"LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am."
In the previous Psalm, David had been dealing with the terrible consequences of his sins. He had confessed them and found God’s forgiveness. But he is still down and needs support from those around him. Yet it seems according to Psalm 39, that instead of words of encouragement from his friends and associates, he finds out that people are gossiping and slandering him. Also, his enemies are using this as an opportunity to tear him down.
David’s first response in dealing with this is to keep silent. To keep his mouth shut and not try to defend himself or argue with those who are maligning him. But while he kept silent (v. 2), his heart began to burn with anger, worry and fear. Do you ever feel this way? For years I’ve heard it said that Christians are the only ones who shoot their wounded. How sad! It should be just the opposite with love, support and grace given to those who have fallen and need help getting back up (Galatians 6:1-5).
Not only was David silent, but he also became despondent, and he turned to the LORD in prayer (v. 4). When we find ourselves burying our true feelings and creating physical and emotional pain for ourselves, then it's time to talk to the Lord and seek His help. David knew that life was short and that the days would pass swiftly; he also knew that he was frail and that one day would die. He began to measure his days (Psalm 90:12; 119:84) and saw that they were but a handbreadth (four fingers) and his age nothing in God's sight. (See Psalm 90:1-11.)
"Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor." (v. 5). In OKJV, it reads, “is altogether vanity”. This sounds like a statement from Ecclesiastes by David's son Solomon. David repeated the thought in verse 11, “…Surely every man is vapor (or vanity)”. The Hebrew word translated "vanity" means "a breath, emptiness" (see Psalm 62:9; 144:4; Job 14:2; Eccl. 6:12). Maybe James had this passage in mind when he wrote James 4:14; “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” The best description for “vanity” is trying to capture a beautiful rainbow colored soap bubble that the children blow and when you touch it, it disappears!
In verse 6, David compared life to an "empty show," with shadow people bustling about, trying to get rich. Busy for what? Wealthy for what? Years later, Solomon raised the same questions in Ecclesiastes 2:18-19: “Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.”
Life is swift, life is short, and for most people, life is futile. In modern vocabulary, people are living for the image and not the reality. We are busy and overwhelmed with the tyranny of the urgent and forgetting what is really important. And if we are not careful, we will look back over our lives and realize that we never really accomplished anything significant.
Yesterday in my message at Friendly Community, I shared this quote: “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” My friend, a life with purpose is a life that is lived to glorify God. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Today, does your life feel empty without meaning? Or, are you living a life of purpose and significance that is always glorifying our great God, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?