TLIC Psalms. March 22. Look Away from Me.

Read Psalm 39. 1I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” 2I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse. 3My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: 4“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! 5Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! 6Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! 7“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. 8Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool! 9I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. 10Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand. 11When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath! 12“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers. 13Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!”

This psalm sounds like it escaped from Ecclesiastes and made its way into the psalter. The psalmist can acknowledge his sin (deliver me from all my transgressions) and his frailty (fleeting, nothing, mere breath), but also protests the hostile hand of the Lord upon him (remove your stroke, you consume).

Have you ever wrestled with God in this way? “Yes, I’m a sinner, a mere vapor, and I deserve nothing. But God, what you’re putting me through is heavy handed, cruel even, especially considering how weak I already am. I tried to keep my mouth shut and I just got angrier and angrier at you. Look away from me. Go bother someone else. Please just leave me alone.”    

The good news is that the Bible doesn’t shy away from these most desperate of prayers. God allows them. God records them. And God understands them. At his trial leading to the cross Jesus too was mute and silent. He muzzled himself in the presence of his enemies. And, like the psalmist, his distress only grew worse and worse. Did anger burn inside of him? Likely so. But as Jesus cried out from the cross questioning his God forsakenness, he refused to pray look away. He never asked God to stop crushing him lest he depart and become no more. He went all the way into Hell and death and back again for us. And now to live is Christ means that we can feel the heavy hand of God without losing hope, always trusting that it is his beloved children that he disciplines.  

Prayer. Jesus, you will never look away from me, leave me, or forsake me. Help me to trust in the loving discipline of our Father on my darkest days. Amen.


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