In the rhythm of life there can be times of calm and times of turmoil. Turmoil often raises questions and doubts about how one should tackle those problems including what to say or not say. In the middle of one specific issue it is easy to lose the perspective of the big picture and what remain the important issues. In the short series of psalms 37,38 and 39 David has echoed wisdom books in the bible. In Psalm 37 passages were similar to proverbs, in Psalm 38 it was more like Job and here in Psalm 39 much of it accords with Ecclesiastes.
David is not specific about what his problems are but he does attribute some of it to his own sin v8 and God’s discipline. vv9-11 His troubles are compounded by his feelings of alienation with those around him. David’s initial response is to keep quiet, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.’ vv1,2 Why is David not wanting to talk about things? There could be a number of reasons, he perhaps doesn’t want to appear a fool or disgrace himself. He maybe does not want to bring disgrace to God in front of nonbelievers. He might simply be unsure of the best thing to do. Whatever the reason his anxiety increased, ‘But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned.’ vv2,3 In the end he had to speak but not to those around who he did not trust but to the Lord.
David asked God to give him a perspective on his life compared with the eternal nature of the Lord. He asks God to show him how fleeting life is and concludes, ‘You have made my days a few hand-breadths; and my lifetime is as nothing before you.’ v5 This he realizes is true of everybody not just him however secure people might feel. It is almost as if a penny has dropped, however desperate I might be feeling right now, in truth my objective situation is not fundamentally different to everybody else whatever they might think. This leads him on to grasping that the rush for wealth and by implication other things the surrounding world might bestow on him is simply vanity and worthless. Jesus repeats this teaching in the parable of the rich fool, Luke 12.16-21.
David turns again to the Lord, realizing that his purpose and life is to be found in him. ‘But now Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.’ v7 It is a simple statement but profound. He realizes that he is naturally a sinner and constantly needs the Lord’s help to overcome sin and be forgiven. v12 The sense of being a stranger in the world will not go away but he has the presence of the Lord with him as his inheritance, ‘I will dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were.’ v12 At the same time he finds it difficult to be constantly in the presence of God, as did Job. Job 7.17-21.
My hope is built on nothing less