This is why the Psalmist in Psalm 39 says, “ I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue” (39:1a). In the New Testament we are told that if we can master our tongue it is a measure of Christian perfection (James 3:2-12). It’s wise to guard our words. And this is especially the case “while the wicked are before me” (39:1b) because to speak haphazardly around the wicked only leads to further sin.
Therefore the psalmist kept silent and held his peace. It wasn’t easy. It seems maybe the psalmist got a little obstinate and “held my peace even from good” (39:2a). Maybe he thought, okay, if I have to hold my tongue to be righteous, if I’m going to be held accountable for my words, then I just won’t speak at all! In other words, he gave God and everyone else the silent treatment. Not good. This only led to sorrow; His “sorrow was stirred up” and his “heart was hot within me.” It led to frustration. As he contemplated his situation in silence “the fire burned” within him (39:2b-3). Why? Because to be silent and control your tongue is a way of surrendering to the Lord.
To be silent is to relinquish control. It is to trust God with your situation. It is to entrust yourself to God and let Him be your defender. The flesh within, who wants to rule and attack offenders, burns and bristles at the thought of being silently trustful of the LORD.
We need to ask the Lord to help us put things in perspective. That is what the psalmist did. “LORD, make me know my end . . . what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am” (39:4). God in His Sovereign Creatorship, “Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah.” (39:5). God is in control. We are a “vapor” before Him. We are a puff of smoke, transitory. We are like a shadow. Our accumulated wealth doesn’t follow us into the grave (39:6). There are no U-Haul trailers on hearses.
The antidote to our sinful nature is to keep silent and surrender to the Lord. The answer to our questions, “what do I wait for?” The solution to our sin problem; our transience is, “My hope is in You” (39:7). He alone can deliver us from our transgressions (39:8). We keep our silence trusting in Him (39:9). God alone can remove the death plague of sin from us (39:10). God alone is in a position to correct us (39:11). What we need to do is pray to the LORD; sincerely’ even with tears, pray to the LORD (39:12). We need to throw ourselves on the mercy of God. He has the power of life and death (39:13).
What do we learn from this psalm?
We learn life is a vapor; life is short. In James it states, “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14).
We learn death is sure. In Hebrews it confirms, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” (Heb. 9:27).
We learn sin is the curse and source of death. Scripture tells us:
• Romans 3:23 - 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
• Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
• Galatians 3:10-13 -10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law [works; our own efforts to be right before God] in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),
Finally, we learn Christ is the cure. Christ is the cure for out death producing sin:
• Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
• 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 - Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
• Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
• 2 Corinthians 5:21 - For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
• 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 - 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 5 “O Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Life is a vapor. Death is sure. Sin is the curse. Christ is the cure. “Are you ready to go home with the Lord? Are you ready to go to be with Jesus?” The Bible says:
John 5:24 - “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.