The Book of Psalms Bible Study Psalm 39

Psalm 39

Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6 tell us that those the L-rd loves He disciplines. G-d wants us to grow and mature so that we can more effectively serve Him, and one way that we grow is through discipline. G-d has promised, however, to never allow us to go through more than we can bear (1 Cor 10:13). With this in mind we need never grow discouraged. 

Inscription (the first verse in the Hebrew Bible): Chief musician – this was a psalm written to be sung publicly. To Jeduthun – the rabbis say that this is a person, but the primary Christian view is that this is the name of an instrument that we are no longer familiar with. What we do know for sure is that David wrote this psalm. 

v1: ‘I said’ – in this context this word is a word of commitment/decision. 

  • Guard my ways – David has decided in his heart that he is not going to walk with those who are contrary to the will of G-d. He wants to walk in correct paths. 
  • Sin with…tongue – David does not want to speak incorrect things. The tongue is very powerful, and it reveals a great deal about us and about what we think (James 3:3-12). We need to speak truth in order that we can encourage and teach others. We also need to use our tongues to speak/sing praise to G-d. In these things lie the power of the tongue – not in the false teaching of “name it, claim it”
  • Muzzle – stop it up so no words can inadvertently escape from it. David takes authority over his mouth in order to bring it under control – especially while he is in the presence of the wicked. 

v2: David says he will remain silent – he will not participate or join in with the type of conversation carried out between people who do not desire the will of G-d (good) in their lives. David is committed to good – committed to the will of G-d. 

  • Sorrow was stirred up – many believe that David is saying that in the midst of this ungodliness he is under temptation (still in his body of sin, carnal nature) and is feeling a desire to participate. He is, however, having to hold back as he knows it will not be good for him to indulge in these conversations. Even though we fall into temptation it doesn’t mean that we need to succumb to it. We are in a spiritual battle. 

v3: Hot – a word that can refer to anger. David is not pleased with the experience that he’s

having. No one likes struggling with temptation or sin (1 Cor 7:9 – Paul expresses the same kind of thought here – the struggle against temptation). 

  • Musing – meditating upon things
  • Spoke with my tongue – David made a confession about his struggle and his desire not to participate. 

v4: David wants to know how much time he has left. Our days are numbered, and we should be wise, good stewards, of every day that we have been given. If our days are squandered in giving in to our flesh we have nothing to show for it in eternity. When we have a right understanding of how short our lives truly are then we become people who find it easier to submit to the will of G-d. In this way we are enabled to turn our days into that which has lasting or eternal relevance.

v5: Handbreadths – a unit of measurement. Handbreadths = not much time left. Compared to eternity this life (max of 120 yrs) is fleeting. 

  • Apart from G-d our lives are worth nothing – a vapour. Apart from G-d they are vanity. 

v6: Shadow – most of the rabbinical scholars speak of this word as a shadow (Every day the shadow of death comes nearer to us)

  • Whatever we acquire in this life (physical possessions) we leave in this life. This should motivate us to invest into things that have eternal reward (Matt 6:19-21). 

v7: What do I wait for? David is going to tell G-d what his hope is in. (When we hope for something we wait for it)

  • ‘My hope is in You (G-d): When our hope, the objective of our lives, is G-d (meaning that we do everything with Him in mind) this changes everything. David has learned his lesson. He does not want to participate with the wicked. He is committed to guarding his ways and his speech. He wants to have a different philosophy of life than the world does – he is not about accumulating things only to see others gather them up. David wants to live very differently. This is possibly due to having learnt a lesson from G-d (going through a period of discipline – see v8)

v8: Here we begin to see that David is suffering discipline from G-d’s hand for a sin that he has committed.

  • Reproach – to bear the shame or contempt.
  • A fool is rebellious and denies truth. 

v9: David is not going to complain about what he has/is going through as he knows that G-d has been behind it. Everything that G-d does is right and perfect.

v10: Plague – affliction, suffering, discipline.

  • Blow of your hand – David is at breaking point.

v11: Correction = discipline. It’s a word that means to straighten someone out. Discipline causes us to see differently. 

  • Beauty – that which is desirable/coveted. David is saying that what a man pursues/covets is ultimately going to be dissolved like a moth (‘where moth and rust destroy…). As a consequence of sin we suffer loss.
  • A vapour – here today and gone tomorrow.

v12: David does what it is always appropriate to do – he prays. 

  • Give ear – listen. When an ear is given it means that person is drawn close. David wants G-d to draw close to him. He wants to once again experience intimacy with G-d. 
  • A stranger and a sojourner – we are just briefly passing through this world. This world is not where a covenant people ultimately belongs.

v13: David is telling G-d that he desperately needs a change. David wants intimacy with G-d but he wants the discipline to cease. 

  • Regain strength – discipline strengthens us (when we allow ourselves to be trained by it)

Does this describe us? Do we desire to be someone who desperately wants to utilize whatever time we have left? Whatever resources we have under our authority or within our domain? Are we investing in this world or in the One to come? 

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