Thursday, November 04, 2010

Psalm 39: Seething desperate self-silencing

When one reads a Psalm, one must first ask why the psalmist wrote it.
Sometimes, as in Psalm 51, one knows: David was feeling guilty about  murdering Uriah so he wrote Psalm 51.
Other psalms have enough references and clues within their verses to make us know what they're referring to. Some are historical, some are prophetic, some are messianic, some are worship songs. But then there are some psalms which makes a reader wonder.... uhmmmmm

Okay, Psalm 39 is one of those. (I have a gut feeling this psalm was written about Joab. Yeah, there is absolutely no reason why I should think so. But hey this is my blog...so I'll take my premise and run with it. Because...yeah, that's how I roll.)

So David writes this song and gives it to Jeduthun (also known as Ethan, the choir master.) And it's a song about silence. A bitter praise song. YES!!!! Communal praise songs to God can be bitter.

Now, here is the odd thing. We are all told that a religious person knows how to hold his/her tongue and that control of the tongue is one of the high marks of spirituality. But there are also instances in the Bible where some holy person tries to hold his tongue and ends up in this situation. They seethe and seethe and get desperate. The words they don't speak become like fire in their bones. Either they have to let it out in some way or they end up like David in this psalm. And, hey, David finally let it out in the psalm didn't he. Sure he didn't come right out and say "I am supremely pissed because I am stuck with Joab (or someone equally wicked) beside me ...but he managed to get his anger said.

It starts out with this resolve: I'm gonna watch myself and I'm gonna be really good because God is doing something odd in my life. So am gonna watch this tongue of mine. Even when wicked people are near me, I am simply not gonna say anything. No blaming of others, no blaming of myself, no praising of others, no praising of myself, no complaining or murmuring about God to God in prayer, no complaining to others about God. No jesting, arguing, defending, self-defending, asking for anything, demanding. Just major silence.

May I say this is a very dangerous way to go?

(ESV) Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

(KJV) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

(LITV) "Be angry but do not sin;" do not let the sun go down on your wrath.

(NASB) BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

(NLT) And "don't sin by letting anger control you." Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry,


But apparently, fasting from speech (without being angry) is something a religious person should go through once in a while. A fasting from words so to speak.

So what does this self-silencing do? First it makes him so angry that the fire inside his bones got worse and worse and at last it leads to him pondering death. Isn't that always the way?

Silencing one's self is a scary thing. The urge to speak -- about one's sorrows, about one's sins, about the stupidity of other people, about one's own stupidity -- is a hard one to overcome.  And when the self-silencing occurs because God has rebuked you!!! Oh my! Dear Lord! What to do?

It's a bit like Job when God spoke to him out of the whirlwind: "I cover myself with ashes and dust. If I spoke I won't speak anymore."

Perhaps James, Peter, and John felt the same way when God spoke to them on the mount of transfiguration: "This is my beloved son, hear him!"

Perhaps this is the way Ezekiel felt when he was silent for seven (or was it ten? I forgot)days after he saw the vision of the living creatures and got his commission.

There is a painful harrowing when one sees man's evil, our own evil, other folks' evil, God's goodness. And if one adds an inability to speak or a committment to not speak...one can only reflect on one's mortality. Sure, one wants God to rend the heavens and come down. But one is also aware that if God tears the heavens, one also must be broken as well.

Somehow, being able to speak makes us fool ourselves as to our own importance and influence. But what can one do when one realizes one's human words are valueless in the large scheme of things. Others can do your work. Your words are not that powerful and insightful. Your defense of God is not needed. Your self-defense against God ain't gonna work.

I think one of these days -- not anytime soon, of course-- I'm gonna attempt to keep a fast of silence. I will not challenge stupid folks on the internet. I will not ask God to forgive me for my sins. I will not praise friend or insult foe. I will endure this silence and see how I come out of it. No navel-gazing, mind you. I will just go around the world being silent. Will see what happens.

Honestly, I do not like King David at all. But his psalms always show such insight. (Perhaps cause the holy spirit was helping him.) God bless, all. -C



<< Psalm 39 >>
King James Version

1<even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David.>> 

I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.2I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred.
3My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,
4LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.
5Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.
6Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth upriches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
7And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.
8Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.
9I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.
10Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.
11When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah.
12Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I ama stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
13O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.



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