Psalms 38-40   1 comment




The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226


The themes of illness and of trusting in God recur.  The author of Psalm 38 understands his sins to be the causes of his suffering.  Life is short, Psalm 39 reminds us.  That author, sounding very much like Koheleth, tells us that, since we humans live amid futility, only God is trustworthy.  The author of Psalm 40 cites what God has done and what he anticipates God will do and thanks God for the contents of both categories.

The imagery of Sheol an old concept of the afterlife, includes the sense that the underworld, or pit, is slimy, muddy, filthy, and slippery.  The author of Psalm 40 describes Sheol as

the pit of destruction


the miry bog

–Verse 3, Mitchell J. Dahood translation.

He thanks God for delivering him from that fate–for the time being.  The immediate context is a serious illness; the Psalmist is glad still to be alive.

Fear of death and dying are commonplace.  A fear of dying is certainly understandable, given the plethora of ways to shuffle off this mortal coil painfully and in a prolonged manner.  A fear of death itself depends largely on one’s concept of the afterlife, one’s evaluation of one’s life, and of one’s God concept.  These fears, regardless of how reasonable they might be, ought not to lead us into a transactional relationship with God.  Not falling into that error can be difficult, of course.  Among the theological errors of the alleged friends of the Book of Job is their understanding of relationship with God as being transactional.  They imagine themselves to be orthodox, but they are  not even close to the truth of the situation, as the book, in its final, composite form, tells the story.

The traditional term “fear of God” bothers me, for it does not convey the meaning of the concept.  No, “awe of God” is better.  God is God; we are not.  That is enough.  We should fall back in astonishment on our heels, even as we, true to our Judeo-Christian heritage, feel free to argue faithfully with God, as in the style of Job himself.






Posted August 9, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 38, Psalm 39, Psalm 40

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One response to “Psalms 38-40

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  1. Pingback: Guide Post to the Septuagint Psalter Project | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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