Psalm 39 is a psalm of confession, including an appeal to God’s eternality in considering our existence, our time on this earth as being nothing.
In our last post on Psalm 39, I sought to understand David’s poetical language describing his existence in relation to God’s existence.
When comparing any time unit, whether 10 seconds or 50,000,000 millennium, the result is the same. Time is insignificant since the comparison is somewhat ridiculous. Be that as it may, David compared and walked away beat up.
As I thought on it, trying to understand David’s thoughts, I also came away feeling a bit hopeless, somewhat out of sync. As you many remember, I brought a New Testament passage into the study to try to find some balance, and thankfully it was helpful.
But as I consider these portions of the Psalms, I need to read the psalm as a whole, for David’s reaction to his previous writing had produced in him the same hopelessness I expressed above, and yet he continues with the following.
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
For what do I wait? Waiting speaks of a time element, and David does not condemn this action of waiting. It is not wasted effort as we may assume from the previous passage, where he talks of the futility of our efforts and the fruit of our work passing to those we know not.
This waiting is for a specific action, and the waiting is required due to David’s hope being in God. His hope is not in his own efforts, that is in restraining his heart from expressing his thoughts, his tongue from wagging and flopping in front of his enemies!
Our first few verses in this psalm spoke of David’s effort to “shut up” in front of his enemies. God has accomplished this fruit in David’s life. It seems this “muteness” God accomplished in David’s life may be associated with a stroke from God, a hostility of God’s hand.
This stroke, or blow from God is sometimes associated in the Old Testament with leprosy, although in this instance, I believe David is using the term metaphorically. David is expressing God’s solution to his “yapping” problem as an affliction or a wound, what we may consider as a trial or testing.
This stroke is also described as a “hostility” of God’s hand. This term hostility is used only once in the Word and it also describes a “blow”, and includes a thought of contention or conflict.
David begs for this stroke to be removed, he is under a trial that is teaching, no accomplishing its intended effects, yet David is begging for it’s removal.
How often have we been under a trial and sought to be out of it? Of course as we request prayers for release from God’s stroke, we are often counselled to rejoice in the trial, and James does exhort us in this manner.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. – James 1:2-3
But note that the passage is training us to rejoice when we meet trials of various kinds, for the sake of the resulting patience that will be produced. To joy for the end result. Is this not similar to the outlook the One who took the ultimate stroke for us? He despised the shame, but since He considered the end result, He took joy.
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2
David summarizes the stroke of God on his life by speaking of how God disciplines a man with rebukes. It is good to know that we have a God who cares for us to the point of rebuking us, of disciplining us, of providing a “stroke” upon us to direct us, and to train us.
David again goes poetic, describing the sin that was so dear to him, as a moth consumed. A moth consumed? Some verses translate this phrase as the moth consuming, others as the moth being consumed. I have no idea which is the correct grammatical translation, but the picture of a moth consuming something is clear in my mind.
You see, growing up in our country home, my mother had a cedar closet. Dad built it so she could store her very best blankets and comforters. Remember, that as a Canadian, blankets and comforters were critical possessions in the depth of the January cold!
I remember only once that she opened it while I was with her, and the smell was awesome. All the walls of the closet had unstained, unvarnished cedar lining, and when it opened, the fragrance was almost overpowering.
I occasionally would return to the closet and take a secret woof of the cedar, but my mom wouldn’t have approved. You see, the cedar was installed to keep moths from attacking those precious blankets. If the cedar smell was exhausted, moths would inevitably eat the blankets, slowly destroying it, and given enough time, the blanket would be consumed.
In this passage, David equates God to the moth. God consumes (like a moth) that which is dear to the saint, that which is sin. Slowly, imperceptibly, God is at work, destroying the sin in your life, sometimes through a stroke or blow, as in this passage for David, and sometimes through other means.
Consider this poetic picture the next time you are under a disciplinary action from the Father, for He is seeking to direct our hearts to the only One we should hope in!
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