The psalmist displays some of the hypersensitivity typical of the sick. He feels neglected and avoided: "My friends and companions stay away . . . and my relatives keep far from me" (v. 12). He feels cut off from people. Words fail him. "I am like one who does not hear and has nothing to say" (v. 15). However, there is a ray of light that dispels the darkness of his gloomy mood. He is not alone. God is with him and God knows of his misery: "O Lord, You know what I need and my pain is not hidden from You" (v. 10).

The crisis has brought him closer to God: "I wait for You, O God, You will answer, my God ... Hasten to help me, O God, my deliverer" (v. 16, 23).

Reflection: Guilt
The psalmist comes through as a thoroughly honest and sincere person without a shred of self-righteousness. He is ill and in pain and believes that his suffering is punishment for his sins. Deserted by friends and family and maligned by enemies, he makes no defense for himself. He is too worn out to argue. He acts as though deaf and keeps silent (v. 13-15). Among his detractors are persons for whom he once did favors, and now they "repay evil for good" (v. 21). Rather than trying to restore his former reputation and status in the community, he warns, above all, to be right with God: "God, all my desire is before You" (v. 10). For this purpose he makes full confession of his failings, sins, and foolishness, counting on God for relief from his burden of guild. "For in You, O God, I hope; You will answer" (v. 16).

Not many have tolerance for criticism. They don't want to hear about their faults. They resent so-called guilt trips. But how can we hope to correct and reform our ways unless we confront what's wrong with us? Benjamin Franklin said we should be grateful to our enemies for telling us our faults.

The psalmist shows courage in coping with guilt. He recognizes all the wrong within him and shows remorse for his misdeeds. Finally, somewhat relieved by his confession, he throws himself upon the mercy of God: "Forsake me not, O God ... be not far from me. Hasten to help me, O God, my deliverer" (v. 22-23).


Psalm 39
For the Leader, for Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

I said: 'I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep a curb upon my mouth, while the wicked is before me.'
I was dumb with silence; I held my peace, had no comfort; and my pain was held in check.
My heart waxed hot within me; while I was musing, the fire kindled; then spoke I with my tongue:

'Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; let me know how short-lived I am.
Behold, Thou hast made my days as hand-breadths; and mine age is as nothing before Thee; surely every man at his best estate is altogether vanity. Selah
Surely man walketh as a mere semblance; surely for vanity they are in turmoil;
he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.

And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope, it is in Thee.
Deliver me from all my transgressions; make me not the reproach of the base.
I am dumb, I open not my mouth; because Thou hast done it.
Remove Thy stroke from off me; I am consumed by the blow of Thy hand.
With rebukes dost Thou chasten man for iniquity, and like a moth Thou makest his beauty to consume away; surely every man is vanity. Selah

Hear my prayer, O HaShem, and give ear unto my cry; keep not silence at my tears; for I am a stranger with Thee, a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
Look away from me, that I may take comfort, before I go hence, and be no more.'

Is Life Worth Living?
How do you face death--not somebody else's, but your own? Do you remember when you first came to grips with the thought of your death? While young, the idea of dying scarcely occurs to us, and if it does, we quickly put it out of our mind. But later in life, events force us to reckon seriously with our mortality. It dawns upon us how much of an endangered species we are. We realize that our life hangs on a thin thread.

We do not know what triggered the psalmist's shocked recognition of the brevity of life. Was it a narrow escape from danger/ A health crisis? The loss of a dear one? Whatever the cause, he first reacted with stunned silence: "I was dumb with silence.. My heart was in turmoil" (v. 3, 4). He did not dare say aloud what was on his mind, lest his words encourage the godless in their cynicism: "I will hold my tongue in the presence of the wicked" (v. 2).