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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Psalms 39



Verses 1-13

This Psalm gives a description of David’s experience and conduct when stretched upon a sick-bed. He appears to have felt impatience working within him, which I am sorry to say is a very common disease with most of us when God’s hand is heavy upon us. Yet David struggled against his impatience, though he felt it, he would not know it, lest he should thereby open the mouths of his enemies, and cause them to speak evil of his God. Let us imitate his restraint if we resemble him in the temptation to impatience.

Psalms 39:1. I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue:--

This government of the tongue is a most important part of our ways; it in a very essential part of holy discipline, yet we have heard of one saint who said that he had lived for seventy years, and had tried to control his tongue, but that he had only begun to understand the art when he died. David said, “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue;”-

Psalms 39:1. I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.

They have such quick ears, and they are so ready to misinterpret and misrepresent our words, and if they can find one word awry, they will straightway preach a long sermon over it, so let us muzzle our mouths while they are near. The ill words of Christians often make texts for sinners, and thus God is blasphemed out of the mouths of his own beloved children. Let it not be so with any of you, beloved.

Psalms 39:2. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred.

We all know that, unless our grief can find expression, it swells and grows till our heart is ready to break. We have heard of a wise physician who bade a man in great trouble weep as much as ever he could. “Do not restrain your grief,” he said, “but let it all out.” He felt that only in that way would the poor sufferer’s heart be kept from breaking. David determined that, before the wicked, he would have nothing at all to say, and though his griefs were surging within him, yet for a time he kept them from bursting out.

Psalms 39:3. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,

He could not hold his peace any longer; it would have been well if he had done so, for he uttered an unwise prayer when be spake with his tongue.

Psalms 39:4. LORD, make me to know mine end,

That is what you and I are apt to say when we get into a little trouble; we want to die, and get away from it all. We say that we long to be with Christ, but I am afraid that it is often only a lazy wish to share the spoils of victory without fighting the battle, to receive the saints’ wages without doing the saints’ work, and to enter into heaven without the toils and dangers of the pilgrims’ way. Perhaps this has been the case with us sometimes when we have thought that our aspirations were of the best and holiest kind. When David prayed, “Lord, make me to know mine end,” his prayer was not a very wise one, but the next sentences were not quite so foolish:--

Psalms 39:4. And the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.

Oh, that we could all know how frail we are! But we reckon upon living for years when we have scarcely many more minutes left, we think our life’s hour-glass is full when the sands have almost run out, and although the hand of God’s great clock may be upon the striking-point, we think our brief hour has but just begun.

Psalms 39:5. Behold, thou hast made my days as, an handbreadth;

This is a very common measure, the breadth of the human hand; and David says that this span is the measure of his life. Some here must surely have spent a great part of that handbreadth; let them and all of us be prepared to meet our God when that short span’s limit is reached.

Psalms 39:5. And mine age is as nothing before thee:

It is an incalculably tiny speck when compared with the immeasurable age of the Eternal: “Mine age is as nothing before thee.” When Alcibiades boasted of his great estates, the philosopher brought him a map of the world, and said to him, “Can you find your estates on this map?” Even Athens itself was but as a pin’s point; where, then, were the estates of Alcibiades? Nowhere to be seen. So, when we see the great map of eternity spread out before us, where is the whole of this world’s history? It is but a speck, and where then, are your life and mine? They are as nothing before God.

Psalms 39:5. Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.

Then what must he be at his worst state

Psalms 39:6. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain:

They fret, and fume, and flurry, and worry, and all about what? About nothing. We sometimes say, “It will be all the same a hundred years hence.” Ah! but it will be all the same much sooner than that, when the six feet of earth shall be all our heritage.

Psalms 39:6. He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.

“Bethink thee,” says an old writer, “every time thou dost lock up thy money in a box, how soon death shall lock thee up in thy coffin.” Some men seem to be like our children’s money-boxes, into which money is put, but they must be broken before any can come out. To some men, how sad must be the thought that they have been accumulating wealth all their days, and they know not for whom they have been gathering it! A stranger may, perhaps, inherit it; or if their own kith and kin shall get it, they may squander it just as thoroughly as the misers hoarded it.

Psalms 39:7. And now, Lord,-

If all earthly things are nothing but emptiness,-

Psalms 39:7.What wait I for?

“I wait for nothing here, for there is nothing here to wait for.”

Psalms 39:7. My hope is in thee.

Ah! this hope makes life worth living. Now that we hope in God, now that we know that there remaineth another and a better world than this world of shadows, life is invested with true solemnity.

Psalms 39:8-9. 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.

It is always a blessed reason for resignation when we can say of any bereavement or affliction, “The Lord has done it.” Shall he not do as he wills with his own? Then let us say, with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Psalms 39:10-12. 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. Selah. Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears:

Tears have ever had great prevalence with God. Christ used these sacred weapons when, “with strong crying and tears,” he prayed to his Father in Gethsemane, “and we heard in that he feared.” Sinner, there is such potency in a penitent’s tears that thou mayest prevail with God if thou wilt come to him weeping over thy sin, and pleading the precious blood of Christ. Thy tears cannot merit heaven, or wash away thy sins, but if thou dost penitently grieve over them, and trust in the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, thy tearful prayers shall have a gracious answer of peace. Mr. Bunyan describes the City of Mansoul as sending Mr. Wet-eyes as one of her ambassadors to the Prince Emanuel, and he is still a most acceptable ambassador to the King of kings. He who knows how to weep his heart out at the foot of the cross shall not be long without finding mercy. Tears are diamonds that God loves to behold.

Psalms 39:12. For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.

“I am not a stranger to thee, O my God! Blessed be thy holy name, I know thee well; but ‘I am a stranger with thee.’ Thou art a stranger in shine own world, and so am I. The world knows thee not, and the world knows me not; and when I act as thou actest, the world hateth me even as it hateth thee.”

Psalms 39:13. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 39:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.

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