The Prayer of the Faithful in Their Extremity
The Prayer of the Faithful in Their Extremity
Psalm 39. This is a Psalm of David, and it written for Jeduthun, who was leader of praise in David’s time, and who directed his six sons, “who prophesied with the harp, to give thanks and to praise Jehovah” (1 Chron. 25:3). His name means “Praise Giver” or “Let Them Give Praise”. Psalms addressed to Jeduthun are Psalms 39, 62, and 77. In this Psalm we have an important lesson: that the righteous can see through the means of discipline to the One who authorizes it. In other words, they can see that behind the human enemy is God, who ultimately is causing the discipline. They then cry out to Him, the true Source of their circumstances, for deliverance.
To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
1 I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked is before me.
2 I was dumb with silence, I held my peace from good; and my sorrow was stirred.
3 My heart burned within me; the fire was kindled in my musing: I spoke with my tongue,
4 Make me to know, Jehovah, mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: I shall know how frail I am.
5 Behold, thou hast made my days as hand-breadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before thee; verily, every man, even the high placed, is altogether vanity. Selah.
6 Verily, man walketh in a vain show; verily they are disquieted in vain; he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
vv.1-6 To speak or not to speak. In these verses there is a very interesting progression. It begins with the Psalmist guarding himself from speaking with his tongue, keeping his mouth “with a muzzle” from saying something in anger that would be wrong. Seeing that he is under the chastening hand of the Lord, it would not be fitting now to reply to the wicked. Then, after holding his peace, sorrow is stirred within him. This sorrow turned into a flame burning in his heart, a kindled fire in his thoughts. This then gives way to words (v.3), but not words to the wicked. The faithful now address Jehovah (vv.4-6). This is He whom we should talk to when we are overwhelmed with our circumstances, especially when surrounded by those who misunderstand us, or misjudge the chastening hand of God in our lives. The prayer begins with great humility, asking Jehovah to teach him the measure of his days so that he would know how weak he really was. He speaks of the shortening of his life through the severity of the discipline, especially when in comparison to Jehovah Himself. He also learns the character of the world: “man walketh in a vain show”, purporting to to have real power or ability. But really man is nothing. He can heap to himself riches, but he will die be forced to them to another. It is a blessed thing to own our weakness and frailty before God in prayer.
7 And now, what wait I for, Lord? my hope is in thee.
8 Deliver me from all my transgressions; make me not the reproach of the foolish.
9 I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; for “thou” hast done it.
10 Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thy hand.
11 When thou with rebukes dost correct a man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely, every man is vanity. Selah.
vv.7-11 Hope in Jehovah alone. The faithful can look beyond the wicked, the world, and the vanity of man, to see the Lord as their only hope. In v.8 they acknowledge that the chastening is a result of their transgressions. But they do not want to feel the reproach of the foolish around them. In v.9 they explain why they were quiet in the presence of the enemies (v.1). It was because the Lord had done it! The faithful perceive that the reproach of the enemy is really part of God’s governmental discipline over them. Rather than speak to the enemy, they speak to the One who really does hold the rod of discipline. So in v.10, the faithful ask Jehovah to remove the stroke of discipline from them. In v.11 the faithful speak of how their beauty is consumed away by the chastening. God has a way of causing that which man looks upon, the outward appearance, to fade away so that which is really underneath might be made manifest. There is something more than outward beauty, and this is what God is looking for.
12 Hear my prayer, Jehovah, and give ear unto my cry; be not silent at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, a sojourner, like all my fathers.
13 Look away from me, and let me recover strength, before I go hence and be no more.
vv.12-13 Prayer for deliverance. The faithful cry out in prayer to Jehovah, begging Him to hear their cry, and answer their tears. They confess their strangership and exclusive association with Jehovah, like the fathers; i.e. the children of Israel. In a tender but sorrowful appeal, the faithful ask Jehovah to look away from them, to pause the discipline only so they may cover recover their strength, or else their lives will be ended.