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One test of a good father = How well do you discipline your children? By discipline I don’t just mean the actual spanking itself (the execution of the appropriate punishment for the given infraction)… I mean much more than that. Discipline refers to the entire process of training and correcting and nurturing in right behavior.

Cf. inconsistent discipline of the best human father with the perfect discipline of our Heavenly Father;

Why don’t we appreciate it like we should? One of the difficulties is that His discipline is often stretched out over time rather than packaged in quick, neat bundles…often we cannot interpret His purposes when we are in the midst of the process.

Def. of Discipline: A father’s loving use of pain coupled with instruction and nurturing to correct some area of sin, weakness, or immaturity.

Connection to Suffering and Sin

cf. Job — not always related to sin (but it is here in David’s case)

The Instruments God uses to apply His discipline to our lives:

1) Circumstances = health, finances, job satisfaction and security

2) People = especially those over us in authority where we must submit to unfair treatment and from whom we cannot easily escape

We need to learn how to correctly respond to the Discipline of the Lord

cf. historical situation of David — starts out Psalm 39 in the pits of Sullen Despair


A. A Perspective of Unfairness

We think initially that our suffering is undeserved or out of proportion — especially in light of the prosperity of the wicked

The first step to recovery is admitting that God’s discipline is at work — and it is at work because we deserve it

B. Reliance on Self-Effort Rather than the Grace of God

“I will watch my ways”

“I will keep my tongue from sin”

“I will put a muzzle on my mouth”

cf. admirable New Year’s Day resolutions

James 3 — we cannot even control our tongue

C. Sullen Silence is Never Productive; It always makes things Worse

1. Worse in terms of our testimony before others

“not even saying anything good”

2. Worse in terms of our own heart condition

sullen silence boiling over in anger

D. Sullen Silence Leads Only to Despair (:4)

Does not sound like a path of life that anyone would willingly pursue; yet we do it all the time; But God is patient with us

How does the psalmist get turned around?


A. Meditating on the Brevity of Life and Futility of the Human Condition Makes us

Desperate for Deliverance from the Lord

Life is short / Life is empty apart from God’s favor / I am desperate for deliverance


1. Various images of Brevity

a. a mere handbreadth = one of the shortest natural measures

(the width of 4 fingers closed together)

b. the length of my life is nothing compared to the eternal God

(hardly even a dot on the eternal timeline)

c. like a breath

d. a mere phantom (shadow) — no substance

2. Futility characterizes all of mankind

“he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it”

so much effort for something unsatisfying and fleeting

cf. Eccles.

3. Turning point = vs. 7 — the Hinge of the Psalm

If life is so short and so futile, the only possible hope for deliverance must come from the Lord

Tone of desperation — Why do we wait to rely on the Lord as a last resort?

God delights in helping desperate people

B. Recognizing the Loving Hand of our Heavenly Father in All of our Sufferings Gives

Hope (:9-10)

“you are the one who has done this”

“it is your scourge”

“the blow of your hand”

It still hurts! But there is a loving purpose behind it and there is an end to the suffering.

There is Hope because the same hand of God that gives the spanking is strong enough to deliver us


A. Rooted in a Perspective of Divine Justice (:11)

no longer crying out “Unfair, Unfair”

1. Proper cause and effect relationship between our sin and the Lord’s discipline

“you rebuke and discipline men for their sin”

It makes sense = we reap what we sow

2. Apart from God, man’s life is futile — and that is how it should be

“you consume their wealth like a moth”

3. Apart from God, man’s life is fleeting and lacks substance

B. Humbled Enough to Persistently Seek God’s Mercy and Grace (:12)

  • Hear my prayer

  • Listen to my cry for help

  • Be not deaf to my weeping

C. Guaranteed God’s Protection as Citizens of His Kingdom (:12)

D. Hopeful of Renewed Joy and Abundant Life in this Temporal Life — To say Nothing of Eternity (:13)