Psalm 39

The Word Made Fresh

(To Jeduthun, the worship leader. A psalm of David.)

1I said, “I will be careful what I say so that my tongue will not sin.
I will muzzle my mouth when the wicked are within earshot.”
2And so, I was quiet and still and held my peace.
But it was to no avail and the distress I felt grew even worse.
3I could feel the heat rising inside me,
burning while I pondered my situation.
But then I spoke my concerns aloud to God.
4I said, “LORD, tell me the outcome of this.
How much longer do I have?
Tell me how close I am to losing my life.
5You have given me a short time to live,
and I know that means little to you
because we all live from one breath to the next.
6We all walk around as mere shadows,
and suffer for next to nothing.
We pile up our belongings
with no idea who will have them in the end.
7So, what am I waiting for, LORD?
You are my hope.
8Rescue me from all my mistakes
and don’t let me become a fool that others scorn.
9I’ll be quiet. I’ll try to keep my mouth shut
because you’re the one who has done this.
10I beg you to spare me your blows
because they have worn me out.
11You punish us mere mortals for our sins,
chewing away at our skin like a moth.
We are all a breath away from the end.
12Hear my prayer, LORD. Hear my cries.
Don’t respond to my tears with silence.
I’m just passing through like a foreigner, like my ancestors.
13Don’t just look at me!
Let me be happy again before my life ends!”


Superscription: three of the psalms (39, 62, 77) mention Jeduthun, a musician in the early religious organization at Jerusalem (see 1 Chronicles 16:42, 25:1-3). This is the 35th of the Davidic psalms.

1-3: The psalm is a prayer for forgiveness and rescue. In these verses the situation is described: he didn’t speak up for himself and as a result his detractors made things worse for him.

4-6: Now he appeals to God, acknowledging his lowliness (and the lowliness of the whole human race!).

7-11: He asks for God to deliver him; indeed, he thinks God is responsible for his suffering! It is a common sentiment in the psalms that when you are suffering you must have done something to deserve it. Therefore, it is proper to confess your sins and ask for forgiveness if you want God to help you. It is a good lesson; in our culture we have lost the art of self-examination. We automatically assume that our troubles are always someone else’s fault.

12-13: A heartfelt prayer for deliverance is raised for God to relax the withering stares of accusation. First admit your shortcomings, ask for forgiveness, and only then are you in a position to pray for rescue. That’s a good formula.


We are shocked at the blunt honesty of this little psalm. Do we dare challenge God when we feel we are being overly punished for something we have done that we know we shouldn’t have done? Yes! God can take it. Of all the psalms we have studied so far, this one is refreshing for its blunt honesty. That is the kind of relationship we all should have with God.