Controlling our tongues in times of trial…Psalm 39


Has God ever allowed you to go through a trial that just seems too difficult? Too hard? Maybe you are experiencing this right now — as we speak. In your heart, you know that is God in control, that He is allowing you to experience this pain so that you will cry out to Him. But maybe the pain is causing you to doubt if God is really there.

What not to do…(1)

Believers should never bring complaint against God in the presence of the wicked.

Psalm 39:1

I said, “I will guard my ways,
   that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
   so long as the wicked are in my presence.”

How wrong it would be to go to work and complain about the trials that God has placed in our lives! The Lord chastens us because he loves us — because He wants us to be “partakers of his holiness.” If didn’t chasten us, we would be bastards and not sons (Hebrews 12).

So that being said, how wrong would it be for a believer to express discontent with God in the presence of unbelievers? What a terrible reflection of the God’s glory that would be!Actually, it wouldn’t just be a poor reflection of God’s glory — it would detract from the reflection of the Glory of God upon this earth! It would be the polar opposite of “Christ magnified in my body whether by life or by death.”

David calls it sin.

That’s why he refused to bring a complaint against God in the presence of the wicked. He took great measures to ensure that he would not damage the name of YHWH.

He desperately wants to cry out to God in complaint, but the presence of the wicked coupled with his desire to protect the name of YHWH prevent him from doing so.

What not to do…(2) 

Psalm 39:2-3

I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,

While the believer should never voice complaints about trials from God while in the presence of unbelievers, the believer also should never refrain from expressing hurt altogether.

The Psalmist held his peace even from good. In other words, he blocked everyone out and refused to speak — not to fellow believers in YHWH, not to YHWH himself. Even if there were no believers with whom he could share his burden, he could always cry out to his very present help in the time of need, his rock, his fortress, his strong-tower. But the intense pain of the trial caused him to shut everyone out — even God.

The result wasn’t solice from the storm — it was more pain.

His sorrow was stirred.

His heart was hot within him.

He felt as though his inward parts were ablaze with unquenchable fires.

What to do…

Instead of trying to distance himself from God and other believers, and instead of bringing complaint against God in the presence of unbelievers, the believer should honestly cry out to God for comfort during trials.

Psalm 39:5-13

5Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
   and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!
                         Selah

 6Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
   man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

 7“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
    My hope is in you.
8Deliver 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.
11When 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

 12 “Hear my prayer, O LORD,
   and give ear to my cry;
   hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
   a guest, like all my fathers.
13 Look away from me, that I may smile again,
   before I depart and am no more!”

The trial and discipline from the Lord were in response to David’s own personal sin. God brought him to a place where he saw just how short life was — he felt like his moments were like a “handbreath” (roughly 1/9th of a yard) and like a “shaddow.” The trial caused him to understand that life was dear to him — it was as though God were a moth eating what was dear to David, i.e. his life. The trial brought David to the place where he cries out My hope is in you.

May we join him there today with the understanding that amidst trials, our only hope is God!

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  1. #1 by Nicole on December 10, 2007 - 7:52 pm

    What a beautiful understanding of this passage! Thanks Dave!

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