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Psalm 39:1-3 Our Best Efforts

July 19, 2021 | by: Gregg Hunter | 1 comments

Posted in: Psalm 39

It is not uncommon for someone to recognize that they have a problem with a particular vice, and then determine to solve that problem themselves. They see their weight has gotten rather high, so they begin a new diet and exercise plan; they start to get ostracized for smoking, so they decide “this is my last cigarette ever”; they hear their children repeat their cursing, so they decide to start holding their tongue.

These and other plans to better ourselves are all well and good, but will they work? A recent survey found that 95% of all diets fail, and participants regain the weight they’ve lost within two years. Another study found that, among Americans who tried to quit smoking cold turkey, only 3-5% of them succeeded for more than 6 months. And anecdotal evidence suggests that people who only try to guard their tongues around their children will fail miserably.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the simple truth is this: we are all fallible human beings, and our best efforts still fall far short of perfection. This is the hard lesson that David learns in Psalm 39.


Please read Psalm 39:1-3.


David begins this psalm with a pledge. “I said” implies a steady resolve and a rigid determination. He didn’t just wake up one day and think to himself, “it would probably be a good idea if I stopped sinning so much with my tongue.” No, he had marked his ways and measures his words and determined that some of his most heinous sins were with his words. If he really wanted to honor God in all of his ways, then he needed to tackle his tongue. So David determines not to sin with his mouth.

There are many ways that we can sin with our mouth. We know that some of the Ten Commandments include proper use of our tongues: #3 – not taking the Lord’s name in vain, #5 – honoring your father and mother; and of course #9 – thou shalt not lie. We can sin with our mouths by swearing, lying, deceiving, flattering, bragging, cursing, speaking evil, gossiping, spreading rumors, and many other ways. It’s no wonder that David, wanting to stop sinning, decided to start with his tongue!

The unguarded steps are often the most sinful steps, so it's good that David wanted to "guard my mouth." But he went too far! In trying to keep his mouth from sinning, David went so far as to put a muzzle over his mouth. (This was likely a metaphor, but it implies that he stopped speaking entirely). He even says “I was mute with silence.” This would seem to indicate that David has succeeded in refraining from sinning with his mouth. But did he?

Perhaps he has succeeded in refraining from any sins of commission, but he has caused himself to sin by omission. A sin of commission is when we do something that we should not; a sin of omission is when we do not do something that we should. By silencing himself entirely, David was neglecting all of the commands that God requires us to obey with our mouths. As Christians under the New Covenant, some of these are most clearly stated in the New Testament:

  • “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
  • “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2).
  • “Exhort one another every day” (Hebrew 3:13).
  • “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything” (Ephesians 5:18-20).
  • “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossian 3:16).

Many other verses could be cited, but obviously, we cannot obey these commands by remaining silent! When David gave his best effort to avoid sinning with his mouth, he neglected his duty to use his entire body for God’s glory, and ended up sinning even more with his mouth!

This is why his heart burned within him until he was forced to open his mouth. Our best efforts to refrain from sin only lead us into more sin! This sounds like a negative post, and it is: we are helpless to avoid sin! Only Jesus can save us from our bodies of death. Thank God that He has! Let us give all praise and honor to Jesus Christ alone!


Jenny Balzano

May 25, 2021

We all have fallen short in our lives. We have all felt like disappointments. God saves. God gives us grace and God forgives. Lord, help me to honor, praise and worship you with every part of my being. Help me to glorify you. Help others to see Jesus in me.