Today [Psalm Thirty-Nine]. Responding to Extreme Frustration. In this psalm we find David again writing on the occasion of Absalom’s rebellion. This was one of the most devasting seasons of David’s life. When you are under maximum pressure what comes out of you is an indicator of your character. This was apparently one of the most productive times when David wrote many psalms. Instead of struggling and suffering and stewing in his pain – David becomes creative and expresses his most intimate thoughts as a song to God and an example to us. When you are under pressure what comes out of you? Do you resort to doubt, fear, frustration, anger or harsh language? Let David be your example and know that God will not despise honesty that comes from a heart of contrition and humility.
[Psa 39:1-13 KJV] 1 [[To the chief Musician, [even] to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David.]] 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. 2 I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, [even] from good; and my sorrow was stirred. 3 My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: [then] spake I with my tongue, 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]. 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. 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. 7 And now, Lord, what wait I for? 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; because thou didst [it]. 10 Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand. 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. 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]. 13 O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.
David addresses Psalm 39 to Jeduthun which some scholars take to mean the instrument that the psalm is to be played upon. Jewish sources surmise that Jeduthun was actually one of the chief musicians appointed by David to prophesy with harps and stringed instruments. The occasion of the writing of the psalm is believed to be upon the rebellion of Absalom and specifically (again) when David is fleeing the city. In verse one David speaks within his own heart that he will take heed to his ways and not sin with his tongue. When you are under pressure or being harassed by others – this is not a time to mouth off or speak ill advised words before God. David understands this and as he did in his days with Saul – he conducts himself with great discretion.
As in David’s case you may find yourself in the company of wicked men, or being put to flight by those who seek your damage. When you don’t know where you stand with those around you – let your demeanor be that of David. Lay your hand to your mouth and be more swift to hear than to speak. In a day where freedom of expression is so widely encouraged, discretion is not a virtue valued by many. This can bring great hurt and unnecessary difficulty to your life. Learn to be a gatherer of information and not a dispenser of information. In verse 2 David says he was dumb with silence and held his peace. He wouldn’t even speak for good – let alone reacting to evil around him. One of my mentors remarked that there are times in life that silence is the greatest faith statement you can make. Learn when to speak and when to be silent. My father made the homespun observation once that problems are like a piece of meat in your mouth – the longer you chew them the bigger they get!
That doesn’t mean that David was without passion. The rebellion brought against him is from one of his favorite sons! He loved this boy dearly and now in defiance Absalom openly defiles David’s captured wives and scorns his father in ways that are difficult to exaggerate. Can you imagine the pain and the offence? When we suffer so it is a very natural thing to seek out a hearing ear. We want to give vent to our frustration. We are bursting with words we want to bellow out like a roaring lion. When David cannot take it anymore he doesn’t go to man. He doesn’t reach out to a friend or cast his words like dispersions upon his enemy. He turns to God. He makes his case to God. There is great wisdom in this.
In verse 4 David in his anger and irritation doesn’t make his case or justify himself. He knows the peril he is in not just naturally but spiritually. In his hot displeasure he reaches out for some context asking God to help him see himself in the light of eternity and have not an angry reaction to Absalom but a humble response. It may feel satisfying to vent our anger and spew our vitriol like a flamethrower in a time of difficulty but let your temper and your words be staunched by the prophesying of Isaiah:
[Isa 57:15 KJV] 15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name [is] Holy; I dwell in the high and holy [place], with him also [that is] of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
David knows that humility is a weapon of war. Humility helps you overcome not your enemy but your own human nature in a time of great stress. He that rules his own heart is better than he that takes a city. When you give in to impudence, anger and pride you distance yourself from the presence of God and then vainly question “where is God in all of this?” James said in his letter:
[Jas 4:6 KJV] 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
That word “resisteth” means that “God sets His forces in array against the proud”. David understands this and with all his getting he purposes to posture himself in the low place in hopes of surviving a difficult situation that he has no control over. Let this be an example to you. When life is out of control and you realize that at the end of the day there is very little you can do to fix the problem – just go low and wait on God. Listen for his voice. Know that He is working in your midst. Refuse to take matters into your own hands because that will seldom work out in your best interests.
In verse 7 David asks the rhetorical question – “what am I waiting for”? In other words, where do you put your hope? During the rebellion with Absalom there were many capable people around David that were offering to solve the problem. David refused to lean to natural instrumentality. His trust was in God. There are times that you need to take advantage of the support and love of those around you to sustain and protect you from harm. There are other times you have to have the wisdom not to accept the offers of others to get involved. The more people that are involved in a personal battle the more complicated things get.
In verse 8 David also demonstrates transparency. He knows that he opened the door to the problems he was experiencing. He recognizes that it was past transgression that set him up for the battle. There is a point where past failures and sins can result in harsh recompense in spite of our best efforts to get over the problems. You can make every effort to recompense and stand responsible for your failures and still face challenges down the road. The enemy will often inspire people in spite of God’s forgiveness to come against you and use your past as a battering ram to tear you down and defeat you. David acknowledges his sin once again and simply puts the matter in God’s hands.
In verse 10 David even goes so far as to question his own understanding of what is actually happening. He says to God “if this is the blow of your hand – I submit to it…” In times of self-doubt this is not an improper response. You may think you know where you stand with God but have the humility not to question God but to question yourself. Even in this David expresses his trust in God’s character. He knows that even if this is God at work that the end of the matter will be blessing and benefit in his life. Ultimately we see in the life of David that is was never God’s choice for him to face this challenge but the Father will bring him through regardless.
As is his custom after venting his frustration in the secret place David turns to the simplicity of prayer. He simply asks the Father to hear his prayer and regard his tears. You would think after so many years of walking with God David wouldn’t be a cry-baby. Sometimes we get a picture of walking in faith as never doubting and never allowing things to get to us. God never despised David’s honesty. He took up David’s case and stood with him. David says to God “I am a stranger and a sojourner…” In other words, David is saying to God “you are all I’ve got – I have no one else to turn to …” What an intimate and sweet disclosure of the personal and private prayer life of the psalmist for us to follow as an example.
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