The Bible

 

Psalms 38

Study the Inner Meaning

           

1 O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

2 For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.

3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.

4 For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.

5 My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.

6 I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.

7 For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh.

8 I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.

9 Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.

10 My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.

11 My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off.

12 They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.

13 But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.

14 Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.

15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O LORD my God.

16 For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.

17 For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.

18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.

19 But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.

20 They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is.

21 Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.

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

  

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Psalms 38      

By Rev. Julian Duckworth

Psalm 38 is an interesting one, because its overall theme is of feeling chastened by the Lord. To be ‘chastened’ means to be corrected by going through suffering. The speaker does not rail against God at all; he understands the purpose God must have in needing to correct him and bring him to task. He declares his own wrongness and his wretchedness. His trust in the Lord is sure and strong, and we get the sense that he fully understands that all this is the Lord’s way of salvation for him. The opening and closing verses talk about the Lord urgently and with conviction.

Spiritually, this psalm describes our need to understand and accept our frail and broken human nature. By "accepting" I don't mean being satisfied with our spiritual state, or resigned to it. We need even to be practising repentance daily in some way (see The New Jerusalem 163). Repentance involves examining ourselves and seeing our true state and bringing ourselves to the Lord for his aid, protection and illumination. This is an ongoing need. We keep learning to understand more about how the Lord works with us and how we are to manage our spiritual states.

This psalm also describes the Lord’s own deep temptations during his human life. Verses 1 to 10 describe these temptations, such as, “My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness” (verse 5). Verses 11 and 12 speak of even those ‘friends’ and ‘companions’ who love good and truth turning from the Lord, wanting his death. Verses 13 and 14 tell us that the Lord bears all this with patience, and verses 15 to 22 (and also verse 9) are about the Lord’s confidence that the hells will not prevail against him.

The psalm begins with the plea not to be punished by the Lord’s anger or his wrath. During our temptations, this is the appearance, yet it is essential that we appreciate that the Lord never punishes but only seek to save us. The Lord’s ‘anger’ is his resolve to free us from evils; the Lord’s ‘wrath’ is his determination to free us from false beliefs. (Arcana Caelestia 3614)

‘Arrows pierce me deeply’ means the way in which the Lord’s truths penetrate our spirit, speaking to it and challenging it and often bringing us pain. (Arcana Caelestia 2686).

The Lord’s hand ‘presses me down’ stands for the Lord’s opposition to our evils (not to us!) because ‘hands’ represent Divine power. (Heaven and Hell 232).

The speaker uses the various organs in our body to describe our various spiritual ailments: flesh, bones, head, wounds, loins, heart and eyes… quite a comprehensive list. ‘Bones’ stand for the truths which support our spiritual frame; ‘loins’ stand for our spiritual loves but also our passions. Each of these organs is defective in the psalm. (Arcana Caelestia 8364)

Verses 11 and 12 talk about the aloofness of friends and relatives, and the deceit of those who want to destroy. Spiritually, this describes the influences that come into our minds during temptation. The heavenly influence seems far off and unable to help us, the hellish influences seem close and condemning. (Arcana Caelestia 9348)

This is immediately followed by words talking about not hearing and not speaking out. In a general way, spiritually, this stands for us not being swayed by the influences – the “voices” – which come into our thought, whatever kind these may be, because we cannot determine their true quality. In a more specific way, it means the refusal to judge and condemn others for their actions. This would be most true of the Lord. (Apocalypse Explained 409)

Then comes the real reason and purpose for us during every temptation, that we are to put our trust in the Lord who hears and knows everything. Only this can be our full confidence.

The final two verses of the psalm are worded as a prayerful request to not be forsaken and to be helped by the Lord. The meaning is right on the surface here. We need to ask the Lord for help, and we also need to understand that the Lord never forsakes us or is unwilling to help.

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 288


Other references to this chapter:

Arcana Coelestia 300, 7161, 7524, 8364, 8875, 9057, 9348

Apocalypse Revealed 306, 471, 657, 678


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 365, 372, 601, 962

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Ezra 9:6

Nehemiah 2:3

Job 6:4, 7:5, 19:13, 30:27, 33:19

Psalms 6:2, 13:5, 22:12, 16, 25:19, 31:12, 32:4, 5, 35:12, 19, 40:13, 65:4, 69:9, 88:9, 107:17, 119:110, 142:7

Proverbs 19:7

Isaiah 53:7

Matthew 11:28, 26:63, 27:55

Luke 8:47, 23:47

Bible Word Meanings

lord
The Lord, in the simplest terms, is love itself expressed as wisdom itself. In philosophic terms, love is the Lord's substance and wisdom is His...

wrath
Fury is a receding from good, and anger is a receding from truth.

Hot
'Hot' signifies being in spiritual love.

arrows
'Shafts' or 'arrows' signify truths and spiritual truth.

hand
In Genesis 27:22, 'voice' relates to truth, and 'hand,' to good.

presseth
These verbs in the Bible indicate a conflict between two spiritual states, and the effort it takes to attain the higher state. It's easy to...

flesh
Flesh has several meanings just in its most obvious form. It can mean all living creatures as when the Lord talks about the flood "destroying...

bones
Bones are strong and supportive, providing a framework for our bodies and making motion and action possible. They are also the least "alive" part of...

sin
In the Word three terms are used to mean bad things that are done. These three are transgression, iniquity, and sin, and they are here...

iniquities
In the Word three terms are used to mean bad things that are done. These three are transgression, iniquity, and sin, and they are here...

head
The head is the part of us that is highest, which means in a representative sense that it is what is closest to the Lord....

burden
A burden (Jer. 17:4) signifies that which is from the proprium of man.

stink
To 'stink,' as in Genesis 34:30, denotes aversion and abomination.

go
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

day
The expression 'even to this day' or 'today' sometimes appears in the Word, as in Genesis 19:37-38, 22:14, 26:33, 32:32, 35:20, and 47:26. In a...

long
'Long' and thence to prolong, refer to good.

filled
There are two ways something can be filled: It can be filled with something bad against the wishes of its owner, or it can be...

heart
The heart means love. A good heart means love to the Lord and to the neighbor while a hard or stony heart means the love...

hid
'To hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains,' as mentioned in Revelation 6:15, signifies being in evils and in falsities...

light
In the Word, “light” in the highest sense represents Divine Truth: knowledge, ideas, understanding that come to us from the Lord. In lesser degrees...

eyes
'Pairs of hands, eyes, etc.' relate to the will and understanding, or to good and truth. The right side to the will or good, and...

lovers
To some degree, there really is no spiritual meaning to the word “love” in the Bible. Why? Because if you truly love another, that is...

friends
In the Bible, there is a careful distinction between the word “brother” and the word “companion” or “friend.” That’s partly because the people of Israel...

stand
'To stay with,' as in Genesis 32:4, relates to the life of truth when accompanied by good, and in this instance, it means to take...

seek
The meaning of "to seek" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but there is a bit of nuance: Swedenborg tells us that in most cases...

snares
'The loftiness of man' (literally 'snares' in Hebrew) signifies the pride of a person's own intelligence.

hurt
'To hurt,' as mentioned in Revelation 6:6, signifies violation and profanation. 'To hurt' as mentioned in Revelation 9:4, signifies perverting the truths and goods of...

speak
Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

deceits
The spiritual meaning of being deceitful is pretty close to the literal meaning: According to the Writings it means using false thinking and logic to...

heard
Thanks to modern science, we now understand that hearing actually happens in the brain, not the ears. The ears collect vibrations in the air and...

dumb
To be dumb, or unable to speak, as in Isaiah 35:6, signifies those who on account of ignorance of the truth, cannot confess the Lord,...

openeth
To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

mouth
In most cases, "mouth" in the Bible represents thought and logic, especially the kind of active, concrete thought that is connected with speech. The reason...

man
The relationship between men and women is deep and nuanced, and one entire book of the Writings – Conjugial Love or Love in Marriage –...

heareth
'To hearken to father and mother,' as mentioned in Genesis 28:7, signifies obedience from affection. 'To hearken,' as mentioned in Genesis 30:22, signifies providence. See...

God
When the Bible speaks of "Jehovah," it is representing love itself, the inmost love that is the essence of the Lord. That divine love is...

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

rejoice
To make glad signifies influx and reception from joy of heart.

foot
The foot, as in Deuteronomy 33:3, signifies an inferior principle. To set the right foot on the sea and the left on the earth, as...

halt
In the original tongue 'lame' is one expression, and 'he that halts' is another. 'Lame' in a proper sense, signifies those who are in natural...

declare
To "declare" something means to say it formally, publicly and with emphasis; you might say what you think, but you only declare things you're sure...

iniquity
In the Word three terms are used to mean bad things that are done. These three are transgression, iniquity, and sin, and they are here...

enemies
An enemy in the Bible refers to people who are in the love of evil and the false thinking that springs from evil. On a...

hate
If you truly hate someone, that means you would kill them and destroy their reputation if you could do so without repercussion – not a...

render
'To reward' signifies meting out punishment.

evil
'Wickedness' signifies evil, and 'iniquity' signifies falsities.

good
It seems rather circular to say that “good” in the Bible represents good, but in a general sense it’s true! The case is this: The...

Commentary

 

Exploring the Meaning of Psalms 38

     

By Rev. Julian Duckworth

Psalm 38 is an interesting one, because its overall theme is of feeling chastened by the Lord. To be ‘chastened’ means to be corrected by going through suffering. The speaker does not rail against God at all; he understands the purpose God must have in needing to correct him and bring him to task. He declares his own wrongness and his wretchedness. His trust in the Lord is sure and strong, and we get the sense that he fully understands that all this is the Lord’s way of salvation for him. The opening and closing verses talk about the Lord urgently and with conviction.

Spiritually, this psalm describes our need to understand and accept our frail and broken human nature. By "accepting" I don't mean being satisfied with our spiritual state, or resigned to it. We need even to be practising repentance daily in some way (see The New Jerusalem 163). Repentance involves examining ourselves and seeing our true state and bringing ourselves to the Lord for his aid, protection and illumination. This is an ongoing need. We keep learning to understand more about how the Lord works with us and how we are to manage our spiritual states.

This psalm also describes the Lord’s own deep temptations during his human life. Verses 1 to 10 describe these temptations, such as, “My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness” (verse 5). Verses 11 and 12 speak of even those ‘friends’ and ‘companions’ who love good and truth turning from the Lord, wanting his death. Verses 13 and 14 tell us that the Lord bears all this with patience, and verses 15 to 22 (and also verse 9) are about the Lord’s confidence that the hells will not prevail against him.

The psalm begins with the plea not to be punished by the Lord’s anger or his wrath. During our temptations, this is the appearance, yet it is essential that we appreciate that the Lord never punishes but only seek to save us. The Lord’s ‘anger’ is his resolve to free us from evils; the Lord’s ‘wrath’ is his determination to free us from false beliefs. (Arcana Caelestia 3614)

‘Arrows pierce me deeply’ means the way in which the Lord’s truths penetrate our spirit, speaking to it and challenging it and often bringing us pain. (Arcana Caelestia 2686).

The Lord’s hand ‘presses me down’ stands for the Lord’s opposition to our evils (not to us!) because ‘hands’ represent Divine power. (Heaven and Hell 232).

The speaker uses the various organs in our body to describe our various spiritual ailments: flesh, bones, head, wounds, loins, heart and eyes… quite a comprehensive list. ‘Bones’ stand for the truths which support our spiritual frame; ‘loins’ stand for our spiritual loves but also our passions. Each of these organs is defective in the psalm. (Arcana Caelestia 8364)

Verses 11 and 12 talk about the aloofness of friends and relatives, and the deceit of those who want to destroy. Spiritually, this describes the influences that come into our minds during temptation. The heavenly influence seems far off and unable to help us, the hellish influences seem close and condemning. (Arcana Caelestia 9348)

This is immediately followed by words talking about not hearing and not speaking out. In a general way, spiritually, this stands for us not being swayed by the influences – the “voices” – which come into our thought, whatever kind these may be, because we cannot determine their true quality. In a more specific way, it means the refusal to judge and condemn others for their actions. This would be most true of the Lord. (Apocalypse Explained 409)

Then comes the real reason and purpose for us during every temptation, that we are to put our trust in the Lord who hears and knows everything. Only this can be our full confidence.

The final two verses of the psalm are worded as a prayerful request to not be forsaken and to be helped by the Lord. The meaning is right on the surface here. We need to ask the Lord for help, and we also need to understand that the Lord never forsakes us or is unwilling to help.


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