In Psalm 28, we are reading a supplication by David to God. The peculiar thing about this psalm is that it seems contradictory. Maybe he spoke like this in other psalms but it is more pronounced here. He asks God to have mercy upon him, to hear his cries, and not abandon him. Yet in the next breath (or pen strokes) he also pleads for God to rain down his judgment upon them! One may be inclined to think about Jonah in this regard. Jonah refused to go to Nineveh because he knew God is gracious and would save them if any would be saved. How often do we feel this way about those we feel are against us? We want mercy and grace all for ourselves but swift judgment and destruction upon our enemies. Yet God loves us all! What happens if our enemies are praying the same thing? Who then will God respond to?
Let us first remember that prayer isn’t about twisting God’s arm or trying to convince Him to do something. He has already made up His mind about what He is going to do, how He is going to do it, to whom He will do it, and when it will happen. We can’t dictate God’s actions. All we can do is align ourselves with His will to understand what He wants and what He will do and agree, knowing that He has the last word in all things.
David knows what happens to those who war against God. This is why he is pleading for mercy in the first place. He knows he is a sinner and unworthy of God’s love. However, he also knows God is gracious, loving, and kind. He is a good, good Father. He loves His children and even though they get out of line from time to time, it doesn’t affect His love for us. In the previous psalm, we talked about Romans 8:28-29, where the Apostle Paul talks about how nothing can separate us from the love of God, including our own iniquity. David knows he belongs to the Lord. His humanity, however, makes him fear losing that relationship. He recognizes his mistakes against God and is repenting of it. Imagine a child who is about to receive a punishment for doing something wrong. The child recognizes his error and immediately asks for mercy and forgiveness saying, “I’m sorry! I’ll never do it again!” The author of Hebrews reminds us of the importance of discipline in chapter 12:
4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM. 6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
We must remember the difference between discipline and judgment. Discipline corrects us when necessary to help us avoid judgment. Judgment is forever and set in stone. When a parent disciplines his son or daughter, they remain his son or daughter. When someone is judged in a spiritual sense, the judgment remains forever. David fears his rightful discipline, but more so judgment knowing that it will forever cast him away from God’s presence. Those of us who are God’s children better be thankful for God’s discipline because it helps us to learn how to stay close to God and listen to His direction. Those who are not His children (i.e. those who work iniquity, lie to others, and do not regard the works of God) will receive judgment that is everlasting.
David’s final cry is that God would save His people. That He would care for them and carry them. Is this our ultimate desire?