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.
Through the years, I’ve noticed that when churches offer meetings, Bible classes, and seminars on marriage, they tend to be a species unto themselves. Much of the time, the presenter will offer a few passages at the beginning as “cover” and proceed to spend the rest of his time working through the advice of various marriage gurus under the guise of “application”.
This is not necessarily bad. In Ecclesiastes 12:9-11, the Preacher commends the study and examination even of human wisdom. God is the Author of wisdom, and nothing that is truly wise can be very far from Him. However, there is still a vast difference between the words of men and the word of God. Presentations on marriage that are 5 percent Bible and 95 percent human application put an awfully long tail on an awfully small kite!
In addition to not being ideal, this kind of analysis is not necessary. For some reason, brethren seem to think that only New-Testament texts that contain the words “husband” and “wife” are about marriage. The underlying logic, I suppose, must be that marriage is so different from the other areas of our lives that only passages that explicitly mention marriage are applicable to it.
I think this is exactly wrong. In order to be true disciples of Christ, we must be disciples first in every relationship of our lives: as brethren, as workers, as parents, and, yes, as spouses. In marriages where both spouses are Christians, marriage problems are always discipleship problems. Always. Conversely, if I want to be the best husband I can be, I first must strive to be the best disciple I can be.
Take, for instance, the husband’s role as head of the family. Certainly, that role is defined by the texts in 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5 that specifically address it, but it also is defined by everything that the Bible has to say about leadership. The husband’s role is much more like the role of the father, the employer, and the elder than it is different. If this were not so, how could the Scriptures hold up Christ, an unmarried man, as the perfect example for every man who is married? Every godly leader, husbands included, first must learn servant-leadership from Him.
I would never in a million years criticize a congregation for studying Ephesians 5:22-33. However, that study ought to begin at least with Ephesians 5:18. Contextually, loving our wives and submitting to our husbands are every bit as much expressions of being filled with the Spirit as singing praises to God is.
Love and submission don’t instantaneously spring up in our marriages like mushrooms in a flowerbed. Instead, they must originate from a heart that we have diligently filled with God. Cheap fixes don’t work. If we want our marriages to improve, we have to do the hard work of seeking God first.
However, Ephesians 5:18 is no place to stop. We ought to consider the first part of Ephesians 5 and ask how godly speech and walking in the light should appear in our marriages. Now there’s an application worth making!
We ought to go back to Ephesians 4 and forward to Ephesians 6. Is the new self that we have put on evident in our marriages? Do we employ the whole armor of God in warding off the devil’s assaults on our marriages? For that matter, how does Paul’s great account of the grace of God in Ephesians 1-3 shape our understanding of our responsibilities in marriage? Those who have been forgiven so much ought to be ready to forgive, for one thing!
Indeed, every spiritual principle and precept in the New Testament can be applied usefully to our marriages. There are many wonderful lessons here that we too often overlook because the Bible passage doesn’t say “marriage” and that book on the shelf over there does.
There’s little harm in The Five Love Languages or any other such book, nor do I think brethren should shun marriage seminars and marriage counselors. However, if we’re getting more of our instruction on marriage from them than from the word of God, we’re making a grave mistake.
At the end of 2018, The Atlantic ran an article (I’m not going to link to it; it’s pretty salty stuff) proclaiming a surprising fact. In modern America, people are having less sex than they have for decades. Porn use, along with everything that goes with it, is booming. Actual sex, not so much.
Since then, I’ve read several articles bemoaning this trend. After all, if our nation stands for anything these days, it stands for sexual autonomy. It stands for the notion that people should be able to do whatever they want with whomever they want. We are willing to legalize and support abortion, even, to remove the consequences from sex. And yet, it all seems to be having the opposite effect. We have stepped on the accelerator, but the car has slowed down.
To the worldly, this is baffling. To the spiritually minded, though, it makes a bleak kind of sense. Sex was created by God. Like all of His other creations, though it can be perverted and abused, sex is inherently good. It is creative and connective. It unites us with our spouses in any number of dimensions, and it connects us to the future through the children we conceive. As is characteristic of the designs of God, sex in marriage elegantly achieves many positive ends.
Now, imagine for a moment that you’re the devil, and you see this beautiful thing that God has ordained for husbands and wives to share in. What are you going to do?
First, you’re going to lie about it. You’re going to use human desires to persuade the foolish that the marriage bed truly is not the best place to satisfy those desires.
“Why wait until you’re married?” “Why confine your sexual interests to your spouse?” Sexual immorality is evil because it frustrates the good design of God.
Second, you’re going to make it about pleasure rather than connection and creation. In our hookup culture, sex is intimacy only in a physical sense. It does not unite souls. It does not join hearts. It does not express and deepen a marital relationship.
Similarly, you will want to remove sex from procreation as far as possible. Abortion does this, as does homosexual sex. Thus, rather than being about somebody else, sex becomes about the self.
Once you’ve gotten things that far, the final step is to abolish sex. After all, Satan always wants to destroy the works of God. If sex is about pleasure, you can find that pleasure by yourself. You don’t need anybody else.
Besides, relationships are hard. You don’t get whatever you want whenever you want it. You have to be nice to somebody else, live with them in an understanding way, and work through difficulties and struggles. Why go through all that trouble when you can get your satisfaction with no strings attached?
Thus, the effect of sexual license is ultimately to do away with sex. As always with sin, once people get what they want, they find out that they don’t want it after all. The end result of selfish pleasure-seeking is not happiness but loneliness, misery, and despair. Porn never made anybody’s life better. The passing pleasures of sin are no substitute for the enduring joys of godliness.
By contrast, if we want sexual fulfillment (and indeed life fulfillment), the recipe is simple. Be holy. Find one person of the opposite sex. Marry them. Stay married until one of you is dead. Love and serve them wholeheartedly. Hate sin in your marriage and in your hearts. Stamp it out.
If we will do this, we will discover the sexual blessings that God has prepared for us. If we will not, though, we will encounter not the goodness of God but the malice of the devil. As the sex recession reveals, this is precisely what our poor deluded sex-worshiping society is learning.
At all times I will bless the Lord,
His goodness to proclaim;
Oh, magnify the Lord with me;
Let us exalt His name!
I sought the Lord; He answered me
And kept me from despair.
Where those who look to Him are found,
His angel guards them there.
Oh, taste and see that He is good,
And find in Him your rest;
While others faint, His holy ones
Shall prosper and be blessed.
Come near, o children, hear my words,
And learn to fear the Lord:
Depart from evil, seek His peace,
And see His full reward.
His eyes and ears are toward the just;
His face, against the vile,
And when the righteous cry for help,
He rescues them from trial.
The righteous soul, the Lord will bless;
The hateful heart, condemn,
And He is sure to save the life
Of all who hide in Him.