And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions; Make me not the reproach of the foolish. I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, Because it is You who have done it. Remove Your plague from me; Because of the opposition of Your hand I am perishing. With reproofs You chasten a man for iniquity; You consume as a moth what is precious to him; Surely every man is a mere breath. Psalm 39:7-11
This Psalm of David describes a time of deep despair. Here we see David, a man sought by God “after His own heart,” and the one appointed by Him to be “ruler over His people,” suffering from profound depression (1 Sam13:14). David is meditating on the vanity of life and its brevity. Perhaps you also know the darkness that is so overwhelming that words become suffocated deep in one’s throat. Perhaps you also know the feelings that are too intense to be explained in words. The abyss of darkness is too deep for light to penetrate. Life feels aimless and all in which one hoped becomes vain. The tormenting forces of darkness are so overbearing that one chooses to be silent for fear of sinning. Faced with that deep despair, all vanities of life lose their luster.
Feeling persecuted, David keeps silent. He is too afraid and troubled to open his mouth. He knows that even his good words will be used against him. David does not want to give any ammunition to the enemy to condemn him. In the midst of this despair, David knows that God is sovereign. He feels insignificant and helpless, a transitory creature before an all-powerful and eternal God. He realizes that his life is as short as a mere breath. “And all this pain for what?” he asks.
David believes that God is disciplining him. Not only that, it seems to him that God is consuming all that he values in this world. He is realizing that all he depended on has proven to be empty and passing. None of his sources of strength and comfort can stand before the disciplining hand of God. He is begging God to remove the plague of darkness that has engulfed him. He is reminding God of his human frailty and the fact that he will soon perish if God does not show him mercy. He knows that the enemy would not have any power over him unless the forces travel through the fingers of God to reach Him. God is the source of terror and his only source of hope at the same time, and the only one to whom it is worth appealing.
The turning point, and the revealing verse in this psalm is v.7: “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee.” David has reached a point of wisdom that he knows there is no point in clinging to any of his worldly hopes and hanging on to his fleshly ways. He is reminding God that He is David’s only hope in life, and David is waiting for no one else but God to save him from his despair.
He is begging God to cleanse him of his transgressions that they may not be a stumbling block toward his healing. He is asking God to remove the guilt and shame so that he may not become “the reproach of the foolish.” David knows that this is the Lord’s business: to save, to heal and to restore.
Finally the reader of this psalm sees that all that despair was not meaningless and without purpose. It was to make David recognize the futility of all else but the Lord. It was in the depth of despair that David realized his “end,” and how “transient” his life was (v.4). He came to understand that “every man walks about as a phantom,” and makes “an uproar for nothing” (v.6). David’s despair was the route that God took him to teach him wisdom—a rough and a dark road pointing to the true Light! Having been enlightened, David clings to God as he travels through darkness. Deep within his soul, David is being transformed and graced with wisdom.