A Psalm of David.

This is again a psalm of David, Israel’s great shepherd-king. Again, it is written during a time when David was stricken by God with illness, as we have seen in the previous psalms.
1.  I said, “I will guard my ways,

This word “guard,” according to the Companion Bible, can also mean “observe” or “keep.” David was going to keep a close watch over his own ways. He was going to observe closely what he was doing. Many in our day could use to keep such a watch over their ways, particularly with the consideration that God knows all that they are doing. Alas, far too few give such thoughts any consideration!

Lest I sin with my tongue;

David is particularly going to guard his ways so that he will not sin with his tongue. It is all too easy to sin in the things we say. Words can slip out, sometimes without our meaning them to, and we cannot take them back. In the things we say and the attitudes we express with our words, we can certainly sin. The same thing is assured;y true of the things we write, even over e-mail or the Internet. How damaging and sinful words can truly be!

I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle,

David plans on putting such a close guard on his mouth that it will be as if he is muzzled like an animal. Of course, he does not mean this literally, but this is his determination regarding his consideration of his own words.

While the wicked are before me.”

Now we learn that this determination he has is particularly when he is faced with lawless men. While these stand before him, he is determined not to sin. How difficult it can be sometimes, even as God’s people, when we have to stand face-to-face with the wicked, not to sin, perhaps out of anger, as we stand before them. David is determined that he is not going to do this.

2.  I was mute with silence,

Having described his own resolution, David now describes how this worked out when he actually faced these wicked men. He was silent, as if he were mute. He was keeping his tongue as with a muzzle, even as he had said.

I held my peace even from good;

Not only did David not speak sinful words as he faced these wicked men, but it seems he did not speak good words either. In his determination not to sin with his mouth, it seems he found he could not speak at all!

And my sorrow was stirred up.

This whole confrontation brought sorrow to David’s heart. He found no joy in facing off with these wicked men. The fact that he kept from sinning with his words seems to have brought him no satisfaction.

3.  My heart was hot within me;

David’s inner being is stirred up, as if it were hot within him. This whole situation is producing great emotions in his heart.

While I was musing, the fire burned.

We can almost imagine David sitting before a fire musing on a winter’s night, and feeling a heat in his heart to match the fire before him. This is beautiful Hebrew poetry, coming through even into our English translation.

Then I spoke with my tongue:

At last, David finds his voice and speaks. He does not speak to the wicked, for they are long gone. Rather, he speaks to the LORD.

4.  “LORD, make me to know my end,

David speaks to the LORD, and requests that he might know his own end. This seems a strange request, but remember that he had just faced off with wicked men, his enemies. No doubt he fears for his life, but perhaps he also sees how these lawless men who have stood before him have no thought for their own death, and what the kind of lives they have led will mean in the life to come.

And what is the measure of my days,

David requests to know the measure of his own days. This is something that we generally do not know in this life. Our future seems to stretch out before us, until something happens to make us fear that our end has come. Perhaps we would live different, better lives if we had an idea of what the measure of them would be!

That I may know how frail I am.

The reason he asks to know this is so that he can know how frail he truly is. Indeed, it is hard to live in pride when you know of your own immanent death!

5.  “Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths,

A handbreadth is a very short measurement of distance indeed. Look at the breadth of your own hand. It is said the average handbreadth is about six inches, or half a foot. David realizes that his days are short, just like a handbreadth. Looking back on it, around three thousand years since the time of David, we can see that his time was short indeed!

And my age is as nothing before You;

Before the LORD, this short little age we attain to is as nothing indeed. What are our few years compared to His unlimited existence?

Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah

We tend to be proud, and think so much of ourselves. Yet when compared to God, our state is like that of vapor, simply passing away into nothing. This is what David considered as he mused before the LORD.

6.  “Surely every man walks about like a shadow;

We walk around, doing what seems to us to be important matters. Yet how like a shadow passing by we are! The imprint we leave on things is as nothing. Time goes on and on, and every trace of our existence is all but gone.

Surely they busy themselves in vain;

We like to make ourselves busy, yet what do we work so diligently for? “Vain” here does not mean “proud,” as the modern word has come to mean, but just “empty.” All the things we labor for are just empty and vain.

He heaps up riches,

From our labors, we heap up riches for ourselves. That is the point of much of the work we do.

And does not know who will gather them.

What good does all our wealth do us? We could die tomorrow, and who would gather our riches then? This kind of labor has no ultimate reward.

7.  “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? 

This is a good question for all of us to ask ourselves. Just what is it that we wait for? All week long we work, and wait for Friday. In the winter, we wait for the summer. In the summer, we wait for Christmas. We wait for new movies and entertainment. Many wait for things that will never come to pass. Many wait for things that when they come do not satisfy. What things are we waiting for?

My hope is in You.

Here is the answer to what we should wait for. If we are waiting upon the LORD (again it is “Yahweh” here but the ancient Sopherim changed it to “Adonai,”) then we are waiting upon that which will not disappoint. Our expectation is truly in Him. He is the One worth waiting for!
8.  “Deliver me from all my transgressions;

These are the things David was waiting upon the LORD for. He asks to be delivered from all His transgressions. David had committed transgressions during his lifetime. Now, as I said above, he was suffering illness because of them. Therefore, he looks to the LORD to deliver him from these. Thank God that we have Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us to deliver us from all our sins! And someday, we will be delivered from this body of sin and death, and be delivered from our transgressions indeed. What a thing worth waiting for!

Do not make me the reproach of the foolish.

David does not wish that, in suffering for his own sins, he will become a source of reproaching God to the foolish. This is always something that can happen when the righteous transgress. The foolish, those who have given up on living rightly and have become morally corrupt, will justify their ways and reproach God when they see those who stand up for Him caught in transgressions. Even today David’s sin is a source of reproach to many such. David prays that the LORD will keep him from being such a source of reproach. Indeed, once David’s transgressions are removed for good, when he is raised from the dead and placed in the office God has prepared for him, then the foolish will never dare to reproach the LORD for what David did in the past. Then, his transgressions will be a reproach no longer.

9.  “I was mute, I did not open my mouth,

Remember, this was all said in the light of David’s confrontation with the wicked back in verses 1-2. Now, in his lament to the LORD, he returns to the topic of this confrontation he had just gone through.

Because it was You who did it.

It was the LORD who had caused David not to speak before his enemies. It was not just that the “cat got his tongue,” as the expression goes, or that he could not think of anything to say. The LORD had held him back from speaking, perhaps by this illness that He had placed upon him.

10.  “Remove Your plague from me;

David now calls upon the LORD to remove this plague from him. He wishes to be delivered from this punishment. And, as we saw in previous psalms, the LORD did do this. David’s prayer, given by inspiration, was answered.

I am consumed by the blow of Your hand.

David was just being consumed away by the blow of God’s hand upon him. Bullinger suggests that this word “blow” should be translated “pressure.” The LORD’s hand was putting great pressure upon David, and he pleads to be delivered from it.

11.  “When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity,

Now David speaks generally of the LORD’s rebukes that correct man for iniquity. Of course, he had particularly in mind his own situation, but now he is speaking generally of whenever the LORD does this. In our day, however, we live under the dispensation of God’s grace. His policy towards men is to act always in grace towards us. He does not rebuke us for iniquity. The rebuke for our sin will occur in the future, when we face God in judgment.

You make his beauty melt away like a moth;

When the LORD did act in rebuke, it would make a man’s beauty melt away like a moth. Remember, we had the picture of David sitting before a fire musing on these things, and then bursting out with his soliloquy to the LORD. Perhaps even as he spoke he saw a moth fly too close to the fire and melt away. David felt like he could identify with that moth, as the LORD’s wrath melted away all his own physical attractiveness, and left him in appearance as a poor wretch, wasted by disease.

Surely every man is vapor.  Selah

Again David repeats his refrain that every man is like a vapor. He was experiencing that in his own life due to the heavy hand of God against him.

David uses this Hebrew word Selah here to connect the LORD’s rebuke with the prayer unto Him that it produced from David’s heart.

12.  “Hear my prayer, O LORD,

Now David calls upon the LORD to hear his prayer in the suffering he was enduring. “Hear” means not just to listen to the sounds, of course, but also to respond to them and to act upon what He heard.

And give ear to my cry;

David repeats this for emphasis. He wants the LORD to give ear to the cry he made unto Him.

Do not be silent at my tears;

Now he states this in the opposite way, saying what he does NOT want. He doesn’t want the LORD to be silent at his tears. He wants the LORD to react to his sorrow.

For I am a stranger with You,

David was born and raised and lived as a king in the land of Israel. He would not have been considered a stranger or sojourner, just passing through the land, to his fellow Israelites. Yet to Yahweh, Who owns the land forever, David’s time there was just like a foreigner passing through. He was there now, but soon would be gone.

A sojourner, as all my fathers were.

Like all his fathers, David too would remain in the land but a short time in the sight of Yahweh. None of them lived long enough to be considered anything permanent in the land. This is a good thing for us to think about, for none of us are here for very long. Do we have hope in the life to come? For our time here is very short.

13.  “Remove Your gaze from me, that I may regain strength,

David calls upon the LORD to remove His gaze from him. He knew that the LORD’s eye upon him in punishment was causing all this grief he was going through. Thus, he asks to be removed from the LORD’s accusing gaze. He knows that if the LORD will end his rebuke, he will soon regain his strength. Bullinger suggests “regain strength” should be “brighten up.” It was the LORD’s anger that had caused his heavy heart. Yes, it makes us brighten up indeed to know that Yahweh has forgiven our sins!

Before I go away and am no more.”

David requests this deliverance before his illness causes his own death, as he expresses it in this poetic way. We know that the LORD granted this request, for David did not die from illness at this time, but lived to serve the LORD for some time to come.

To the Chief Musician.

This psalm was again dedicated to the Chief Musician for public use, probably again once David had come through this illness, and the LORD had removed His rebuke from him, as he requested. Now, we can all learn from David’s cry to the LORD in his own time of suffering and helplessness before the wicked.