Psalm 39 begins with the writer reflecting on their silence in the presence of wickedness.
But then, as commentator J. Clinton McCann, Jr. writes, “the psalmist speaks his or her way to hope.” Scholar Walter Brueggemann says, “The Psalm evidences courage and ego strength before Yahweh which permits an act of hope, expectant imperatives, and an insistence that things be changed before it is too late.”
In recent weeks, we’ve once again had to confront when our silence itself is sin—both personally, and as the collective people of God. And though mere speaking about the wickedness of racism is insufficient to dismantle its hold on our American systems and institutions—what are some ways that we can break that silence and start to speak our way to hope? How do we begin to articulate our own complicity and speak together “an insistence that things be changed before it is too late”?
I took the photo below at the NAACP caravan a couple of weeks ago. How and when is
silence a kind of violence?
Let's pray the Psalm:
1 I said, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will keep a muzzle
on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.”
2 I was silent and still; I held my peace to no avail; my distress grew worse,
3 my heart became hot within me. While I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my
4 “Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how
fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your
sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
6 Surely everyone goes about like a shadow. Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they
heap up, and do not know who will gather.
7 “And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.
8 Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool.
9 I am silent; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it.
10 Remove your stroke from me; I am worn down by the blows of your hand.
11 “You chastise mortals in punishment for sin, consuming like a moth what is dear to
them; surely everyone is a mere breath.
12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears.
For I am your passing guest, an alien, like all my forebears.
13 Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe for ever.
For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Let all those be put to shame and confusion
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonour
who desire my hurt.
Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, ‘Aha, Aha!’
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God.