This psalm covers many topics but mainly focuses on laments. David appears to be suffering from some illness and he asks God to deliver him from those who are oppressing him, that is his enemies and so-called friend.
Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.
1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.
2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.
3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.
4. How it was used.
The heading tells us that this is a psalm of David, for the director of music. Some commentators believe that the ‘director of music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.
David begins by reflecting on the blessings he received from the Lord as a result of his care for the weak. He received deliverance, blessing, strength and mercy from the Lord because he had shown the same to the poor, Leviticus 19:9-10 / Leviticus 23:22 / Deuteronomy 24:19. Anyone who cares for the weak are blessed, Psalm 1:1.
He tells us that God will deliver those who have regard for the weak in their time of trouble, Psalm 18:24-26. God will also protect and preserve those who have regard for the weak, Psalm 1:3 / Psalm 37:3-4 / Psalm 37:11 / Psalm 37:23-26 / Psalm 37:37 / Matthew 5:5 / 1 Timothy 4:8.
David personally felt that God would give him good health while he was in his bed of sickness. We don’t know what illness David was suffering from, however Coffman, in his commentary suggests the following.
‘If we place this psalm in the times of the rebellion of Absalom, it fits exceptionally well. ‘The bosom friend’, Psalms 41:9, could well be Ahithophel and David’s illness would have led to David’s omission of many duties as charged by Absalom, 2 Samuel 15:2-6.’
Because David had shown mercy to others, the Lord showed mercy to him. Although we’re not told what David’s sin was, he felt that his illness was connected to his sin, hence why he admits he has sinned against the Lord, Psalm 38:3-5.
His enemies plotted evil against David while he was sick and they rejoiced because they thought he would eventually die because of it. They couldn’t wait for David to die, they couldn’t wait to have an opportunity to rejoice when he dies.
When his enemies came to visit him when he was sick, 2 Kings 8:29, they go around everywhere, speaking falsely against him and slander him, Job 1:9-11.
We can imagine them visiting David to find some fault, but when they couldn’t find any fault, they would make things up to try and tell everyone they met that he wasn’t really a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 13:14 / Acts 13:22.
We don’t know what the ‘vile disease’ was, but David described something similar in Psalm 38:3 and Psalm 38:6-8. We do know, however, that ‘they imagined the worse for him’, that is, his enemies couldn’t wait for him to die.
He tells us that his closest friend, someone he trusted shared his bread, has also turned against him. His close friend could be one of two people, he could be referring to his trusted advisor, Ahithophel, 2 Samuel 15:12 / 2 Samuel 15:31, or he could be referring to his son, Absalom, 2 Samuel 15.
Jesus Himself, quoted these exact words, in reference to Judas, who betrayed Him, John 13:18. The words, ‘has turned against me’, can also be translated as, ‘had lifted up his heel against me’, which is symbolic of the act of treachery, Genesis 3:15 / Psalm 55:12-14.
David asks God to show mercy upon him, in other words, he asks God to heal him of his sickness, so that he can ‘repay them’. If David has his son Absalom in mind here, then as a restored king, David felt that it was his duty to render justice to those who had betrayed him, Proverbs 25:21-22 / Romans 12:20-21.
David is confident that God is pleased with him, Psalm 20:6, which in turn tells us he is confident that God will hear his prayer, Philemon 1:25. The evidence of this is seen in the fact that David says his enemies haven’t triumphed over him.
It was because of David’s integrity, Job 1:1, that is, his uprightness, his sincerity, that God upheld him. his enemies and close friends looked at David’s illness as proof that he was a hypocrite, someone who didn’t really know God.
David isn’t boasting about himself here, he’s comparing what he is like to his enemies and his close friend, Psalm 7:8 / Psalm 25:21 / Psalm 26:1 / Psalm 26:11.
David ends by giving praise to God, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting, which means God has no beginning and no end, Isaiah 44:6 / Revelation 1:8 / Revelation 22:13.
Notice the double ‘amen’, a single ‘amen’ usually means so be it, but the double ‘amen’, emphasises that what has been said is absolutely true.
It may come as a surprise to many that the word ‘amen’ only occurs thirty-five times in the Old Testament, five of which are found as a double word, ‘amen’, ‘amen.’
These words, conclude the first book of the five books of the psalms.
Saying the ‘amen’ is commonplace for Christians, usually, it’s said after a prayer, sometimes it said during or after the Word has been preached.
Like so many things we practice in Christianity, there’s a real danger of saying the ‘amen’ out of habit and without thinking about what it is we’re actually saying. There’s also the danger that it just becomes a byword for ending a prayer or sermon with its meaning lost.
When we say the ‘amen’, we usually say it at the end of a prayer, whilst those listening also say it. Those who say ‘amen’ at the end of their prayer usually say it because they believe what they’ve said is right before God and in accordance with His will, 1 John 5:14, and for those listening they say ‘amen’ because they agree with what has been said, they believe that what has been said is true, in accordance to God’s will and want it to be so.
I remember being a visiting speaker in one congregation and there was this one guy in the audience who zealously shouted ‘amen’ to almost every sentence that came from my mouth.
I personally find this very distracting but as it turns out, he did that with everyone who preached. I guess some people have just got into the habit of saying it, without thinking about what they are saying or agreeing to.
I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with Christians saying ‘amen’ during a sermon if they agree with what is being preached, but not all the way through the sermon, as this can become very distracting and the word itself becomes meaningless.
With no disrespect to anyone, over the years I’ve heard countless prayers and countless sermons where I haven’t said the ‘amen’, simply because I haven’t clearly understood what was being said, there are other times I won’t say the ‘amen’, simply because I don’t agree with what has been said or there was no truth in what was said in that prayer or in that sermon.
No Christian should say the ‘amen’ if they don’t agree with or understood something which was said, especially if it wasn’t in accordance with God’s will or in line with His Word.
No Christian should say the ‘amen’ just because everyone else does or because they are encouraged by others, Revelation 22:20-21.