Verse of the Week – Psalm 39:10

“Remove Your plague from me; Because of the opposition of your hand, I am perishing.” – Psalm 39:10.

David starts out with what appears to be a paradoxical statement in his prayer to God in the first verse. “I will keep watch over my ways so that I do not sin with my tongue; I will keep watch over my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.” This can be paraphrased, “I said, ‘I will keep silent.’” This seems inconsistent, until we look deeper into the idea of David declaring his intention to keep silent. The Hebrew word for ‘said’ is, אָמַר, pronounced  amar, a verb meaning ‘speaking’, but it also refers to one’s internal thoughts; technically speaking to oneself in your mind. And this is important because David is in a difficult situation. Theologian Adam Clarke puts it this way, speaking for David. “I must be cautious because of my enemies; I must be patient because of my afflictions; I must be watchful over my tongue, lest I offend my God, or give my adversaries any cause to speak evil of me.

He continues in his prayer. “I was mute and silent, I refused to say even something good, and my pain was stirred up. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned; Then I spoke with my tongue:” Psalm 39:2-3. He would not say anything to his enemies that would anger them. His mind became more and more excited, his feelings more and more intense. And even though he attempts to suppress his emotions, they are only more and more enkindled. We see then in verse four he calls out to God.

After this, David prays to God, speaking wisdom from his heart. “LORD, let me know my end, And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Behold, you have made my days like hand widths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Certainly, all mankind standing is a mere breath. Selah Certainly every person walks around as a fleeting shadow; They certainly make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them. And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:4-7. David’s broke his silence in the best way possible, by his humble prayer to God. He would not speak of his fears and doubts before his enemies, but he would pour them out before His God. Here David asked God for wisdom, specifically, the wisdom to know the shortness and the frailty of his life, that he may know how frail he actually was. He understands since life is so short, the only real meaning of a man or woman’s existence must be in his relationship to God.

Next in the next verse he continues. “Save me from all my wrongdoings; Do not make me an object of reproach for the foolish. “He accepts the fact that his sins are the reason for his troubles and sorrows. If his transgressions were forgiven, he felt assured that his trouble would be removed. His first petition, therefore, was that his sins would be forgiven, believing that it would be consistent and proper for God to remove his troubles and deliver him from the evils he was going through. He recognized his sins were the source of all his troubles. If his transgressions were forgiven, he felt assured that his suffering would end.

Then we come to our -Verse of the Week. “Remove Your plague from me; because of the opposition of your hand, I am perishing.” Psalm 39:10. There is one word in this verse that will help see what David is saying to God, and that word is ‘plague’. This word is not referring to a disease, but an act of discipline, strokes as in a spanking. In the Hebrew language, this seems to be a figure taken from combating gladiators. One is wounded so that he cannot continue fighting. David is unable to maintain the fight, so he gives in and prays for God to spare his life. I am conquered; I can hold the contest no longer. In the next verse, David says, “With rebukes You punish a person for wrongdoing; You consume like a moth what is precious to him; Certainly, all mankind is mere breath! Selah” Psalm 39:11. Because of his sin David was punished.

David has now come to understand the nature of man and his own powerlessness too well not to know that he is incapable of achieving that goal without God’s help. Thus, he prays that God may relieve him from the force of his hand which punished him and presses heavily upon him. We read from chapter 90 the following. “For we have been consumed by Your anger, And we have been terrified by Your wrath.” Psalm 90:7. It is only when the knowledge of the transient nature of man is considered under the aspect of God’s punishment of human guilt that it leads to the realization of that contrast between God and man which imparts to the fact of death the character of an inescapable fate, of God’s judgment on sin.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

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