We continue today in the Psalms. We begin with Psalm 39, which is believed to have been written very late in David’s life. He begins by addressing the human condition when it comes to anger. He has the desire to not sin with his tongue through hasty or angry words (39:1). And though for a time he is able to bridle his tongue, it is his heart that is the issue (v. 2). Eventually, he cannot help himself and he speaks in anger (v. 3). This is something we are all familiar with. We all get to the point where, as Popeye would say: “that’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!”
This leads David to mull the human condition. David prays that God would help him remember how temporary this world is, including the physical lifespan of man (v. 4). Compared to God, we are nothing; we are but a “mere breath” v. 5). This word “breath” is the same word Solomon would use in Ecclesiastes that we usually translate as “vanity.” David likens us to a shadow. For no reason (again, the word for “vanity”) we suffer, and for no reason we seek earthly goods (v. 6).
In verse 7, David directs himself to the only good he truly has in this life. He asks God, in essence: why do we (humans) do this? What’s more, he asks, why do we believers do this when our hope is in You alone? So David repents (v. 8), accepts God’s rebuke (v. 9), and prays for mercy (v. 10). He ends the Psalm with acknowledging that God lovingly disciplines those He loves (see Rev 3:19), sometimes by removing the vain things from him (v. 11), and with a final prayer of repentance and plea for forgiveness (vv. 12-13).
Psalm 40 is a prayer for deliverance (vv. 11-17) based on God’s previous deliverance of David (vv. 1-10). David begins by telling how God heard his prayers and answered in His perfect time (40:1). God took David out of worldly troubles by establishing him firmly in God (v. 2). For what He has done, David will praise Him; for what He has done, many will believe (v. 3). And those who do are blessed by God for their faith (v. 4). God has done so much for His elect – what only He could do – and they are more than can be told (v. 5)!
In verses 6-8, David shows his understanding of the Old Testament religion of the saints. The outward acts were never what God wanted (v. 6). Rather, He gives His own ears to hear (v. 6), so they understand His Word (v. 7), and are able to obey Him (v. 8). David speaking of something being written about him in the Word may be a reference to the commands about kings in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. But there is more here. These verses are ascribed to Christ in Hebrews 10:5-7. David is actually prophesying about his promised greater Son that will sit on his throne. It is Christ Who the Old Testament Scriptures testify to (Luke 25:44). It is Christ Who perfectly delighted to do God’s will and Who fulfilled the law.
David then declares that he has told of God’s deliverance (the word in Hebrew is actually “righteousness”) among God’s people (v. 9). David did not take what God has done for him and keep it for himself! He told of God’s salvation (v. 10). Note that David parallels faithfulness and salvation with faithfulness and hesed love. That love is God’s salvation.
In verse 11, David now turns from all God has done for him, to a prayer for deliverance again. David know that God’s faithfulness and hesed love he just praised Him for does not reach its end. David is once again in need of deliverance (v. 12). But it is deliverance from his own sin! David prays for God to take delight in delivering him again (v. 13), and prays that those who see his sin and his shame and rejoice over it will be the ones shamed (vv. 14-15). David ends with a prayer that all who are like him – all who seek God for salvation – would tell of God’s goodness to them (v. 16), because God is the deliverer of His people (v. 17).
Psalm 41 includes some of the themes from Psalms 39 and 40. David begins by talking of the blessing of following the true religious requirements of God (41:1 – see James 1:27). Those who do are those who are preserved and delivered by God (vv. 2-3). David then prays again a prayer of repentance (v. 4), and laments those who take joy in his suffering because of his sin (vv. 5-7). There are echoes of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar in the description of such people in verses 8-9.
David then prays another prayer for forgiveness (v. 10), and expresses his faith that God will forgive and restore him (v. 11). In verse 12, the same man who just admitted to sin says that God upholds him for his integrity. It is the word for “blamelessness.” Though David sins, God still considers him blameless and allows him in His presence! Why? Because God is gracious (v. 4, 10), and chose David (v. 11). For this, David praises YHWH, the unchangeable God Who is Who He is from eternity past and forever (v. 13).