Whatever the songwriter’s experience, it’s crushing him. Physically, emotionally, spiritually–David’s getting hammered. So much so that everything in him wants to grumble, complain, perhaps make excuses, maybe even get into the blame game with heaven. So, aware of this propensity to vent and blow off steam, but also aware of the likelihood that it could manifest itself in sinning against God, David guards his mouth “with a muzzle.” He determines to be mute, silent, and to hold his peace.
But as he does, the mental anguish and sorrow increases. Far from calming his heart, keeping it bottled up actually fuels the fire. As he runs the reality of his hard circumstance over and over in his head, the fire is stoked and he senses the sparks of discontent growing into flames of bitterness. Finally, he is forced to break his silence:
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!”
(Psalm 39:4 ESV)
How long is this going to last? Maybe that’s what you say to God when you don’t want to say anything against God. Articulating the heart’s cry while avoiding the heart’s complaint by putting the harshness of life in the context of life’s frailty and brevity. If silence isn’t the answer to getting through it, then perhaps it starts with simply reminding yourself of who you are in light of who God is. That you are but a shadow. That He is ever the Sovereign.
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool!”
(Psalm 39:7 ESV)
And having started the conversation, having acknowledged the vapor-like nature of life at best, clarity starts to come. So what hope do I have, Lord? It’s only in You. And so deliver me from all my transgressions, particularly those that may have led to this trouble. Deliver me from the wages of the sin for which I cannot pay. And, by Your mercy and grace, deliver me from the consequences of that sin of which I am unable to bear. Against You alone have I sinned. And in You alone is my hope. My hope of rescue, redemption, and restoration.
I kept quiet, David says, because I knew this trouble had come from Your permissive hand and I feared I would blame You for being God. But now I appeal to You as my Father and ask you to “remove Your stroke from me” (vv.9-10). That Your discipline would have accomplished its purifying work and might now cease.
And with the silence broken, the conversation continuing, David’s pondering becomes a direct petition:
“Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not Your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with You, a guest, like all my fathers. Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!”
(Psalm 39:12-13 ESV)
Hear my prayer. Give hear to my cry. For I am but a nomad here. I am just Your guest in this transient world. However, I am also Your child because of Your eternal promise. Make me smile again, Father.
At first, David thought it best to be silent. But, so it seems, sometimes you just gotta talk it through.
While guarding against a venting or vindictive tone, maybe there’s something about acknowledging before God what God already knows. And that in starting the conversation it brings perspective into focus and it reminds us of where our hope is anchored and from where our help comes from. And in talking it out before the throne of grace, instead of our heart becoming a hard heart which demands to know, “Why me!?” it becomes the contrite, supple heart that humbly cries out, “Help me!”
I don’t know. Just chewing on Psalm 39 and thinking there’s something here for me.
By His grace. For His glory.