Psalm 39 For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of David. I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me.” But as I stood there in silence— not even speaking of good things— the turmoil within me grew worse. The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words: “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me. I am silent before you; I won’t say a word, for my punishment is from you. But please stop striking me! I am exhausted by the blows from your hand. When you discipline us for our sins, you consume like a moth what is precious to us. Each of us is but a breath. Interlude Hear my prayer, O Lord! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears. For I am your guest— a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me. Leave me alone so I can smile again before I am gone and exist no more.
By Chuck Griffin
This season of Lent is, again, a time for spiritual searching. Today’s psalm is a powerful example of how that search can whip one to and fro, triggering a range of emotions including stoicism, anger, despair and humility.
If you just skimmed over the psalm, please, slow down, or wait until you have time to slow down, and read it carefully. When you reach the words translated as “Interlude,” take time to breathe and to ponder what has been said thus far.
We also could say that the psalmist moves from an effort at self-control to something more valuable—willing surrender to God, to God’s majesty and undeniable power.
And remember, God does not ignore our tears. In fact, he refuses to ignore us, even if we plead with him to do so. Christ came not to ignore us, but to rescue us. There is no reason to fear that we will be gone, that we will exist no more.
Lord, this is a somber time in the Christian year, but we also feel ourselves being pulled toward hope. In our humility and despair, help us to anticipate the freedom to come. Amen.