February 28: Psalm 39

February 28: Psalm 39

Awareness of sin                               Morecambe (Spirit of God, Descend Upon my Heart), p. 190
Penitentia (Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face), p. 199

“I will take heed and guard my ways,” I said, “so that my tongue no sinful word shall stain;

As with a bridle I will keep my mouth, while in my presence wicked men remain.”

In silence dumb I ceased from speaking good; my heart within was hot, my sorrow stirred;

And while I mused the fire began to burn; then spake I with my tongue this earnest word:

“My end, O Lord, and measure of my days make me to know, and thus my frailty see.

Lo, Thou hast made my days a handbreadth long; my life is but a mere breath unto Thee.

“Each man at best is altogether vain. Each man doth surely walk in empty show;

They heap up wealth and vex themselves for naught, nor know to whom their garnered riches go.

“And now, O Lord, what am I waiting for? My expectation ever is in Thee;

Deliver me from all my sinfulness; the scorn of foolish men O make not me.

“Yes, I was dumb; I opened not my mouth, because this work was done at Thy command.

But now remove Thy stroke away from me; I am consumed beneath Thy smiting hand.

“Thou with rebukes dost chasten man for sin; his beauty fades beneath the touch of death;

His wealth as by a moth is all consumed, Oh, surely every man is but a breath.

“Lord, hear my prayers; heed Thou my cry and tears; a stranger here I pass as all before.

O spare me that I may recover strength before I go away and am no more.”

It is imperative to rid ourselves of the common notion that true worship must invariably be festive, and that notion certainly is common nowadays. Because Jesus our Lord has definitely triumphed over sin, suffering, and death, it is probably natural and certainly understandable that some Christians would reach the conclusion that sentiments of sadness, feelings of discouragement, despondency and dereliction have no proper place in Christian worship. But who among us never sees a day when all is darkness? If we do not venerate in the valleys, we will not be praying at all times, as Holy Scripture bids us do. If we are to follow that injunction, then, it is important to learn the ways of workday prayer, worship down in the valleys. That is to say, we must find a prayer appropriate to those times when we do not enjoy the broad vista and brighter view. This is the reason that the Book of Psalms contains the likes of Psalm 39. This is a valley supplication and one of the very few psalms ending on a tenebrous note. God permits us to say such things to Him, for these sentiments of profound despondency are also part of Sacred Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit. “Hope that is seen is not hope,” says Paul in Romans 8:24, and here below, in the valley, on the workday, our prayer of hope must strive with other voices rising from our hearts. But these honest voices too can be our prayer: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (Reardon, p.75-76)

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