Psalm 39

INTRO: When suffering from the results of living in a fallen world—others’ injustice, our own sin, and God’s disciplining hand—we have two questions? We need to know how long it will last and we need to know what will bring about its end.

CONTEXT: David finds himself in a tough spot

(1-3) I said, “I will guard my ways That I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle While the wicked are in my presence. I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good, And my sorrow grew worse. My heart was hot within me, While I was musing the fire burned;

David faces a problem: the wicked – they are in his face. Injustice is upon him. David responds – he keeps strum, zips his lips. He would like to bite back but he doesn’t. Reason for silence - He wants to avoid joining his enemy in their wickedness. Result - But then he just has to take it. The wicked get their say, but he can’t respond even though what he might say would do some good. So David suffers in silence.

David cannot hold his tongue forever but instead of letting loose on the wicked, he speaks to the Lord and asks two questions…

The First Question
David wants to know what anyone in his situation would want to know – when is the end of it? So he enquires of the Lord and immediately has an answer.

(4-6) Then I spoke with my tongue: “Lord, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.

The answer is not as easy as he thought, for there are two perspectives. From David’s perspective his suffering in silence is endless. It is the eternal waiting, like a child waiting for his parents to finish chatting so he can go home. But from God’s perspective, his life is a brief, fleeting breath. From David’s perspective, his suffering is endless, but from God’s it is ‘blink and you miss it’ short.

APPLICATION: First, from our perspective justice takes a long time; righteousness appears to be a distant hope. Our suffering in silence seems to take forever. But our perspective is not God’s. From his viewpoint our lives are fleeting and so is our suffering.

Second, we reveal our perspective by what we value. We make a fuss about the temporary things and neglect the eternal perspective. We amass riches even though we cannot take them with us. We stress about the small stuff while neglecting the big stuff.

One day we might obtain such a perspective, one which allows us to see the longevity of unrighteousness against the backdrop of eternity. In the meantime, we must value eternal things over temporal things even though our perspective is different to God’s perspective.

The Second Question
The first question was: how long until the end? The second question is: what will end the suffering? The answer comes as quickly as the first. The answer is: the Lord will end injustice by delivering from sin, vindicating his people, and removing his disciplining suffering from his people.

(7-11) “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions; Make me not the reproach of the foolish. I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, Because it is You who have done it. Remove Your plague from me; Because of the opposition of Your hand I am perishing. With reproofs You chasten a man for iniquity; You consume as a moth what is precious to him; Surely every man is a mere breath.

The hope is threefold: (i) The Lord will deliver him from his sin (ii) The Lord will vindicate him before his enemies (iii) The Lord will remove his discipline from him. The focus of this section is the latter hope. David recognizes that his predicament is no accident but the disciplining hand of God.

God disciplines David because he loves David. He disciplines as a Father disciplines a child. David knows that what he needs is not someone to free him from God, but he needs God himself to remove his disciplining hand.

APPLICATION: This is our sinful condition – what we need is not only deliverance from the injustice of others or even our own sin, but the deliverance from God’s displeasure with us.
Our hope, like David’s, is not in troubles going but in a savior coming. Our hope is not in the end of trouble but in the one who ends it.

In our western culture we are becoming obsessed with thwarting suffering. We just want it to end. But David tells us that what we should be looking to is the Savior, the Messiah, who will deliver us. It is not the end as much as it is the ender.

The Petition
David's petition is for the Lord to stay his hand, avert his disciplining gaze. Perhaps you find yourself suffering in silence under the loving hand of the Father. You too can pray with David for release:

(12-13) “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with You, A sojourner like all my fathers. Turn Your gaze away from me, that I may smile again Before I depart and am no more.”