Psalms 39:0 ¶ To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David.
David directs this psalm to Jeduthun, one of the three lead worship leaders appointed to serve at the tabernacle.
1 Chronicles 25:6 “All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king’s order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman.”
Jeduthun and his sons were noted for their skill with the harp.
1 Chronicles 25:3 “Of Jeduthun: the sons of Jeduthun; Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the LORD.”
Psalms 39:1 ¶ 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.
David opens this psalm with a commitment to be careful not to sin with his tongue. He is especially determined to control his mouth when confronted by wicked men, and he likens it to using a bridle to control a horse.
I certainly identify with David’s heart. I believe control of my tongue has been the area in my life with which I have struggled most.
Spurgeon: “To avoid sin one had need be very circumspect, and keep one's actions as with a guard or garrison. Unguarded ways are generally unholy ones.”
Psalms 39:2 I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred.
Psalms 39:3 My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,
As David tried to follow through on his commitment, he found that even though he held his peace, his emotions began to get the better of him. The fire in his heart grew until he had to speak.
Again, I identify with David. It’s so hard not to express outrage and denounce the wicked in no uncertain terms. It’s hard to remember that “there, but for the grace of God go I.” It’s hard to remember when confronted with the wicked that they are souls that are precious in the sight of the LORD just as surely as we are. Instead of anger, we should be filled with grief and the desire to see them saved. Our hearts should mirror the heart of God.
Ezekiel 18:23 “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”
Psalms 39:4 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 39:5 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.
Thankfully, when David spoke, it was to the LORD. He called out to the LORD to keep him aware of the frailty of life and how short a time we have to serve Him. He realizes that no matter how long we live here on earth or how prosperous we may be, it is nothing in light of God’s eternal being and riches.
Spurgeon: “David would fain be assured that his days would be soon over and his trials with them; he would be taught anew that life is measured out to us by wisdom, and is not a matter of chance. As the trader measures his cloth by inches, and ells, and yards, so with scrupulous accuracy is life measured out to man.”
Selah = A pause, an opportunity to think and meditate.
Ironside quote on thinking: “The devil tries to keep people from musing, from thinking. Take that word so common today, “amusement.” People are amusement crazy. The devil has all kinds of schemes to amuse people. Cut that word up, “Muse”-to think. “A-muse”-not to think. The “A” there is the negative, and it simply means this, to stop thinking. That is why the theaters are crowded; that is why people love the dance; that is why people go to all these ungodly things of the world-to keep from thinking. If the devil can keep people from thinking, he will have them all doomed and damned eventually. But God wants us to think. His Word is a challenge to us to think.”
Psalms 39:6 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 39:7 ¶ And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.
David compares men to phantoms (from Hebrew for “vain shew”) that heap up riches without even knowing for sure who will get it in the end.
In light of that truth, he asks the Lord (as his master) a question, “What is my hope?” And he quickly answers himself, “My hope is in You.”
David is referencing an important truth that is so overlooked today. All the earthly riches one accumulates in a lifetime profit him little. It is upon heavenly treasure that our hearts should be focused and striving for, treasure that is eternal and cannot be taken away from you.
Matthew 6:19–21 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Psalms 39:8 Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.
Psalms 39:9 I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.
Psalms 39:10 Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.
Psalms 39:11 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.
David then asks the LORD to deliver him from all his sins, to help him be an overcomer. He asks God not to let him become a disgrace to Him before the wicked (from Hebrew for “foolish”).
It seems that David is experiencing God’s hand of judgment for sin in his life. That judgment seems so severe that he feels the need to remind God that he is no more than a moth before Him.
Selah – Time for another pause, another opportunity to think and meditate.
Psalms 39:12 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.
Psalms 39:13 O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.
David begs the LORD to hear his prayer and not ignore his tears. They are tears of repentance and sorrow over the fact that he feels like a stranger before the LORD. To be a stranger and a sojourner like his fathers before him was not good because they were out of relationship with the LORD far longer than they enjoyed a good relationship with Him. He begs the LORD to spare him and let him once again feel the comfort of His presence before he dies.
That is another strong motivation for the Christian. I want the LORD to be at home in my heart. I want to feel the peace of fellowship, not the shame of disobedience when it comes time to go home—whether in the rapture or at death.