Intro: It appears that David is still reeling from the arrows with which he was pierced with in Psalm 38. He pledges to keep silent so that he does not sin, but he cannot hold his tongue. He sees how short his life is, and so he cries out to God that he might relent.
To the choirmaster: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
1 I said, “I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
2 I was mute and silent;
I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
3 My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:
4 “O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
8 Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
10 Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
11 When you discipline a man
with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah
12 “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.
13 Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!”
Main Point: In the first stanza(1-3) David begins by telling us that he had a plan to not sin. He was going to do so by not speaking, and especially when the wicked were in his presence. This didn’t work out too well though. He found himself getting more and more agitated. Finally he couldn’t hold it in anymore. David starts by speaking about the brevity of life. He speaks of life being a handbreadth, and man himself like shadow that is here only for a moment(4-6). David then turns his attention to the Lord’s Discipline in his life (7-11). He asks the Lord to deliver him from his sins. He asks the Lord to remove his hand of discipline from him not because he is undeserving, but because he can take no more. The Lord has taken what was dearest to him, and he is reeling. David closes by asking the Lord to hear his petition. David ask the Lord would please turn the face of his displeasure away from him so that he might experience joy again since his life is so short(12,13).
The point is this life is short. We don’t have much time. We better get busy with our lives. There is also a second point that is taught indirectly. David held his tongue as he went through his discipline, and it did him no good. It only agitated him, and ultimately looks like it led him to despair. We must seek the Lord as David did in the second half of the Psalm and speak to him about what we experience. We should ask him to relent as David does in the last stanza. It is here that the soul and heart can find rest.
Interesting Points: David uses great imagery when he speaks about the shortness of our life. We can be lured into thinking that we have quite sometime on this earth, but nothing can be further from the truth. Our lives are fleeting, and frail. David’s imagery helps us to see its shortness. We are truly like shadows that disappear with the changing of light. I think of the shadows around a camp fire, and how they almost have no substance. They are constantly changing; constantly appearing and disappearing. So are our lives.
David also calls attention to the foolishness of living your life to gather wealth. When you die it will be someone else’s. How foolish to spend your whole life seeking something you you can never have enough of, and will ultimately be given to someone else.
The most striking verse to me in this psalm is verse 11 that tells us when the Lord decides to discipline us he is “like a moth and consumes what is dear” to us. What a vivid image! Many of us have had the expreience of pulling out our favorite garment only to find it with holes all through it because a moth was in our closet. It is truly disappointing and frustrating to lose something you hold dear. However it is just a garment, and with the Lord what we lose often times can be much more painful.
We all know it is true that often when the Lord disciplines us he goes after those things that we hold more dearly than himself. He wants us to hold him more dearly than anything else in the world. He wants our love for him to be rivaled by nothing and no one. He does this because he knows that only in Himself will we be satisfied. He does it because he loves us, and only wants what is best for us. There is only one place to find joy, and this is in knowing him.
Last, in verse 13 David asks the Lord to turn his face from him so that he might experience joy. I don’t think that David is asking for the Lord to go away from him, or for the Lord forget about him. I think it is more likely that David is speaking as he does in Psalm 34 when he says, “the face of the Lord is against the wicked.” I believe that David is asking for the Lord to remove his gaze of displeasure from him.
Emotional Reaction: It is motivating to remember that this life is short, and good for me to remember that it really could be over at any moment. That is a little nerve racking, but really motivating as well. I think also after reading the Psalm it makes facing the Lord’s discipline a little more frightening as well. It brings a note of seriousness to this life and the way we live.