Daily in the Psalms : Psalm 39
KEEP SILENT IN TIMES OF TROUBLE
I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, Psalms 39:1-3
We do not know the trouble that David was facing as he pinned this Psalm, but it is clear that it was written in a time of trouble and doubt. It was a time when he could not understand God’s work in his life, he could not see God’s wisdom nor could he see God’s justice. His thoughts were too dark and painful to even utter. We are always in great danger of sinning when we speak. There are several kinds of sins that involve the tongue:
SKEPTICAL OR IRREVERENT SPEECH
The expressing of even honest doubt should be kept in silence if it is likely to offend anyone that may hear. Many times these words will be used by Satan to harden the ungodly in their wickedness.
To speak carelessly about Spiritual things or to say that which could be dishonor to God or His work in our lives is a blot that should not be on the Christian’s life.
Trouble can cause us to say things that are untrue without being an intentional lie on our part. When part of the truth is held back or when the truth is told in such a way that causes it to seem evil, then great harm can be done. Someone has said, “A lie has no legs and cannot stand; but it has wings and can fly far and wide.”
Trouble will cause us to lose our self-control and we are not fit to speak at all. In moments of painful passion, we will speak words that are unjust and bitter. Those words can hurt those around us and cause great harm to those we are speaking to. Many times that harm cannot be healed. We must always remember, “Words once spoken can never be recalled.”
Trouble can cause us to lash out with the deliberate intention of injuring another person; perhaps someone that we really care about. Talebearers and slanderers are many times good people in the midst of severe trouble. It makes no difference what the reason may be; they are among the most guilty of men. God help our words not to be a deadly as sharp swords May our tongue not be a venomous as serpents May our breath not be as a foul wind Even in trouble may we speak with Holy Spirit controlled lips
No organ of the body moves with greater ease than the tongue. That makes it easy for regretful words to be spoken that cannot be retrieved. The loose tongue is the curse of our society. With all the loose speech comes loose living. It seems people speak more today but their speech is vile, evil, and worthless. In a multitude of words comes a multitude of sin. The Psalmist gives us some good advice; Take heed to our ways!
David resolved to guard against the evil of the tongue. How?
GUARD AGAINST WHAT HE SPOKE - The Christian needs to do his best to speak only pure, true, kind, and faith-inspiring words.
GUARD AGAINST WHEN HE SPOKE
GUARD AGAINST HOW HE SPOKE - We must always use words that correctly and clearly express what we intend to say. We must always avoid offensive and evil words. God help our speech to be excellent speech!
We find that David did not understand what God was doing or allowing to be done in his life. He perceived that the pain and grief was the result of the hand of God. In his pain and grief he could not see the love of God. There have been many good people that have found themselves in this place. What is happening in their lives brings them doubt and confusion. All of us have been in or will soon be in a place where it is impossible to reconcile the goodness of God with the trouble in our own lives. As a result unbelieving and painful thoughts go through our minds. Feelings pass through our hearts that cause us to wonder about God’s love and wisdom. This is the time that we need to remember that we only see a very small part of what God is doing, and usually we see that part very dimly. The total of our life’s experiences will prove that the most bitter experiences lead to the richest blessings. If we utter the skeptical and hard thoughts we have about God, we will only give fuel to the ungodly. Those words will encourage them in their rebellion against God. Also when we speak the harsh words that may be in our hearts during troubled times, we may injure another child of God. We have liberty in Christ, but we never have liberty that will give the wicked an occasion to blaspheme God or unsettle the faith of another believer. That is why David said that he would take heed to his ways and not sin with his tongue. There are times when a silent tongue is a welcome and beautiful thing in the sight of God and others. Silence has a strange power. The greatest resolutions are made when the lips are closed. While others may allow trouble to cause hot blood to rise to their face and head, we can hold our peace and know that there is a mighty work going on within us. The spirit of evil will flee and the Holy Spirit will be near at that hour. Again, may we remember that during our times of trouble we can make steps toward Heaven or Hell and that whatever steps we take will be recorded in God’s Book which will be opened on the day of judgment. Those that have the ability to control their tongue in times of trouble will have the strength to overcome temptation that also comes with that trouble. The spiritual man is always ready to speak when his speech can help the faith of others. But if his speech may cause harm to someone’s faith or disturb the peace of another believer, if his speech will encourage the wicked, then he is ready to keep silent. This silence requires effort. It was as though David put a muzzle on his mouth. What a shame that some in the Church today cannot follow this example. We are too quick to blast out our doubt, unbelief, and anger at God. Too many of our enemies know too much of our spiritual difficulties. The strongest of Christians will have troubles, but in their struggle they will keep silent so no harm will result from their speech.
The Psalmist said that he had done right, but it did not relieve the trouble; it only seemed to increase it. His silence did not make things better; it seemed to make them worse. It has been my experience that our deepest emotions must have some release. If we don’t let it out, it will rise up in us and our thoughts and minds will reel into madness and what is in our heart will soon burst out. That is why the Psalmist put his emotions into poetry. History is filled with those that have let out the emotions of their troubles in poetry, songs, tears, and prayers. Have you ever had a heart so full that words just could not express it, the only thing you could do was weep? When we can’t tell another living soul what is in our heart, we can tell it to God and He always understands the language of tears. He knows what the tears, the woeful sighs, and the anguish or our souls mean. The crying of the soul may be the only vehicle to carry us to the throne of God’s grace where we can find help in our time of need. The emotions became so intense for the Psalmist that no words could express them. But God’s ear was still open to his cry. As the Psalmist thought silently on all that was going on in his life, he could no longer keep silence; the time had come to speak.
Remember what happened to Jeremiah:
Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. Jeremiah 20:9
That is what happened to David. We must be careful in speaking our doubts and dark thoughts to others. Those words are bound to do one of two things or perhaps both: They will shake the faith of other believers and/or they will encourage the wicked to increase their blasphemy against God. We must communicate our thoughts, but only to God. That communication will relieve our cares and insure our supply of His grace and presence
MAN’S DAYS ON THIS EARTH
LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. Psalms 39:4-6
David Knew His Days Were Determined By God. We know this also because of God’s Word:
Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; Job 14:5
Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling? Job 7:1
…all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Job 14:14
Because of what we know about God and His Word, we know that the number of our days are fixed and determined by the Lord. His life was full of trouble and sorrow and he was anxious to know when his life of suffering would be over. Just because David asked this question does not mean it was a wise question. God knows the times and seasons of our life and all we need to know is that we can trust Him. It seems that David is longing for his life to end. In his troubled state, he felt that the only way his troubles would end was for his life to end. Instead of trusting God, he becomes impatient for his death. Job expressed these same feelings in his writings.
Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off! Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One. What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life? Job 6:8-11
I believe that David knew these were not good words. But in a time of weakness and despair, he pours his heart out to God. It is during these times that we must remember that we must leave our life completely in the hands of God.
My times are in thy hand… Psalms 31:15
The word “handbreadth” is used in verse five to denote anything that is very short or brief. It is one of the smallest natural measurements. He also said that his life was as nothing, or non-existent before God. This is true for even the longest life. Our days are few and short when compared with eternity. When we understand the work we have to do for the Lord, the life we have to live for our families, and the impact we have to make on our generation, our life is indeed short. When we consider what God has committed to our trust and what He requires from each of us, again, our life is surely short. When we feel the obligations that are pressing against us, the opportunities that are presented to us and the chances we get to do good, we must confess that our life is as nothing before God. Our life is only a very small part of God’s eternity. Knowing how brief it is, we must cherish it and make the most of it.
A LACK OF FAITH WILL DISTORT OUR VIEW OF LIFE
Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. Psalms 39:4-6
All the strivings and accomplishments of man seemed to the Psalmist to be of no worth. Matthew Henry said, “We vex ourselves without any just cause and the occasions of our trouble are often the creatures of our own fancy and imagination.” Fretting over what we cannot control or change is fruitless and we disquiet ourselves in vain. All of our groaning and feeble efforts will not change God; after we have grumbled and complained, things will still be the same.
…he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. Psalms 39:6
If we had no trouble and gained the riches of this world, it would still be in vain. After we are gone, we know not who will enjoy or squander it. It is surely vain to gather riches and know not what will become of them after we are gone. The story is told of a French millionaire that wanted to make sure his riches were safe. He dug a deep hole in the winecellar of his home and put a spring-loaded door to protect it. He went missing and no one could find him. Time passed and he was declared dead and his house sold. The new owner was in the process of tearing down the old house and discovered the deep cave. He went down and discovered the body of the millionaire on the ground with a candlestick nearby. Searching farther, all the riches were also found. The rich man had gone down to admire his wealth and somehow the door closed and trapped him and he perished for want of food. He had eaten the candle and gnawed the flesh off both of his arms. He died a horrible wretch in the midst of the treasures he had heaped together.
…verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Psalms 39:5
Surely every man walketh in a vain shew… Psalms 39:6
In his time of trouble, David had a one-sided view of life. He saw man as a mere shadow, having no power or life in himself. It made no difference what happened, God had ordained everything to bring life to nothing. Again, this is the talk of trouble, not faith.
SEEING LIFE AS A JOURNEY
LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Psalms 39:4
Life is never stationary; its wheels never stand still. We are moving toward fresh scenes each day. The events and circumstances of this life are all passing. We can retrace our steps, but we can never relive them. Each day we are walking a path to which we will never return. The wise man will understand this, if he does not, his life will be in vain. Our journey must be with the end in view. This earthly life does have an end; we are all traveling toward the grave. The eagle bearing down upon its prey, the arrow speeding toward its mark, or the clouds flying before the wind do not move as swiftly as a man’s life. Every moment is important and needs not be wasted. Most of us are not facing the reality of our life. That is why the Bible says it seems as just a show. What a shame to spend life ignoring reality and living in the realm of fiction. God did not create us for vanity and shame; He created us for truth. Too many are hiding the reality of their life in vain shows of excitement, pleasure, wealth, fame and so-called knowledge. These are mere shadows that we pursue. That is why God says we are ever seeking and never finding. Only in God can a man be true and find truth. Only through Christ can a man be in a blessed union with God. When we are restored to God through Christ, we are restored to ourselves and we are able to live in reality. That is when we find true rest and peace. Living in and for God reveals to man what is real and earnest.
David lost his patience with life because of its brevity, its vanity, and its sorrow. Such words from the lips of a Christian are both unwise and sinful. It is unwise because such words make us unfit to bear our burdens. It is also unwise because it takes into consideration only a small portion of our life. We must never forget God’s promise of Heaven. It is sinful because it shows a lack of faith. But David and other men of his time must not be judged in the same was we are judged. We have the complete Word of God and they did not. Had David known all the truth that you and I know today, he would not have spoken so foolishly. He would not have seen life as utter vanity. After death has quenched the flames of our sorrow, we will know that God truly does all things well. Without the promises and the example of Jesus, the Old Testament Saints could not help but allow their suffering to sink deeply into their heart. Job asked the Question, “When a man dies, will he live again?” You and I see the simple answer, but that is because God has blessed us with a Saviour and a whole Bible. It is only the wonderful grace of God that keeps this short and miserable life with all its injustices from causing our soul to despair. But even without the clear promise of the Blessed Hope, David puts many of us to shame as he speaks these words of faith:
And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. Psalms 39:7
How sad that we are so quickly brought into despair by our light afflictions while we have been promised the great hope of glory. Considering how his revelation was compared to ours, this Psalm should be a rebuke to our lack of faith. God help us to value the Old Testament, especially the Psalms. There we find the records of Godly men, faced with trouble and sorrow, yet still holding to their faith in God. We see their sins, their doubts, their sorrows, their conflicts, their defeats, and their victories. May these examples warn and encourage us. God help us also to see how different this life appears since Jesus has lived, died, and risen again. He has abolished death and brought us light and life eternal. And may God help us to see that by the help and grace of God we can and will have a victorious journey.
PRAYER IN TIMES OF TROUBLE
And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish. I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it. Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand. When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more. Psalms 39:7-13
As we speak of prayer here, we are not speaking merely of asking for what we need. We are speaking of the total communication experience with God – asking, confession, expressing our dependence, thanksgiving, praise, and adoration. As low as David had sunk in his misery, he had not lost his hope. When we are the most miserable, the medicine that can sustain us is hope. I have seen many throw away everything because they lost hope. We can rise from great depths to see great victory if we retain hope. Hope is the fire in the soul, the glimmer of light in misery’s darkness. After crying out to God that man and all his pursuits are nothing but vanity, David sets his face toward God, his only hope. There is no hope in man, but man always has hope in God. David believed that his troubles were from God’s hand, he complained bitterly about those troubles, but in his despair, he looked to and trusted in his God. God help us to realize early in life that there will be times when God’s dealings seem harsh, mysterious, and painful, but as the songwriter said, “Where could I go but to the Lord.” In our deepest trials, there is no one else in whom we can place our trust. He is all-sufficient and His grace is indeed sufficient. Back in verse two David was silent because he did not want his words to bring reproach to God. In this verse he is silent because he is submitting to God’s hand and will. Sometimes we don’t agree with God, yet we keep silent. But God help us to face our troubles knowing that God is in control and His ways are always good. David goes from dissatisfaction and complaint to trustful submission to God. That submission takes away his desire to complain. He got to the point that he bowed before God, knowing that his afflictions and sorrows were by God’s hand, and he made God’s will his own. When we understand how wise, loving, tender, and strong God is, we will put aside our complaining and say, “It must be good because God did it.”
Today I trust in your mighty hand
I read where a man was walking through a cemetery and came upon the grave of three children that had died of scarlet fever. On the tombstone was engraved, “Thou Didst It.” There are no words that could more strikingly express the faith of a believer that these words. It is proof of calm submission. We can submit to Him freely or by force. Many times God has to force our submission by the folly of our rebellion. Our sin compared to His perfection will cause us to shut our mouths in submission. We are wretched; He is perfect in wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness. With those attributes He rules in our lives. There is great benefit in God-ordained affliction. Once it has accomplished its intent, we will humbly say, “He hath done all things well.”
A MODEL PRAYER FOR DELIVERANCE
Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish. I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it. Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand. When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more. Psalms 39:8-13
David Prayed For Forgiveness Of His Sin
His enemies were using his afflictions as proof that he was wicked. They reproached him with their accusations. He believed that if God would forgive him, his afflictions would be lifted and the reproach and the accusation of his enemies would be brought to an end. David saw his personal sin as the cause for his sufferings and troubles. That is why he asked for forgiveness before he asked for relief from his trouble. The Christian would be wise to take this approach in his trouble. When our sins are removed, the cause of our suffering will also be removed.
David Prayed For The Removal Of His Affliction
David viewed his afflictions as God’s correction. Many times, if we are completely honest with ourselves, we will see our sufferings as God’s chastisement for our sins. When in love He corrects us and we repent, His work is accomplished and there is no longer a need for the sorrow in our lives. That is why God says:
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Proverbs 3:11-12
As severe as his afflictions were, he knew that God could remove them. As low as his sin had brought him, he knew that God could raise him up again. Because of this knowledge he turns to the hand that wounded him for healing; he turns to the hand that brought him low to lift him up.
David Prayed For Renewed Vigor Before His Death
He pleaded for his troubles to be removed so he would be cheered up, strengthened, and invigorated before he died. He prayed for comfort before death. He was pleading for God to look upon him in his suffering with compassion. We have said many times that tears are the language that God understands. David was counting on that. We have that same hope:
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. James 5:11
David confessed that he was a stranger and pilgrim, one that had nothing of his own, one that was totally dependent on God. When we cast ourselves on God’s goodness and faithfulness, we are always met with His grace. There are times when our burden seems greater than our strength can bear and we can do nothing but cry out to God. Even if our words do not always come our right, He is able to interpret them and supply what we need. His love and care is unfailing and He is worthy of our trust.
So Glad To Be So Saved
Danny "Preacher" Bezet