Psalm 39

February 12, 2024

To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David

1 I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.

2 I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good: and my sorrow was stirred.

3 My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,

4 LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.

5 Behold, Thou hast made my days as an handbreadth: and mine age is as nothing before Thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.

6 Surely every man walketh in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.

7 And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in Thee.

8 Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.

9 I was dumb, I opened not my mouth: because Thou didst it.

10 Remove Thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of Thine hand.

11 When Thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, Thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah.

12 Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry: hold not Thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.

13 O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.

The Point:

As we walk through the most desperate straits of our lives, all we can do is look to God as the only possibility of salvation.

How do we feel in the recitation of this psalm?

The emotion subtly builds in this psalm. In the first few verses, there is an obvious disturbance of heart in the presence of temptation and persecution. We stand amazed at the futility of gaining wealth and the fragility of our days on earth. As we consider ultimate questions concerning the meaning of life, our hearts are pressed to one of two options—hopelessness in life without God or hopefulness in God.

Then the reality of our situation crashes down upon us. The reality of sin, the reality of pain, and the sharp reality of the severe trials confronting us. Other men refuse to face the reality of sin and its evil consequences as they run to the opiates and drown their sorrows in alcohol and other addictions. But the believer feels the pain of the trial to the last ounce of its force, and this brings him to a face-to-face confrontation with God. For He is the One who is behind every trial. He is the One who defines sin by His law and establishes the evil of it by His holy character. Yet He is also the One who delivers us from these trials.

At the end of the psalm, David discovers the deepest pain of all and through his tears he cries out to God for help. Sin has brought estrangement from Yahweh, his God.

What does this psalm teach us?

Verses 1–3. The situation at the outset of the psalm finds David in the presence of the wicked, which means two things. Either he is in the chamber of temptation or persecution, or both. As long as we live in the midst of a world of unbelievers, we share the same lot as the Psalmist. Temptation and persecution are always part of life in a sinful world. Therefore, David resolves to both watch his ways and put a bridle on his tongue that he may not sin in his speech. But to say nothing at all is futile. His frustration and grief only deepens and his heart grows hot with the desire to say something to somebody. Instead of communicating with the wicked around him in hot anger, he turns to God and this is the most edifying thing he can do.

Verses 4–6. When you are a child, you think you will live forever. By nature, we all like to pretend that we are invulnerable to any threat and, like the comic-book character Superman, we think we can withstand all challenges to life and limb. But this is not the right perspective of life. It is a false optimism and will surely disappoint us in the end. Hence, David turns to God and pleads for a right perspective on life.

Well, how shall we view life? Every child knows that helium balloons do not last very long. Not more than a day or so after a birthday celebration, the balloons have lost their helium and are shriveling away. Even as adults, we still remember how disappointing it was to see our bright and delightful balloons fade away so quickly. Perhaps it is a reminder of how quickly life dissipates. It disappears just about as quickly as the helium escapes from the balloon. Our lives are fragile. We could be gone tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

But men without God would rather ignore the sharp reality of death and the fleeting nature of life. They work hard to accumulate wealth, large houses, and expensive toys. They are busy running here and there, ignoring God and pretending that the day of their death is a fiction, but in the end, they die. Their bodies rot in the grave, their houses fall apart, their cars and boats rust away, and they have no idea where all their wealth will go a hundred years after their death. Certainly they cannot take all that wealth they have worked so hard to accumulate with them to the grave.

Verses 7–13. Plainly, we cannot place our hopes in anything in this world. Therefore, the Psalmist puts his hope in God. If you ask any unbeliever on earth about his future hope and his reason for living, you will find precious little hope and whatever hope is there is futile hope in foolish prospects.

Now, as David turns his attention away from the wicked and the hollow promises of this world, his focus on God has achieved an intense clarity. He goes to the root of his problems and pleads with the Lord for salvation from the bane of all of life—sin. The focus becomes even sharper as he acknowledges that his trials come from the hand of God.

In verse 9 we have the right response to the pain and trials of life—silence. This silence is not filling your life with distractions, the hurried life that bustles around ignoring the pain, or the endless attempts to escape into a pretend universe of fiction and entertainment. Neither is it a stoical, unfeeling silence, or a grumbling irritation against God. It is the awe-filled silence that comes when we can see the justice of God mixed with salvation and loving chastisement. Think for a moment what it would be like to be part of Noah’s family in the flood as they suffered the loss of the old world but were saved in the process. As they sat in the ark of salvation in the midst of a flood of massive tribulation, they were silent in awe of the God of all justice and mercy. Let us not be so fixed upon our pain, our trials, and our suffering, such that we cannot be quiet and know that He is God! It is also a silence of sweet resignation. What a blessing it is to have a child who, when he is being chastised with the rod, is marked by a sweet resignation. He cries out, “Father I know you have the right to do this. I know, Father, that this is for my good! But oh, Father, it is hard to receive this, yet it is Your will, and it must be good, because You are good.”

Think of righteous Job who felt the crushing weight of God’s chastising hand upon him as well. Like David here, he did not bother cursing the evil Sabeans for stealing his flocks, or the Devil for arranging the destruction of his children. His confession was simply, “The Lord gave. The Lord took away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” He refused to grumble and embraced a holy quietness, blessing God through it all.

Nevertheless, this silence does not preclude a humble request for God’s deliverance out of our trials. So the Psalmist pleads for God’s pity and salvation. The cry grows increasingly more desperate, pathetic, and impassioned. But they are not bitter words. He weeps. There is desperation in his final cry. He believes he is on the very edge of death. This is the cry of every saint on his death bed, for the final trial of our life will come just before the final deliverance of resurrection!

How do we apply this psalm?

1. I am afraid that some of us do not take our trials very well. When life fills with difficulties and trials, this is not the time for the flesh to issue bitter complaints against God. It is time to be silent. It is time to humbly resign ourselves to the will of God, plead for God’s mercy, and hope in God’s deliverance. There is nothing more beautiful in this world than an old saint who suffers well, for nothing will test your spiritual maturity more than going through trials.

2. We must not grumble against God in our trials. That means we must not accuse God of wrong-doing nor can we react in anger because we are not in ultimate control of our circumstances. In the fire of trial, we must understand that it is God who is working on us. God is wise and right in everything that He does. But this does not mean that we cannot cry out for mercy and deliverance. That is the one thing we can do.

How does this psalm teach us to worship God?

1. Worship provides the opportunity to refocus on God. Sometimes this refocusing happens as a process in our prayers, songs, and preaching. The psalms take us by the hand and gently focus our eyes away from our enemies and our circumstances and back towards God.

2. We acknowledge the ultimate sovereignty of God in the worship service. This means that only One is in control of everything that happens on earth and that is the God who made it all.

3. We should not be afraid to bring up the matter of trials in our prayers, hymns, and preaching, but let us use these biblical truths to frame our understanding of those trials. Indeed, we should confess our weakness and frailty to God and look to Him as the source of our trials and the source of our deliverance. God is everything to the Christian worshiper.


1. Give several examples of Deliverance psalms.

2. For whom might you recommend this psalm?

3. According to this psalm, how should we react when trials come our way?

4. Give three examples of Penitence psalms.

5. Which psalm begins with the words, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers. Neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity”?

Family Discussion Questions:

1. How do we suffer during trials? Do we portray a sweet spirit even during the small trials of life—when we stub our toes or when we get a flat tire on a hot day in the summer or on a cold, snowy day in the winter? How do you think we should react to these difficulties?

2. What kind of stock are we placing in this world? Are we just trying to collect material things? Where is our joy and hope?