Psalm 39:7


Jeduthun, whose name stands at the head of Psalm 39, 62, and 77, was one of a musical family entrusted with the conduct of the musical service in the time of David. The psalms having his name at the head were probably intended to be sung by his choir. It would thus seem that in the Hebrew service of sacred song the prayers and plaints of the individual believer were included, when set to music. If so, the "service of song in the house of the Lord" covered a much wider ground than is usually supposed, and was made to include not only direct address to God, whether of prayer or praise, but also the rehearsal of personal experience; and thus a holy fellowship of song would arise, anticipating long ages before, the expression of the apostle, "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs;" only it should be noted that these would be musical utterances of an actual experience going on then and there. It does not follow that the like utterances would be suitable for the service of song now. Discretion and discrimination are needed in the use thereof. This is evidently an individual psalm; it is neither national, prophetic, nor Messianic; it is one of those which reflect the care and anxiety with which David was bowed down at one crisis of his life, though to which of his numerous crises it refers it is not easy to decide, Nor, indeed, is that of moment. It will profit us more to note the course taken by the psalmist at a time of crushing sorrow, and then to see how far the course which he took may be a guide for us under like circumstances.

I. LET US NOTE THE COURSE ADOPTED BY THE PSALMIST AT A TIME OF CRUSHING SORROW. There is a somewhat wide divergence among expositors in their estimate of this psalm, and of the mental revelations therein contained. But we feel bound to look at the psalmist's words tenderly rather than harshly, knowing as we do, how often, in agonies of soul, the best men may utter words which would not escape them in their calmer hours (cf. Psalm 116:11).

1. Here is a case of sore affliction. "Thy stroke" (ver. 10); "the blow of thine hand" (ver. 10). Whatever the sorrow may have been to which reference is made, it is regarded as coming directly from God. "Thou didst it" (ver. 9). It was so heavy that David was "consumed" thereby (ver. 10). And it was looked on by him as a chastisement for his transgressions (cf. vers. 8, 11).

2. It is, under such circumstances, very hard to be absolutely still. So the first verse implies. There is little indication that the disturbing trouble arose (as some suggest) from seeing the prosperity of the wicked; but evidently there is some distinctively personal trouble, probably sickness and weakness, which, with all the public demands made upon him, weighs heavily upon his soul, and he is tempted to complain and to seek sympathy from without. But:

3. He is in the midst of uncongenial souls. (Ver. 1.) "The wicked is before me." Note: Earthly men are poor companions in the distresses of spiritual men. To the natural man the sorrows of a spiritual man would be altogether unintelligible. And supposing that the troubles here referred to arose about the time of and in connection with Absalom's rebellion, the majority of those round about David would be men whose thoughts and aims moved entirely in the military or political sphere. Hence:

4. Here is a wise resolve. (Vers. 1, 2.) He will say nothing. There would be many reasons for this.

(1) No one would enter into his feelings.

(2) What he said would be misunderstood.

(3) He would consequently be misrepresented.

(4) The more he said, the worse matters would be. And

(5) if he told men what he thought and felt, he would be very likely to say something which he would afterwards regret. That I sin not with my tongue. Hence silence is his wisest course.

5. But suppressed grief consumes like a fire. (Ver. 3.) There is nothing which so wears out the soul, nor which so burns within, as woe to which no vent can be given; so David found it, and consequently:

6. The silence is broken. "Then spake I with my tongue." But, in breaking the silence, he speaks not to man, but to God. After the word "tongue," the Authorized Version has a comma, but the Revised Version a colon, indicating that what he said is about to follow. What an infinite mercy that when we cannot say a word to man, through fear of being misunderstood, we can speak to God, and tell him exactly what we feel, as we feel it, knowing that then we touch a heart infinitely tender, and address an intelligence infinitely wise!

7. In speaking to God he moans and groans. (Vers. 4-6.) Does David speak petulantly? Is he asking God to let him know how long he has to endure all this? Is he adducing the frailty and nothingness of man as an argument against his being allowed to suffer thus? So many think, and some, as Calvin, are very hard on David - very. But why? There is a vast difference between the fretfulness of an overburdened man and the waywardness of a rebellious man. And he who knows our frame, takes the difference into account. When Elijah pettishly said, "Now, O Lord, take away my life I" God did not rebuke him; he sent an angel to him, and said, "Arise and eat; the journey is too great for thee."

8. He declares that his expectation of relief is in God alone. (Ver. 7.) Just so. These are not the words of a rebellious, but of a trusting one. And from that point of view the whole psalm must be regarded (cf. Psalm 62.).

9. He will not utter a word of complaint. (Ver. 9.) Render, "I am dumb; I open not my mouth, because thou hast done it" ('Variorum Bible'). "Thyself hast done it." On this fact faith fastens; and when this is the case, not a word of murmuring will escape the lips. The cry of a trusting soul is, "Here am I; let him do with me as seemeth him good" (2 Samuel 15:26).

10. Yet he supplicates. (Vers. 8, 10, 13.) First, he desires deliverance from sin, then a mitigation of the suffering; such is the order, and the order which only a saint would name. The last verse is, in our versions, obscure. The word "spare ' should not be read in the sense intended when we say, "If I am spared," etc., but in the sense of "O spare me this sorrow!" It is a repetition of ver. 10, "Remove this stroke away from me." It asks not for prolongation of life, but for mitigation of pain. The Revised Version margin gives a more correct translation of the phrase, "that I may recover strength;" rather, "that I may brighten up." No conclusion can be drawn from the end of the thirteenth verse, as to the psalmist's view of another life. The Prayer-book Version, "and be no more seen," gives the sense.

11. The supplication is accompanied by a tender plea. (Ver. 12.) "I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were." Archbishop Leighton beautifully expresses the force of this plea, "In this world, wherein thou hast appointed me to sojourn a few days, and I betake myself to thy protection in this strange country. I seek shelter under the shadow of thy wings, therefore have compassion upon me."

II. HOW FAR IS THE COURSE TAKEN BY DAVID, IN HIS AFFLICTION, A GUIDE FOR US?

1. In some respects we may well imitate him. In restraining our words before man, and in telling all our cares and woes to God exactly as we feel them, and in such a way as will best relieve an overburdened heart.

2. In other respects we should go far beyond him. Believers ought not to confine themselves now within the limits of such a prayer as this; they should always transcend it. We know more of God's Fatherly love; we know of our great High Priest; we know the fellowship of the Spirit; we know of "the unsearchable riches of Christ;" and hence our prayers should rise above those of David as much as the prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21 is above the level of this psalm. Note: The best preventive of sins of the tongue is the fuller and more frequent outpouring of the heart to God. - C.









And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in Thee. Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.
I. HIS WAITING.

1. What he did not wait for — not for any earthly good.

2. What he did wait for — manifestation of love of God. Removal of affliction. The subdual of his sins. A smile from God. God's will to be done in him.

II. His HOPE — God.

III. His PRAYER — "Deliver me from all," etc. —

1. From the guilt;

2. The filth;

3. The love;

4. The power;

5. The commission-of sin.

IV. THE REPROACH WHICH HE FEARED — that of "the foolish." He knew he was liable to it, and he feared it much.

(J. C. Philpot.)

The latter of these two verses is the language of a man who had seen much of life. And yet we must own that the life of man is a fuller, a more intense, a more many-sided thing to-day than ever before. How many interests it touches; amid what wide-reaching complications it lives and moves; under what enormous pressure it rushes on. The age which we call our own is mainly an inventing and contriving one. In a word, for that is the question to which our text directly lead us, Is the world really happier because of what civilization has done for it, or no? No one will say that civilization has done nothing for the race, and that there has been no progress apart from that of the Cross. To affirm that would be to affirm what is untrue. For civilization may be without Christian faith. Enlightened selfishness has long found out that the individual is better off and happier when the community is honest, healthy and mutually self-respecting. Hence, it is not certain that society, as you and I know it, would lapse into barbarism without the knowledge of the faith of the Crucified. But the question is, also, Would human happiness remain? or rather, Is it to civilization that the world owes its happiness, and are we of to-day, with our higher and finer civilization, happier than our forefathers? They were without a multitude of advantages that we have, and the range and the pace of their life were almost infinitely narrower and slower. But in widening the range and in quickening the pace, have we deepened the current and enriched the quality of our lives? "Thou hast multiplied the nation," says the prophet, "and not increased the joy." And yet there is a Book which tells you of a life which he who lives it is "not afraid of any evil tidings, for his heart standeth fast and believeth in the Lord." There is a faith which has learned how to ask and to answer the deepest of all questions in the word, "And now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly my hope is even in Thee." There is a life — you know at least one or two who here and there are living it — in which the world is neither a charnel-house, nor its pleasures dust and ashes. It is for this widening of the horizon of its life, that human society wants that message of faith which civilization does not and cannot bring it. Man is going to school here, and the things that he touches, and sees, and requires here, all these are simply toys with which he is building block-houses in the nursery, until he is fit for the life and employments of the future. It is to recall you to this higher range of thought and aspiration that this holy house exists. What do we come to church for if we do not need to be reminded, by what we see and hear and do here, of a world and life outside the boundaries of the widest civilization and unrevealed by the investigations of the most painstaking culture? We have hopes that are not met by any visible attainment. We have fears that are not silenced by any earthly voice. And there are some times when we have another and a more bitter consciousness — the consciousness of personal sin. We want to be forgiven. We want to be renewed. We want to be emancipated. In one word, we want that element in our lives which never enters it until the Cross has entered it, and has at once conquered us by its love and transformed us by its infinite and Divine compassion. We want all this, I say. Has it ever occurred to us to think of those other lives who want it no less, and who vet may so easily be left without it?

(H. G. Potter.)

I. HIS APPEAL. It implies —

1. An experimental persuasion of insufficiency. This is engraven in characters too deep to be erased by the hand of time, and too legible to be obliterated by passing vanities.

2. A strong sense of danger. He feels that the claims of the Almighty are as imperative as they are reasonable; and he is convinced that while the affections are enslaved by earthly objects, the soul is in danger of perishing everlastingly.

3. The shallowness of those hopes which have respect to creature merit as the procuring cause of salvation.

II. HIS AFFIRMATION.

1. His hope of pardon, .acceptance, and eternal salvation centred in God.

2. His hope of support, consolation and happiness was reposed in God. From the world we can often derive neither help nor sympathy; in God we have both: He relieves and He compassionates.

(W. Knight, M. A.)

I. HERE IS A QUESTION. A man doesn't go head foremost toward God, he goes heart foremost. The great trouble with sinners is that they put the head before the heart. "What wait I for?"

1. There is one man who says, "I am waiting for the Lord's good time, the Lord's own time." Well, then, that good time has come at last. These revival services are to get men willing to be saved, and not to get God willing to save them. It is God's accepted time. Every moment that you are a sinner that is the moment God is ready to save you. Thus much I tell you, You will never see the gates wider open than they are now.

2. Another says, "I am not waiting for God's time, I am waiting for better terms." Let me tell you about that terms business. There are plenty of people that want to go to heaven on their own schedule. They want to drink a little, lie a little, and gamble occasionally. Why will a man ask any better terms than that he quit those things that damage him on earth and prevent him going to heaven?

3. "I am not waiting for any better terms," says the sinner; "I know that right is right and wrong is wrong. I am waiting for the Church to get right." Waiting for the Church to get right! Let the Church be, and do as it will, I am going to serve the Lord. Don't stay out because of the hypocrites, but come in and help crowd them out.

4. "I am waiting for feeling," says some fellow. You look at me. What do you mean by feeling? Do you mean serious thought? If you don't mean that, you don't mean anything. If serious thought is not feeling, there is no serious thought in repentance. When a man sees he ought to do right and quit the wrong, that is the only feeling there is on the subject. Do you think that you ought to be a Christian, and ought to start to-night? If you do, you have got feeling enough to sweep you right under the Cross, if you will start now.

5. Another fellow says, "I am not waiting for feeling; I am waiting 'until I am fit." Here is a fellow starving to death; there is a richly-loaded table. "Are you hungry? .... Yes, I am just as hungry as I can be; but I can't go, my hands ain't fit." "Here are soap and water and towels." He says, "I ain't fit to wash." Don't hang back because "I am not fit." Come up here and get fit. Did Jesus Christ come into the world to save good people? Oh no; but to save sinners.

6. "I know Christ died to save me, but I am waiting to try myself awhile." Many resolve to be good men, and they try. The devil laughs to see them.

7. "I am waiting for faith." Yes; you have been waiting forty years for faith. How much have you saved up? Like the fellow who had ten bushels of wheat, and was waiting till more grew before he would sow what he had[ Sow it, and you will have a hundred-fold. "I want to be a blacksmith as soon as I get muscle." Why don't you go at it? There he stands, until at last he has not muscle enough to lift the hammer. He is getting it with a vengeance. How did you get faith? by using what you had. But now let us look at the other side. We have been looking at man, let us —

II. TURN NOW TO GOD. "MY HOPE IS IN GOD." NOW YOU have struck the keynote for eternal life. My hope is not in riches, pastor, friends, father and mother, children, Church; but my hope is in God. Will you start to-night? You may say, "I am mighty weak." I know it; but your hope is in God. "Yes; but I am a poor sinner." My hope is in God; it is not in myself. I know I am a sinner. Yes; but you are very, very weak; you are as frail as a bruised reed. Yes; but my hope is in God. If I commit myself to God, I will never go down: I will stay up as long as God stays up. I put my hand in the hand of God, and commit it all to Him to-night. Won't you do it? Let me take your hand, and help you to start to heaven.

(S. P. Jones.)

The text is a conclusion drawn from the preceding verse which tells of the "vain show" in which "every man" walks. Each expression goes to demonstrate this vanity. But we are not to be discontented with earth or to despise those temporal blessings which Providence places within our reach. Far be the thought. It is the resting on such things, and not the use of them, against which men need to be warned. And even Christians need this warning, Hence it is needful that we should deeply feel the vanity of all earthly things in order that we may the more earnestly adopt the language of the text. Never shall we fly to the Creator, as the source of all true happiness, till we utterly despair of finding it in the creature. And now let me rejoice with you who have found your hope in the Lord. We have become so through Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as the ransom for a ruined world, and redeemed us to God by His blood. Happy are the people in such a case, and who can say with David, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and," etc.

(J. Slade, M. A.)

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