Psalm 39:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 2. I was dumb with silence. He was as strictly speechless as if he had been tongueless -- not a word escaped him. He was as silent as the dumb. I held my peace, even from good. Neither bad nor good escaped his lips. Perhaps he feared that if he began to talk at all, he would be sure to speak amiss, and, therefore, he totally abstained. It was an easy, safe, and effectual way of avoiding sin, if it did not involve a neglect of the duty which he owed to God to speak well of his name. Our divine Lord was silent before the wicked, but not altogether so, for before Pontius Pilate he witnessed a good confession, and asserted his kingdom. A sound course of action may be pushed to the extreme, and become a fault. And my sorrow was stirred. Inward grief was made to work and ferment by want of vent. The pent up floods are swollen and agitated. Utterance is the natural outlet for the heart's anguish, and silence is, therefore, both an aggravation of the evil and a barrier against its cure. In such a case the resolve to hold one's peace needs powerful backing, and even this is most likely to give way when grief rushes upon the soul. Before a flood gathering in force and foaming for outlet the strongest banks are likely to be swept away. Nature may do her best to silence the expression of discontent, but unless grace comes to her rescue, she will be sure to succumb.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 2. I was dumb with silence, etc. That is, for a while I did what I resolved; I was so long wholly silent, that I seemed in a manner to be dumb, and not able to speak. I held my peace, even from good; that is, I forbore to speak what I might well and lawfully enough have spoken, as from alleging anything that I might have said in mine own defence, from making my complaint to God, and desiring justice at his hands, and such like; to wit, lest by degrees I should have been brought to utter anything that was evil, and whilst I intended only to speak that which was good, some unseemly word might suddenly slip from me; or lest mine enemies should misconstrue anything I spake. Arthur Jackson.

Verse 2. I was dumb with silence. We shall enquire what kind of dumbness or silence this of the psalmist was, which he is commended for, and which would so well beseem us when we smart under the rod of God, and then the doctrine will be, in a great measure, evident by its own light. We shall proceed to our inquiry,

  1. Negatively, to prevent mistakes.
  2. Positively, and show you what it doth import. First, negatively.
  3. This dumbness doth not import any such thing, as if the prophet had been brought to that pass that he had nothing to say to God by way of prayer and supplication. He was not so dumb, but that he could pray and cry too. Psalms 39:8 Psalms 39:10-11 .
  4. Nor was he so dumb, as that he could not frame to the confession and bewailing of his sins.
  5. Nor was it a dumbness of stupidity and senselessness. It doth not imply any such thing, as if by degrees he grew to that pass, he cared not for, or made no matter of his affliction, but set, as the proverb is, an hard heart against his hard hap. No, he did make his moan to God, and as he smarted, so he did lament under the sense of his afflicting hand.
  6. Neither was he so dumb as not to answer God's voice in the rod that was upon him.
  7. Much less was he dumb, and kept silence in any such sort as they did of whom Amos speaks Amos 6:10 , that in their misery they took up a resolution to mention the name of God no more, in whom they had gloried formerly. Secondly, affirmatively.
  8. He was dumb so as neither to complain of, nor quarrel with God's providence, nor to entertain any hard thoughts against him. Complain to God he did; but against him he durst not.
  9. He neither did nor durst quarrel, or fall out with the ways of holiness for all his sufferings, a thing we are naturally prone unto.
  10. He was dumb, so as not to defend himself, or justify his own ways before God, as if they were righteous, and he had not deserved what he suffered.
  11. He was dumb, so as to hearken to the voice of the rod. "I will (saith he in another place) hear what God the Lord will speak." Psalms 85:8 . Now a man cannot listen to another while he will have all the talk and discourse to himself.
  12. Lastly, the prophet was dumb, that is, he did acquiesce, and rest satisfied with God's dispensation; and that not only as good, but as best. Condensed from a Funeral Sermon by Thomas Burroughes, B.D., entitled, "A Sovereign Remedy for all kinds of Grief,"

Verse 2. I held my peace. A Christian being asked what fruit he had by Christ: Is not this fruit, said he, not to be moved at your reproaches? In cases of this nature, we must refer all to God; si tu tacueris, Deus loquitur; if thou hold thy peace, God speaks for thee; and if God speaks for us, it is better than we can speak for yourselves. David saith, Obmutui, quia tu fecisti. I held my peace, for it was thy doing. Christopher Sutton, B.D., -- 1629, in Disce Vicere.

Verse 2-9. An invalid who had been ordered a couple of pills, took them very absurdly, for, in place of swallowing them at once, he rolled them about in his mouth, ground them to pieces, and so tasted their full bitterness. Gotthold was present, and thus mused. The insults and calumnies of a slanderer and adversary are bitter pills, and all do not understand the art of swallowing without chewing them. To the Christian, however, they are wholesome in many ways. They remind him of his guilt, they try his meekness and patience, they show him what he needs to guard against, and at last they redound to his honour and glory in the sight of him for whose sake they were endured. In respect of the pills of slander, however, as well as the others, it is advisable not to roll them about continually in our minds, or judge of them according to the flesh, and the world's opinion. This will only increase their bitterness, spread the savour of it to the tongue, and fill the heart with proportional enmity. The true way is to swallow, keep silence, and forget. We must inwardly devour our grief, and say, I will be dumb, and not open my mouth, because thou didst it. The best antidotes to the bitterness of slander, are the sweet promises and consolations of Scripture, of which not the least is this, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven." Matthew 5:11-12 . Alas, my God! how hard it is to swallow the pills of obloquy, to bless them that curse me, to do good to them that hate me, and to pray for them that despitefully use me! But, Lord, as thou wilt have it so, give it as thou wilt have it, for it is a matter in which, without thy grace, I can do nothing! Christian Scriver.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 1-2. I was dumb, etc.

  1. There is a time to be silent. He had been enabled to do this when reproached and unjustly accused by others. He did it for good; others might attribute it to sullenness, or pride, or timidity, or conscious guilt; but he did it for good. Breathe upon a polished mirror and it will evaporate and leave it brighter than before; endeavour to wipe it off, and the mark will remain.
  2. There is a time to meditate in silence. The greater the silence without, often the greater commotion within. "His heart was hot." The more he thought, the warmer he grew. The fire of pity and compassion, the fire of love, the fire of holy zeal burned within him.
  3. There is a time to speak. "Then spake I." The time to speak is when the truth is clear and strong in the mind, and the feeling of the truth is burning in the heart. The emotions burst forth as from a volcano. Jeremiah 20:8-9 . The language should always be a faithful representation of the mind and the heart. G. Rogers, Tutor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle College.

Verse 2. There is a sevenfold silence.

  1. A stoical silence.
  2. A politic silence.
  3. A foolish silence.
  4. A sullen silence.
  5. A forced silence.
  6. A despairing silence.
  7. A prudent, a holy, a gracious silence.

Thomas Brooks' "Mute Christian."