Psalm 39 - Enigma and Brevity of Life




[New International Version] Psalm 39 belongs to Book I of the Book of Psalms. In this supplication, the Psalmist describes his experience of suffering and refers to the shortness of life compared to the greatness of God’s eternity.

The PS 39 belong to Book I of the Book of PS composed of a collection of texts 150 arranged by 5 poetry books. The Book of Psalms, for its wisdom and basic principles of human action , is considered the heart of the Old Testament. Book I encompasses Psalms 1 to 41 . The PS 39 is divided into 14 verses.

The Psalms are poems-prayers addressed to God, being the privileged way to address and speak to Him. These prayers represent human experiences and religious conscience . They portray the common man , with his faults, insecurities, fears and hopes and, even today, we can identify with the Psalmist and draw inspiration from these texts to pray and plead with God when we feel lost and anguished or to express our gratitude for some blessing received.

“There are enemies or friends, there is life or death, health or illness, pain or joy and, most of the time, there are no changes or gradations. Words are like stones and poetry like boulders carved by chisel”; “The Psalms are a bit like mountain paths, simple, especially when walking on snow, but they lead to the peaks; they are paths toward the peaks of meeting the Lord.” - Carlo Maria Martini, Cardinal of Milan

Psalm 39 - Enigma and Brevity of Life

1  To the director. To Jedutun. Psalm of David .

2  I said to myself, “I will watch over my conduct, that I may
not sin with my tongue; I will

restrain my mouth,
while the evildoer stands before me.”

3 I  remained silent, silent, but to no avail,
for my pain was further aggravated.

4  My heart burned in my chest;
my murmurs fanned the fire more,
until my tongue exclaimed:

5  “O Lord, make known to me my end
and the number of my days,
that I may recognize how fleeting I am.”

6  A few spans of the way from you to my days,
and my existence is like nothing before you,
every human being is a breath that is standing.

7  Indeed, it is in the shadow that man moves;
it is because of an illusion that he is agitated: he
piles up riches, but he does not know who will collect them.

8  And now, Lord, what can I wait for?
My hope is placed in you.

9  Deliver me from all my guilt;
do not make me a derision to the fool.

10  I was silent and I won’t even open my mouth,
because everything is your doing.

11 Take  away your punishments from me;
with the hardness of your hand, I am undone.

12  It is by punishing their faults
that You educate the human being.

Like the moth, you destroy what he cherishes most,
for man is but a breath.

13  Hear, O Lord, my prayer
and answer my cry of supplication;
do not be insensitive to my tears.

For I am like an outsider living with you,
a guest, like all my ancestors.

14  Looks away from me, so I can breathe,
before I walk away and cease to exist.

Meaning and interpretation

The Psalm 39 is a single prayer of supplication . The Psalmist describes his experience of suffering and draws from it the conclusion that his life seems to him extremely fleeting , without thereby falling into complete and desperate pessimism.

The feeling of brevity in life comes from the awareness of high desires and expectations and above all from the confrontation with the greatness of God’s eternity .

The Psalms of Supplication are very present in the Book of Psalms. They speak of human frailty and the most basic feelings of your mortal condition. Times of peace and plenty contrast with war and individual or community destruction. The Psalmist pleads for God’s help and asks him to end his situation of affliction , ending with the certainty of having been heard .

In spiritual practice, the supplication and request to God reflects a lot the meaning of prayer, being the privileged way to establish contact and raise the voice to the Divine. In numerous Psalms, supplication seems to be the most immediate motivation and the greatest concern. When turning to God, the speaker / Psalmist finds tenderness, justice, compassion, reconciliation, purification, in short, peace itself.

The narratives and feelings involved in these prayers are varied and basic; affect Humanity over the millennia, and are still current today. They reflect multiple interior , individual and collective experiences, and the relationship between people and peoples. They address topics such as the deadly threat of disease, persecution, aging, violence, war, betrayal, loneliness, enemy aggression and how these feelings alter consciousness we have of ourselves, of our relationship with others and with God.

Situations that prompt supplication can be bitter and desperate , but the Psalms generally express a state of mind of trust and end in thanksgiving . The Psalmist cries out to God for his help and forgiveness in a profound expression of limitless trust in divine compassion and justice. Even the cry of the Psalmist is already a fighting speech, change will, of inner transformation, confidence and hope for a free future evil, the suffering and the wicked .

The Psalms of Supplication they are classified as individual supplication and collective supplication. Those of Individual Supplication comprise Psalm 3; 5-7; 13; 17; 22; 26; 27; 28; 31; 35; 39; 42-43; 51; 54-57; 59; 61; 63; 64; 69-71; 88; 102; 109; 120; 130; 140-143. and those of  Collective Supplication Ps 12; 44; 58; 60; 74; 80; 83; 85; 90; 94; 108; 123; 127.

The Book of Psalms

The Joy and Happiness of the Righteous in Communion with God

The Psalms are prayer-poems addressed to God, being the privileged way to address and speak with Him. Depicting the common man , with his failures, insecurities, fears and hopes, we can still identify with the Psalmist and be inspired today in Psalms to make prayers and supplications to God in times of trouble or express our gratitude for some blessing received.

The Psalms, despite being written in Antiquity, still move , sensitize , awaken feelings , inspire and enchant . In them, we can identify anguish and joy , deeply human feelings, praises, supplications, teachings of reflection on spiritual wisdom and prophetic words.

Written for different situations , some Psalms are intimate, revealing the author’s personal relationship with God; others provide guidelines and advice for life, others are compositions for specific liturgical events such as rituals and pilgrimages.

The Book of Psalms is composed of a collection of 150 poetic texts and is divided into five parts, called Psalm Books or Booklets. Each Book closes with short hymns of praise to God . The division into five parts was considered to correspond to the five books of Moses and it is assumed that each passage in the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible, called Torah by the Jews) was read in parallel with the corresponding Psalm. Its main forms are lamentation , supplication , praise and gratitude .

The Power of Prayer in Dialogue with the Divine

The Psalms elevate our thoughts to the Divine and prayer is the power of the word . Prayer is the language of faith. Any thought, word or image addressed to God is called prayer . It is through it that we come into contact with our God within and, therefore, it is so powerful in transforming life . Prayer can produce miracles , turn dreams into reality, give us hope for change , harmony and peace with ourselves and the world.

Each Psalm has an intention that helps us meditate and walk with our God . For many theologians, the Book of Psalms has a prophetic or messianic tone as its verses refer to the coming of Christ into the world of men to guide them through the uncertainty and doubts of Human existence.

The prayer has the power to call the Spiritual Universe full mode, honest, sincere, conscious, for the purpose of spiritual self-protection, family protection and those who are dear to us, to have peace of mind, spiritual and physical, for prosperity and success, to protect health and relationships, to ward off negative energies and, above all, to connect us to something bigger than ourselves. From this peace , well-being, hope and goodness in front of everyone and everything result.

The faith can change our lives. It gives us tranquility and spiritual strength to face challenges. It helps us to meditate on our mission in life and to create a balanced and healthy environment for ourselves and those we love. When you pray, fill your heart with love and determination . The Psalms will guide you on a path of peace and communion with the higher energy .