Psalm 39

The Psalms

Psalm 39
To speak or keep silent?

Psalms index

Psalm 39

1 For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.

I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.”

2 But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. 3 My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:

4 “Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. 5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah 6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.

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 You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth—each man is but a breath. Selah

12 “Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were. 13 Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.”


Psalm 39 – To speak or keep silent?

(Verse 1) Sometimes we keep a ‘guilty silence’. When we should speak, we do not. We may miss a chance to comfort, encourage or even rebuke. Or we fail to say, ‘Sorry—I was wrong’, or to share the good news of Jesus Christ when someone clearly needs to hear it. David’s ‘muzzle’ is to avoid sinful speech before unbelievers.

(Verses 2-3) But his silence goes too far. He says nothing good either! As he thinks this through, His heart burns within as he is ‘bursting’ to speak. So, he now speaks.

(Verses 4-11) What burns within him? It is how short life really is. Considering this carefully helps sinners become Christians. The urgency it produces helps us to trust solely in Jesus’ death for our sins on the cross. There Jesus bore God’s wrath on those sins. It also focuses Christians’ minds on the urgency for others to trust Christ. Compare the brevity of human life with God’s eternal nature. See how spending eternity under His blessing (in Heaven) or under His judgment (in Hell) makes this passing life seem trivial. Words to describe your life include: fleeting, handbreadth, nothing, breath and phantom. It is urgent that all turn from sin and trust the once-crucified, now risen Lord Jesus. The Bible says ‘To-day’ is the day to be saved, and ‘Now’ is the accepted time. To show how much you need Christ, God first shows how hopeless is your sinfulness. He will then answer your prayer: ‘Save me from all my transgressions’ (‘sins’). Your hope is now in Him. God’s rebuke and discipline for your sins is so you will turn from them. He then forgives you and blesses you eternally! To gain the whole world and lose your own soul, and so face a lost eternity, is like over-valuing a moth’s lifespan. God lovingly invests long-term blessing in you and in others! Sinners who trust Christ receive eternal life now and enjoy it forever. Christians want, pray for, and help others to come to trust Jesus as personal Saviour and receive eternal life.

(Verses 12-13) Like David, we ask God to ‘look away from me’ in judging sin. As we pray that, we ‘look away’ to Jesus, who on the cross bore the sins for all who look for mercy to God. Ask God to hear your prayer and listen to your cry for help. Will you confirm to Him, too, that you will follow God in this alien and hostile world? If you will love and follow Jesus, and so live as God’s ‘stranger’ to this world’s ungodly standards, God will bless you greatly.