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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Psalms 39

Verses 1-13

Psalms 39:0 closes this series of fifteen Psalms by bringing before us in a very vivid way the contrast between human frailty and divine power, human sin and divine holiness. The first six verses seem to stand together and the Psalmist shows the utter emptiness of life without God. I trust that everyone of us realizes that. The old hymn is true:

“I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,

But ah, their waters failed.

E’en as I stooped to drink they fled

And mocked me as I wailed.”

But at last the blessed Lord in grace took us up and we found the difference of the life in fellowship with God.

The pleasures lost I sadly mourned,

But never wept for Thee,

Till grace my sightless eyes received

Thy loveliness to see.

“Now none but Christ can satisfy,

None other name for me;

There’s love and life and lasting joy,

Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”

So here we find this Old Testament believer-and it was David himself-learning the same lesson, the emptiness of life without God; and then the fullness of life when one knows God and lives in fellowship with Him. Look at those first six verses, “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. 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.” God wants us to muse. To muse is to think, and God is seeking to get men to think. The prodigal never took a step toward his father until he sat down to think. We read, “He came to himself.” The devil tries to keep people from musing, from thinking. Take that word so common today, “amusement.” People are amusement crazy. The devil has all kinds of schemes to amuse people. Cut that word up, “Muse”-to think. “A-muse”-not to think. The “A” there is the negative, and it simply means this, to stop thinking. That is why the theaters are crowded; that is why people love the dance; that is why people go to all these ungodly things of the world-to keep from thinking. If the devil can keep people from thinking, he will have them all doomed and damned eventually. But God wants us to think. His Word is a challenge to us to think. David says, “I thought on my ways.” Now he is musing, “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.” It is a good thing to meditate along that line. People do not like to think of death; they do not like to think of an abrupt termination of life.

“Life at best is very brief,

Like the falling of a leaf,

Like the binding of a sheaf,

Be in time.

Fairest flowers soon decay,

Youth and beauty pass away,

Oh, ye have not long to stay,

Be in time.”

People do not like to be reminded of the shortness of life. David says, I sat down to think of it: how frail I am; how short a time I may have here, but I want my life to tell for the Lord; I want to do my very best for God. “Behold, Thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before Thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.” What a pitiable thing to have no hope beyond this life!

Beginning with verse 7 and going on to the end of the Psalm he changes to the other side of things and shows us that everything worth-while is found in God Himself. “And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in Thee.” I know that things of this world can never satisfy this poor heart of mine, but my hope, my confidence, and my trust are in Thee. “Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish. I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because Thou didst it.” When discipline came because of sin, he bowed his head and said, it is all right; it is the hand of God, and I deserve it. I accept it and trust it may be blessed to me, but if it please God to give deliverance, I will rejoice in His goodness.

“Remove Thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of Thine hand. When Thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, Thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not Thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner [a pilgrim].” I have only a little while to spend in this world, God help me to spend it for Thee, is what he is saying. Help me to live so that when I leave this scene behind I will realize it was well worth-while that I was permitted to glorify Thee when I was down in the world.

“O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.” That Hebrew expression translated, “spare me” is a significant one. Literally it might be rendered, “Look away from me, that I may recover strength.” Do you remember in another place we read, “Look upon the face of Thine anointed,” and so we link that with this, for as David realizes his own weakness, his own frailty, his own infirmity he exclaims, “Look away from me,” for he sees that there is nothing in him to commend him to God. If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalms 130:3). There would be nothing but eternal judgment for me, but look away from me: look on the face of Thine anointed and accept me in Him. And that is exactly what God does. “He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

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Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Psalms 39". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.