Psalm 39: Responding to the Discipline of God
While this is not necessarily a Father’s Day sermon there is a sense in which I can more fully understand Psalm 39 because I have a good dad. Psalm 39 is a response to the discipline of God. The discipline of God is often misunderstood but the Scriptures are clear that God’s discipline is motivated by His love for us and His desire to see us grow in holiness (Hebrews 12:7-11). This is a truth that I can more fully understand because I have a dad who modeled loving discipline.
In Psalm 39 we have David during a time when he’s experiencing God’s discipline but he doesn’t necessary see it as loving; quite frankly, he’s frustrated by it. In the Psalm we hear some of that frustration as David responds to God’s discipline. David trusts God, but he’s also very honest about the severity of God’s discipline and his desire for relief.
Psalm Summary: God loves us and God hates sin. When we are in sin God will discipline us and do what he must in order to bring us back. When we experience His discipline we must guard ourselves from anger or the temptation to curse God. Instead, we must humbly seek forgiveness and remember that He is good and He is our only hope.
After listening to the sermon consider using this reading plan to further meditate on the content of the message.
Day One: Psalm 39
Take time to read the Psalm that we considered on Sunday. The notes from the message are available on our website. In the Psalm David expresses his frustration with God’s discipline, especially as he considers it in conjunction with the brevity and seeming futility of life. As you read consider this: have you ever found yourself conflicted over God’s plan for your life? Does life seem too short, somewhat meaningless or overly vexing as a result of God’s discipline? While David’s thoughts and attitudes are not all exemplary, there are some things that can be learned: First, David was careful not to question God’s actions in the presence of unbelievers; he didn’t want others to distrust God because of his testimony (vs. 1-2). Second, when David does speak out, he goes to God directly. Although God is the object of his frustration he recognizes that God is the One who is in control and that He is the only true source of hope (vs. 7). Third, David recognizes that his suffering is a result of his own sin and he is willing to repent. On the whole the Psalm should help us as we consider how we respond to God’s discipline. We should also be quick to remember that while God’s discipline is painful, it is also loving and purposeful (Hebrews 12:7-11).
Day Two: Ecclesiastes 1 and 12:13-14
In Psalm 39 David expresses his frustration over the brevity and seeming futility of life; this very frustration is what the book of Ecclesiastes is built on (Ecclesiastes is authored by David’s son, Solomon). In chapter 1 Solomon lays out his thesis for the book and helps the reader understand his perspective of life on earth. In 1:1-11 he explains his frustrations: The world is on a seemingly endless repeat (generations coming and going, the sun rising and setting, the wind blowing in circuit around the world, the rivers flowing to the sea) and yet man comes and goes and is forgotten. As people we live day in and day out, working and trying to accumulate things but they are all temporary and fleeting. In verses 12-18 Solomon speaks from a more personal perspective: he has lived and observed life from a unique position; he is a king and a man with great wisdom. He is committed to the pursuit of understanding life and yet the more he learns the more it seems frustratingly puzzling. Much of the book fleshes out the ‘problems’ described in chapter one and provides some secondary conclusions (as you have time you should read the entire book). However, Solomon’s primary conclusion is stated in the final two verses of the book (12:13-14): The meaning of life is found in fearing and obeying God. Without God life will seem brief and futile, but knowing God and living His way provides purpose and meaning.
Day Three: Job 7
In Psalm 39 David expresses some of his frustrations with the nature of life and God’s discipline. In the book of Job there are several chapters in which Job lays out similar points of disagreement with the way God has designed life. Job is specifically incensed with God’s enactment of discipline and judgment. Job 7 is an extended complaint and in some ways sounds a lot like the complaints of Ecclesiastes: man monotonously works day in and day without much to show for it except pain and weariness. Life is short and yet God has allowed this short life to be filled with sorrow and the burden of His discipline. The readings for the next two days will provide some resolution but before getting there take time to consider the brutal honesty of Job and how clearly he describes his plight. Chapters like Job 7 are good reminders that our questions and disappointments are not unique and that we are not alone in being tempted to question God’s plans. Additionally, we should be willing to express our doubts and questions to God. But, even as we contemplate these things we must also acknowledge God’s sovereignty and wisdom – more on this in the next two readings.
Day Four: Job 38
In yesterday’s reading we heard Job expressing his questions and frustrations with God’s plan and the way He deals with mankind. Job 38 is the first of several chapters in which God answers Job, but not in the way one might expect. Instead of addressing Job’s questions directly God responds with a more general reminder of who He is as the completely sovereign, all-wise and eternal God. In many ways Job 38 can be summarized by what Paul says in Romans 9:20: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” While there are many cases in which God lovingly explains His ways to us, He is under no obligation. God is God and everything He does is good and right; all his works are governed by His wisdom and are consistent with His holiness. This should encourage us to ask some questions: in what ways do we assume that we know better than God? In what areas of life have we convinced ourselves that we are more knowledgeable than God?
Day Five: Job 42
In Job 42 we read the conclusion of the extended conversation between Job and God. In Job 7 we heard Job’s complaint and in Job 38 we heard God’s response; in Job 42:1-6 we have Job’s confession that he was wrong to question God and his humble submission to God’s instruction. In the remainder of the chapter we learn of God’s treatment of Job’s friends (who offered poor counsel to Job throughout his suffering) (42:7-9) and then we are told how God restores and blesses Job (42:10-17). There are many implications to the story of Job that we won’t consider here, but for now let’s learn from Job’s repentance and humility. As we are tempted to question God we must be willing to repent of our pride and humbly submit to God’s wisdom and care.
Day Six: Psalm 40
Read Psalm 40 in preparation for our service on Sunday. As you read ask yourself these questions: What does this Psalm teach us about God? What does this Psalm teach us about ourselves? Also, take time to write down questions that you have about the Psalm, then come on Sunday and listen for answers to those questiions.