Theme: A Final Broadening Stanza
In this week’s lessons we learn how to approach God in prayer, how to address evil, and the need for thanksgiving.
Scripture: Psalm 28:1-9
Up to this point the twenty-eighth psalm has been intensely personal, a true psalm of David the individual. But now it suddenly broadens to include all the Lord’s people (vv. 8, 9). A verse earlier David called the Lord his strength and shield (v. 7). Now he claims the same thing for others: “The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.” He closes by praying, “Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.”
From a literary point of view this last stanza seems tacked on, naturally leading some scholars to see the hand of a later liturgist or editor. But it is a perfectly natural addition if the author was Israel’s great king, as the title claims to be the case. As Alexander Maclaren says, “… if the singer were king over Israel, and if the dangers threatening him were public perils…it is most natural that God’s ‘anointed,’ who has been asking deliverance for himself, should widen his petitions to take in the flock of which he was but the under shepherd, and should evolve the shepherding and carrying of it on the Divine Shepherd-King, of whom he was but the shadowy representative.”2
This ought to be a pattern for us. When we pray to God earnestly and get answers there are two things we should do: 1) thank God, which is what verses 6 and 7 model; and 2) expand our prayers to request that others receive the same benefits. This is the burden of the psalm’s final stanza.
Remember that the Lord’s Prayer is spoken, not with first person singular pronouns (“My Father” or “Give me my daily bread”) but with plural pronouns: “Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts…And lead us not into temptation (Matt. 6:11-13).
Which leads to one final observation on the teaching of Jesus on prayer, though this one comes not from his direct teaching but from his example. We remember the great final prayer of the Lord before his crucifixion recorded in John 17. It is similar to Psalm 28 in that it begins with Jesus’ petitions for himself but then quickly passes over into prayers on behalf of his people: for his disciples and for the untold millions who were to believe on him because of their message. If Jesus prayed for his people, we should pray too. And we should teach them to pray as David prayed, looking to God for answers to all proper requests, knowing that apart from hearing his voice we shall be as those who are spiritually dead and that, regardless of where others may turn, our help is in God alone.
What is meant by the psalm “broadening” in the last stanza? What specific elements are seen?
Why is it significant that David switches from the first person singular to the plural in this psalm?
Application: In what ways do your prayers need to more faithfully include concern for others’ help and blessing?
Key Point: If Jesus prayed for his people, we should pray too. And we should teach them to pray as David prayed, looking to God for answers to all proper requests, knowing that apart from hearing his voice we shall be as those who are spiritually dead and that, regardless of where others may turn, our help is in God alone.
2Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 1, Psalms 1-38 (New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1893), pp. 271, 272.