What does it say?
Psalm 5 is attributed to David and most scholars would identify its setting as Absalom’s rebellion. As in other cases, this is not certain, but there are many occasions in David’s life that this psalm would fit.
In Psalm 38 David complains of his miserable sickness, whether literal or symbolic of emotional hurt. He has been deserted by friends and attacked by enemies. He confesses his sins to God and asks for deliverance. The setting is unknown, but some speculate that it refers to his sorrow following the death of the child from his illicit relationship with Bathsheba. Psalm 41 is remarkably similar to Psalm 38 and it is quite possible they were written to remember the same occasion.
Psalm 42 is dedicated to the Sons of Korah David placed over music in the temple worship. Whether they, David or another wrote this psalm is not known. Nor is the occasion known. Most believe, however, that it was composed to capture David’s worship in his exile during Absalom’s rebellion.
What does it mean?
Though most of these psalms we are currently reading relate to Absalom’s rebellion, David’s faith in God never seems to waver. In his darkest moments he has developed the practice of going directly to God.
The first part of Psalm 38 overflows with emotion and drama. Does it really make any difference if David’s sickness is physical, emotional or both? The reality of the pain seems to always be the same. Many of us try to suppress emotions in time of anguish, whether illness or emotional duress. We can learn from the psalmist’s example.
Jesus quotes Psa 41:9 in the context of Judas’ betrayal. This is a reminder to us that all of these psalms dealing with David’s pain of betrayal in some way portray what Jesus must have felt during his own betrayal. Clearly these psalms are a model for all of us when faced with similar circumstances.
How will I respond?
When under attack, sick or in great physical or emotional pain, is my tendency, like David’s, to turn to God? If not, I will begin to learn a new reflex response by praising God right now for whatever specific pain in my life. I will trust God for justice, for deliverance and for comfort, but I will not forget to worship him and look for how his kingdom and mission might be advanced even in all my troubles.