DANGER – PRAYER AT WORK!
Lord, give me wisdom regarding my speech.
Read PSALM 39
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.
1 I said, “I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
while in the presence of the wicked.”
2 So I remained utterly silent,
not even saying anything good.
But my anguish increased;
3 my heart grew hot within me.
While I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:
4 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.[b]
6 “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
8 Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
10 Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
11 When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
you consume their wealth like a moth—
surely everyone is but a breath.
12 “Hear my prayer, Lord,
listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
13 Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
before I depart and am no more.”
a Psalm 39:1 In Hebrew texts 39:1-13 is numbered 39:2-14.
b Psalm 39:5 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verse 11.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“What a privilege to carry / everything to God in prayer” (Joseph M. Scriven, 1819–1886).
We aren’t told why David is burning with “anguish” (2), but he is clearly frustrated and feeling very low. He believes that the Lord is disciplining him, presumably for some unspeciﬁed transgression (8–11). His natural inclination is to complain loudly, but he recognizes the folly of letting it all out in front of non-believers (1, “the wicked”). So he resolves to suffer in silence. Under the Lord’s discipline, he is learning one of life’s hardest lessons—to control his tongue (Jas. 3:3–11; Eccles. 5:2).
He does not, however, allow his frustrations to prevent him from speaking to God. When suffering and hardships come to us, we are always presented with a choice: to turn away angrily from God in self-pity or towards him in prayer. David wisely voices the depths of his despair in this eloquent, pleading, honest prayer. Gradually his prayer does its work, giving David access to the Lord’s transforming grace. David’s perspective begins to change. He decides to focus on the Lord rather than dwell on life’s troubles (7). His faith slowly revives, producing a recognition that this earth is not his permanent home (12). His prayer becomes (slightly!) more positive as he seeks deliverance from sin, relief from discipline and renewed joy (8–13). Yet David’s hope remains subdued and limited (13). His philosophy here is very similar to that of Ecclesiastes: life is “fleeting”; all human activity is “in vain” (4–6; cf. Eccles. 2:11; 6:12). It becomes quite evident that he lacks the fuller New Testament revelation which we are privileged to have. It is much harder for him to be “joyful in hope” than it is for us (cf. Rom. 12:12); he cannot experience all the beneﬁts of being “in Christ.” He cannot fully know the “endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:3).
Consider how you use your tongue and pray accordingly. Thank the Lord for his loving discipline, submit yourself to it, and praise him for our hope in Christ.
Lord, Your people recognize how frail and temporary we really are here on earth and that trust in You is the only thing that makes sense.