Shutting Up Now

Psalm 39

Sometimes we don’t pray about something because either don’t know how to pray or don’t want to say wrong thing. But on occasion, just too big to hold in – too important, too frustrating, too many questions. Silence even with good intentions becomes unbearable. Perhaps with not as much fear and trembling as would be really good, we turn to God. Begin to pray; when finally come up for breath, think: “uh-oh, did I say too much, did I say wrong thing, did I just make it all worse; now really gonna be silent.”

But silence is brief, the aha’s start coming. Notice what’s happened: cried out to God for answers and the process of praying has begun to reveal answers to questions. As it should, praying to God draws one closer to God. By aid of Holy Spirit one praying helped to think more of God’s thoughts, understand God and self better, maybe realize questions that seemed so important were wrong ones. Other things brought to forefront while praying take on far greater significance. Just like “when I get to heaven I’m going to ask God about…”; realize after arrival not only is answer not important, even question is no longer relevant.

Key question here seems to be one that keeps coming up: why do the wicked prosper? Strongly implied in that – why do the righteous, in contrast, suffer? Doesn’t seem just! fair!! right!!! In fact, here’s how scenario looks: really bad guys not only get away with their evil deeds, prosper in them; basically good guys (the righteous) get beat on, sometimes even by God (all right, it’s justified), every day’s a struggle. Is that backward, upside down, or what?

A. not gonna say it v.1-3

In verses 1-2 David shuts his mouth and refrains from speaking out of fear of sinning by his words. Barrick

people might take it the wrong way / people might use it the wrong way (1)

might interpret frustration as with God rather than the situation, think believer is being critical of God

could be understood as lack of faith, wavering of trust in God

wisely seeks to refrain from saying what could in future be used against him, come back to bite him – you want me to do what….remember when you….

about to learn what James had discovered – wild horse can be tamed easier than tongue

I might say the wrong thing / I’ll play it safe (2)

“if you can’t say something good, don’t say anything”; even if thinking what is not good, shouldn’t compound it by speaking

even goes beyond that, could say something good but refrains

does so while frustration / emotional distress over perceived situation builds

best intentions aren’t enough / some things shouldn’t be suppressed (3)

“The friction of inward thoughts produced an intense mental heat. The door of his heart was shut, and with the fire of sorrow burning within, the chamber of his soul soon grew unbearable with heat. Silence is an awful thing for a sufferer, it is the surest method to produce madness. Mourner, tell your sorrow; do it first and most fully to God, but even to pour it out before some wise and godly friend is far from being wasted breath.” CHS

B. if I don’t vent, I’ll explode v.4-8

I have to ask – what’s the point? what’s the whole purpose in all of this?

and, btw, how much longer do I have to endure this indignity? I’m ready to die anytime – like Elijah? Jonah? or one who is truly at limit of endurance?

valid to question what the meaning is in what we do – does it have purpose, will it advance Christ’s kingdom

life is short, I get that / know I don’t have forever (4)

funerals are hard but helpful – good reminders of preciousness/brevity of life

within framework of that perspective we are encouraged to make most of each opportunity – situation, moment, day

2x Paul instructs: “walk circumspectly, …redeeming the time”; not surprising given biblical emphasis on stewardship

compared to You, man doesn’t amount to anything (5)

early on, process of prayer has begun to change direction of thought – no longer contrast between righteous and wicked

focus turns, at least in part, to God – his transcendent eternality compared to man’s finite existence

excellent place for a Selah; meditate on God as eternal, immense, self-existing – man in comparison just momentary breath

but what’s the point of what we do? just “make work” work? (6)

doesn’t appear even lifetime of effort accomplishes any lasting change; shadow passes over something, leaves it unaltered, so with people

even those who do accomplish something do so not knowing who will reap reward

who benefits from Pavarotti’s singing, Dorsey’s playing, Steinbeck’s writing, Homer’s painting, Wright’s architecture

shouldn’t put confidence in stuff / God is only reliable hope (7)

not even really sure what comes next! kind of prayed in a circle, ummm….

obviously, source of answers and hope isn’t stuff; can’t take it with you, isn’t always helpful in this life

only sensible reliable object of hope / faith is God; again, gaze lifted from horizontal to vertical, assessing self and circumstances in light of God rather than others

oh boy, now I’m really in trouble; begin to more fully understand sinfulness (8)

whether particular sinfulness responsible for present dilemma or not, still needs forgiveness

asks for two things: no longer be a reproach to God on own account, by his circumstances not give wicked cause to dishonor God

C. shutting up now, again v.9

but for a different reason

In verse 9 David is silent because he now understands how God has been working behind the scenes. Barrick

recognizes God’s wise providential governing of his creatures – things are the way they are because God has so ordered it

ok, it’s your purpose more than enemies’ that I should be concerned about

if God is sovereign, these circumstances part of his plan, he is wise, no cause to fret or be frustrated

if God is good, my circumstances part of his plan, can trust him to do what is right

if God is all-powerful, activities of enemies part of his plan, can have confidence he will bring about conclusion that glorifies himself and grows his children

when we know it’s God working his plan, don’t have to know all answers

know from his word what his “big” purpose is; don’t have adequate minds to grasp all individual details

good to seek out God’s purpose for us individually when he is pleased to reveal, otherwise, don’t pry

D. now I get it v.10-11

I see my error, your hand, please show mercy (10)

acquiescing to God’s hand in trials / correction does not prevent from pleading for mercy

God’s purpose is to destroy sin in his child, not destroy his child

purpose in praying for relief not to minimize seriousness of sin; simply to express limits of human endurance

you take away what I think is important, of significance and value (11)

sometimes the route discipline / instruction needs to take

You discipline a man with punishment for sin, consuming like a moth what is precious to him;” HCSB

especially when things that should be secondary take place belonging to God – position, possessions, etc.

when we fail to account for transitory nature of what world values, God demonstrates in plain terms

when we resist God’s corrective actions, he may resort to force – if we don’t re-focus willingly on him, he’ll take everything else away leaving no alternative

again, good place for a Selah; not only is man momentary breath, his works even don’t endure; consider how gracious God is to teach that lesson this side of heaven

E. now I see v.12-13

and replace it with what really is of significance – You

God doesn’t simply take away, leave emptiness behind; remember Jesus’ story – demon leaves, comes back, finds house swept clean, gets 7 demons more wicked and returns (Matt. 12:43-45)

God always fills up emptiness with what has true value, will endure and satisfy forever – himself

this world is not my home, shouldn’t try to lay up treasure here (12)

strangers and exiles here – not our native land, not our true home although is temporary residence

has value, just not ultimate value; are to be good stewards of temporal possessions, the planet, etc. but….

should manage resources God has entrusted to us so ROI has eternal significance

don’t look at me in anger, I want to enjoy your presence (13)

focused once again on what is of genuine value

life is short, want the rest of it spent knowing there is no hindrance to fellowship with God

Can we safely ask God “why?” Yes, if done in right spirit. If with anger or frustration directed at God and implied accusation that he’s doing it wrong, be prepared for consequences. If with sincere questioning spirit, desire to know God and his ways better, be confident he will enable you to understand what will be most helpful. Remember, also, if this life is all there is – belief of many in our world – it all really is empty and meaningless. We believe differently, must make every opportunity count for Christ, stay in constant communication with him.

“It should be our deep desire that our last days should be our best, and that as life fades our faith should more exalt the praises of our God. For this we need increase of grace. May we be so strengthened that our departing steps may show the upward path, and allure beholders to follow our example!” Henry Law


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