Psalm 39 — Pleading for Mercy — Reading the Psalms


For the Chief Musician, for 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 kindled:
Then spake I with my tongue:
4 LORD, make me to know mine end,
And the measure of my days, what it is;
Let me know how frail I am.
5 Behold, thou hast made my days as handbreadths;
And mine age is as nothing before thee:
Surely every man at his best estate is altogether vanity.     Selah
6 Surely every man walketh in a vain shew:
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,
A sojourner, as all my fathers were.
13 O spare me, that I may recover strength,
Before I go hence, and be no more.

Before our God we have nothing to say in defense for our sin. Each decision to depart form God’s way is ours alone. No blame or shame can be deferred. We must not defend selfish decisions. Remaining in silence is our only sure reaction.

Thus, admitting our plight, we refrain from words of defense, but speak pleading words for mercy and help. We realize our small stature; we know our limits and ask for greater wisdom. We know too, that we are not alone in this low position, for all are thus shackled by sin. We reach out to God, waiting for his help.

He, the one who brings the strokes against us in our sin, is the only one who can deliver. We plead for God to remove his strokes from us. We are consumed by our sorrows, speaking with tears, praying that God will hear us.

Why is it that this psalm still feels so encouraging? Why is it that opening our heart’s sorrow and admitting our tiny frame brings peace to our soul? I think it is the power of the psalm, given by God, working between the two of us. God, in his wisdom, gives us the words we need to cry out our guilt, sorrow and desire for mercy. Thanks be to God for words which plead for mercy and deliverance.


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