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Psalm 39

Jorine Johnson

1 I said, “I will guard my ways,

    that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
    so long as the wicked are in my presence.”

2 I was mute and silent;

    I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.

3 My heart became hot within me.

As I mused, the fire burned;
   then I spoke with my tongue:

4 “O Lord, make me know my end

    and what is the measure of my days;

    let me know how fleeting I am!

5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,

    and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah

6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow!

Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;

    man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?

    My hope is in you.

8 Deliver me from all my transgressions.

    Do not make me the scorn of the fool!

9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth,

    for it is you who have done it.

10 Remove your stroke from me;

    I am spent by the hostility of your hand.

11 When you discipline a man

    with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
    surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah

12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord,

    and give ear to my cry;

    hold not your peace at my tears!

For I am a sojourner with you,

    a guest, like all my fathers.

13 Look away from me, that I may smile again,

    before I depart and am no more!”

David promises that he would remain silent as he is living and walking beside all of the evil around the world. That is good advice when we think of all of the evil around the world: the politics, the corruption, the abuses, the frustrations we have as we live and experience wicked people on a daily activity. So David stays quiet amidst the loudness, the cacophonies of wicked people, and the voices of those that continue to do evil. He continues to stay silent in verse 2 (what a short time of silence), until he boils over in frustration and the increasing distress he has until he cannot remain silent anymore in verse 4 where he makes his plea to the Lord.

David goes into the next 3 verses about the shortness of life, the end of our days, how short our life and existence is so “fleeting” when thinking of the magnitude of who God is. The vulnerability and the frailty of life is really important especially as we consider that life within the presence of sin and wickedness really makes life meaningless. “Life seems all too short and the misery of life all to real” (Baker Commentary, p. 511). Sin really dampens life as we think of all the gloom and doom. Just watching the news makes us depressed, and the solution is not to be ignorant and stop watching the news, but to realize that the utter sinfulness of mankind in its depravity increases in weight and makes life empty. 

It’s hard to enjoy fellowship with one another when things like gossip and breaking of trust occurs. It’s difficult to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation amidst the busy schedules that we have, the chaos of life, and the frustrations each of us experience. It’s so easy to get into mundane routines, and I think that may be what David experiences until he finally cannot take it. He boils over and comments or observes of the emptiness of life.

But we have immense hope in the Lord! And that is what David ends the psalm in. We experience the discipline of God which is the expression of God’s love toward us (Heb 12) like a father towards a son. We can let loose our own silence in the chaos and sins of the world and express what we really feel to the living God who hears us and answers. He is the one who sustains us, keeps the smiles on our faces, the joy in our hearts, delivers us from our wretched situations, and demonstrates the power of His faithfulness in our lives. 

I like what David ends with in verse 12: “For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.” Our world is temporary and we await the glorious home with the presence of God. No more sin, no more wickedness, no more evil. Just the incredible privilege of being with Jesus. 

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