our darkest fears
With Your sure salvation.
Rise, O Christ, till You descend,
Bright with exaltation;
Bring all error to an end
By Your revelation.
Every eye will plainly see;
Every heart, surrender;
Then arise in victory;
Take us up in splendor!
As we continue through our series of half-hour studies we might hold with an unbeliever, we’ve now passed the point of conversion and moved onto instruction in righteousness. The goal is to teach that new Christian what they need to know in order to be faithful to God.
In this, the most obvious verse to start with is 2 Timothy 1:13. Here, Paul tells Timothy that he is supposed to hold to a pattern, a particular way of doing things that Christians are to imitate. The pattern is laid out in sound words, in the teaching of Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the apostles.
In recent years, this idea has come under attack. Many now claim that following the New Testament pattern for our work and our worship is no longer important. As long as we love Jesus, they say, everything else will work itself out.
Is that really so? As disciples of Jesus, should we concern ourselves with the cross and not with the tiny details of Scripture? Or, conversely, is there some reason why we should concern ourselves with the details too? In short, why should a new Christian—indeed, why should we—care about the pattern?
I’ve got three reasons for you this evening. The first is that caring about the pattern is CONSISTENT. Let’s look here at a text that is familiar to many of us, Colossians 3:17. We’re not to do some things or even most things in the name of the Lord Jesus. We are supposed to do everything.
There are many points that we could draw from this, but the point that I want to make is that if we do some things in the name of Jesus and not others, we are not being consistent. Why is what the Bible says so important in this one area over here but not in this other area over here?
I think that nearly everybody here this evening would agree that following the New-Testament pattern is important when it comes to conversion. We go to various passages and see that we’re supposed to believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. That’s how you know you’ve been saved, not because you hear a still small voice in your head, but because you have done what the Bible tells you to do.
We are very suspicious, and rightfully so, of additions to that pattern. For instance, let’s say we run into somebody who insists that we can be saved from our sins by praying the sinner’s prayer. What do we tell somebody like that? I’ll tell you what I’d do. If this were somebody with any Scriptural sophistication at all, I’d hand them a Bible and ask them to prove it
Of course, nobody is going to be able to do that. At that point, though, they’re likely to start saying that the Bible never says you can’t, either. That’s true. I cannot point to a verse that says, “Thou shalt not pray the sinner’s prayer in order to be saved.” The Scriptures are silent concerning the sinner’s prayer, but I don’t think any of us would say that such silence makes the sinner’s prayer acceptable.
You know what, brethren? If silence doesn’t authorize adding to God’s plan for salvation, it doesn’t authorize adding to God’s plan for worship or for the work of the church either. If we honor God’s silence in teaching others the truth, to be logically consistent, we must honor it everywhere.
Second, caring about the pattern matters because IT CALLS US TO THE WORD. Consider, for instance, the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11. Paul came to town proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ. The Bereans didn’t dismiss his teaching out of hand because they’d never heard it before, nor did they uncritically accept it. Instead, they turned to the word. They examined the Scriptures to determine whether what Paul said was true.
We can just as easily apply the same method to weighing any teaching that we hear. Preacher gets up, says something we’ve heard all our lives. The fact that we’ve heard it all our lives is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether his sermon stands up to the word.
What if he says something we’ve never heard before? Doesn’t matter. Compare it to the Scriptures, and that will reveal whether we ought to listen.
This word-centric method of discovering truth has two main virtues. First, it means that we can apply an impartial standard to our lives. Now, obviously, not every Scriptural question we have can be answered with certainty. If you think you know for certain what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, I think you’re wrong! However, the things that we need to do have been revealed for certain, and if we will agree on following the standard, we can use it to serve God together.
Second, turning to the word is important because it changes us in ways we don’t expect. The longer I spend with the Bible, the less I think that it’s just a book and the more I think that it’s more like a computer program. It’s more than a source of information. As we take it into ourselves, it changes us, and the more we turn to it for answers, the greater that change will be.
Finally, we should care about following the pattern because IT HONORS JESUS, NOT OURSELVES. Let’s begin our investigation here with Ephesians 5:22-24. In context, Paul is making the point that women are to submit to their husbands as the heads of their families. It’s important to note, though, that the example he uses for this submission in everything is the submission of the church to Christ. Clearly, Paul believed that the church too was supposed to submit in everything to Christ.
That’s a big deal, brethren, not only for the church but for its members. Everything is everything. This begins with our personal lives. Every decision we make, every hour of the day, is supposed to honor Jesus as Lord. There’s a lot of noise on the news these days about how people have the right to control their own bodies. Christians don’t. The most intimate decisions we make, those belong to Jesus too.
So too in our churches. We’ve got a sign out front that says “Church of Christ”. Brethren, we can’t just say that we belong to Christ. We have to prove it. If everything this church does does not show our submission to Jesus as Lord, that sign out front is nothing more than an empty boast.
OK, but how do we know? How do we know whether in our personal lives and in our church we are submitting to Christ? Simple. We know we are honoring Him as Lord when we do what He says. There’s no other way.
If I’ve got this great idea for how I should live my personal life, and I can’t point to anything in Scripture that says it’s a great idea, that’s a problem. If I put it into practice, I’m not honoring Jesus. I’m honoring me.
Same goes for our conduct in the church. There are all kinds of things that we might do in our assemblies. There are all kinds of things that we might do with the Lord’s money. However, unless we are taking our marching orders from Jesus in those things, we are not honoring Him. Honoring Jesus means following the pattern. Anything else is about exalting ourselves.
Lord, in wrath do not rebuke me,
Nor in anger, discipline,
For Your hand is hard upon me
As I suffer from my sin.
My iniquities are heavy,
And my grief has bowed me low,
For my sides are filled with burning
And my spirit groans in woe.
All my longing is before You,
And my bitterness You see;
Strength has failed me, light has darkened,
And my friends ignore my plea.
Those who hate my life entrap me,
And for treachery they seek;
Like the deaf, I do not hear them;
Like the mute, I cannot speak.
Only You, O Lord, will answer;
Do not aid their wickedness;
Ever is my pain before me,
And my failing I confess.
They are vigorous and mighty,
Those who hate me wrongfully;
Hasten, God of my salvation,
O my Lord, be near to me!
Psalm 35 contains David’s plea for God’s help against his enemies. He asks God to frustrate their attempts to destroy them and to hinder them in everything they do. They hate him without good reason for doing so. Even though he has always been concerned for their welfare when they are in trouble, when they see him in trouble, they plot against him. David asks God to rescue him and not allow them to rejoice in his downfall. Instead, David hopes that God will give those who love him cause to rejoice.
Psalm 36 contrasts the wicked with God. It begins with a description of the wicked, particularly the devious wicked. They plot evil and believe that they won’t be discovered. God, on the other hand, is so good that His goodness can only be compared to the magnificence of nature. His love provides nourishment and light to all people. The psalm concludes with an appeal to God to continue his steadfast love to those who know Him, especially by protecting David from the wicked and defeating them.
Psalm 37 is commonly called “the psalm for the fretful”. It begins with an appeal to, rather than fretting about the apparent prosperity of evildoers, to trust in God instead. He will bless the righteous and those who wait for Him. The wicked, on the other hand, will vanish.
Even though the wicked are plotting against the righteous, God sees through their designs and will frustrate them. Ultimately, God’s protection is more valuable than the riches of the wicked. He will protect them, but the wicked will vanish. Even though the righteous may struggle, God will protect them from complete ruin. In all of David’s long life, he has never seen the righteous nor their descendants be reduced to begging.
David’s advice, then, is to do good, which ensures God’s blessing and averts His wrath. The righteous are surefooted even when the wicked are looking to destroy them, so anybody who wants to prosper should look to God. They’ll see the downfall of the wicked, who spring up suddenly and then are destroyed. By contrast, the blameless are able to establish themselves and their future. All of this is because of the help of God, who is sure to rescue the righteous from the wicked.
Psalm 38 pleads with God to turn aside His anger from David. He acknowledges that he has done wrong, but he is oppressed with the severity of God’s righteous wrath. Everything in his life is going wrong. He’s guilty, miserable, sick, and lonely. Indeed, his enemies have seized the opportunity to plot against him.
David, though, isn’t paying attention to their plots. Instead, his attention is entirely on God, whom he trusts to rescue him from the wicked. He admits that he has done wrong, but he doesn’t think it’s right for God to deliver him into the hands of those who hate him for his righteousness. He begs God to help him because only God can.