1 "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."
2 I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse.
3 My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:
4 "O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!
5 Behold, 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
6 Surely 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.
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
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!"
When something, or better, someone, bothers us, sometimes the first thing we want to do is tell them what we think. Our opinion, right or wrong, seems right to us and is the very thing we think they need to hear. The more we think about the issue that needs to be dealt with the more we boil inside. “Someone”, we fume, “needs to do something about it…now!”
I’ve heard Psalm 39:1 quoted for many years. David was facing an issue, most likely a person, who needed to be corrected. We might say they needed to be “told off”. It may have been King Saul while chasing David through the wilderness. Whoever and whatever it was, it made David’s blood hot and his first reaction was to pray that he didn’t sin by blowing his stack and popping off his mouth. So he prayed that he would not sin with his tongue.
In my mind I watch David walk outside and ponder, contemplating just how important the issue that consumed him really was in light of the brevity of life. When he considered eternity, it was lost among God's timeless wonder.
That’s when David cried out, “O LORD, make me know my end…the measure of my days…how fleeting I am…you have made my days a few handbreadths…my lifetime is as nothing before you…all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Italics mine). He presses the pause button, closing with his infamous “Selah.” Pause. Reflect. Mull it over. And as he does, his hotheadedness, this heated desire to make a wrong thing right surfaces as trivial hodgepodge. It light of his time on earth the matter was lost among things that matter most. In eternity it doesn’t even register.
“You have made my days a few handbreadths.” Hold your hand up and look at it. The average width of a man’s hand is four inches. The Psalmist suggests that a few (maybe three) widths of your hand represent the span of your life. Now consider all the space around your hand; the space in the room, outside the room, the air, the atmosphere, the universe. Your whole life on earth is but a speck when compared with eternity.
Now consider the thing that’s ignited your emotions and triggered your tongue. It’s doubtful you will even remember it later in life, much less in heaven. For this reason, I see David hanging his head in disbelief at his attitude. He concludes, “O Lord, for what do I wait?” What was I thinking! I’ve allowed this thing (or person) to consume my thoughts, my heart, and my words. I’m waiting to correct a situation that doesn’t even matter that much!
This God seeker apprehends his heart and draws himself back to where he belongs. “My hope is in YOU” (caps mine). I’ve been a fool, says David, placing so much importance on such a trifling matter! Early on the king saw the issue as gigantic, now he replies, “Deliver ME from all MY transgressions. Do not make ME the scorn of the fool!” (Caps mine).
Someone spoke against me; people gripe about work; no one is willing to help; jealousy abounds among family we love. I’ve experienced any number of things unsettle my heart and cause me to strategize as to how I should deal with situations. In the breadth of life, however, it’s a mere fragment. And in eternity it will not even appear on the radar. The only thing that changed by chewing on the issue was the attitude of my heart. And that was for worse.
Today I ask: All my days considered, how important is the thing that causes my temper to grow hot, that triggers my tongue to speak words that only hurt my spirit and wound those around me? Is my hope in wrong things being made right or in God!
Prayer: Lord, draw me to yourself today. Bring the light of your presence so close to me that everything that causes me to lose my peace vanishes in the light of your glory. Because I’m close to you, it disappears before me, too.
Help me have a right heart when I deal with wrong people. Grant me the right words, your words, that I might not say a right thing in a wrong way and at the wrong time. If I need to bring correction, give me the heart of a tender servant, guiding people rather than driving them. O Lord, while living my life on earth give me grace to keep my eyes on what really matters in this life and in eternity. Amen.
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