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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
Title:I Will Wait Upon the LORD (Part 3): In the Day of My Fleeting Life
Text:Psalms 39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-12

Text: Psalm 39



  1. The Time to be Silent

  2. The Time to Speak


  1. Psalm 103: 1, 2

  2. Psalm 38: 1, 4, 7

  3. Psalm 39: 1, 4, 6

  4. Abide With Me: 1-3

  5. Psalm 103: 6, 7, 8

  6. Abide With Me: 4, 5


Words to Listen For: spectrum, harden, drop, jumble, 699


Questions for Understanding:

  1. How do you know when to speak and when to be silent?

  2. What is evangelism?  What is reverse evangelism?

  3. Why did our Lord on the cross not act like David?  Did He sin?

  4. Why is David asking the Lord to teach him what he already knows?

  5. Why is verse 13 chilling?  What softens it?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ our Lord,

How many of you know the list of qualities commonly known as the fruit of the Spirit?

It’s found in Galatians 5, and most of us learned this list, maybe memorized this list in elementary school, along with the 10 commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and maybe, just maybe, the armour of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  The qualities are grown in us, over time, as Christians, by the working of the Holy Spirit.  If we are a tree, then this is our fruit.  The evidence of the power of the Spirit at work in our lives.  We are the tree, He is the gardener.

But, have you noticed what’s NOT in the list of qualities?  A quality that we might wish WOULD BE ON THE LIST because of how much we are filled with it…because of how much we have a love-hate relationship with it.  It would be SO MUCH EASIER if THIS QUALITY was blessed by God.

And what’s this quality?  BUSYNESS.  Being BUSY.

Being busy seems to be a badge of honour for ourselves.  We make up these to-do lists a mile long (sometimes even putting things on the list that we’ve already done, just for the joy of crossing something out), we make these lists, we look down at them, and we smile and say, “If I could finish this list today…I will have been SO PRODUCTIVE!”

“I hope you have a productive day!” we tell each other, with all the best intentions in the world.

And by now, you might be starting to feel a little defensive.  “I know where you’re going with this, and I don’t like it.  Not one bit!”

“Would you rather we WASTE OUR TIME?  Just sitting there doing NOTHING?  We have a very fleeting life on this earth you know!  It’s shorter than it seems!”

“And besides…what about the book of Ecclesiastes?  The book we just read from for the reading?  Isn’t that a book ALL ABOUT wasting your life?  The Preacher begs his readers to not waste their lives like he wasted his life!"

“Being productive is how we really make our mark!  If you want to be successful, you have to follow the saying CARPE DIEM!  Seize the day!  Each and every day, make a long long list and then do all of it!  Make every lunch a working lunch, don’t just sit behind your desk, don’t just have a standing desk, have a treadmill desk!  Run while you’re answering your emails!”


“And after all, isn’t being LAZY, being SLOTHFUL a sin?  You, RUN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!”

“The busier you are, the more you are working for God.  “I’ll rest when I’m dead” is the saying.  And we can easily put a Christian spin on it, ‘I’ll rest when I’m in heaven!  This earth is for WORK!’”

But busyness is NOT a fruit of the Spirit.

As one writer so wisely put it - Busyness is pride dressed up as planning.

We just love to have everything figured out, everything on a list, step one, step two, step 3, success!  If we just have a good enough list, we don’t need God at all!

We should not, and we can not, as Christians, waste the time that we are given on this earth.  But properly using our time does not always involve action.  Properly using our time does not always involve speech.  But rather, we must trust in the Lord, we must serve the Lord to the best of our ability, and we must, in our days of trouble, in our days of sin, in the day of our fleeting life…we must

[I WILL] WAIT UPON THE LORD [: IN THE DAY OF MY FLEETING LIFE].  We will see that waiting upon the Lord means that there is a

  1. [The] Time to be Silent, and a

  2. [The] Time to Speak



There are times when waiting upon the LORD looks like silence, and there are times when waiting upon the LORD looks like speech.  So how can we tell the difference?

Perhaps it the difference can be found in WHAT we say.  The CONTENT of our speech.

When the content is THANKFULNESS for God’s gifts, when the content is PRAISE for God’s perfections…then we should speak…but when we are struggling with this sinful world, we should do so silently?  No…that doesn’t seem right…

We are told that we should bring everything before the Lord in prayer.  Our God has placed us within the church that we support each other when we are struggling.

So the difference is not in CONTENT.


Is the difference then in our emotional state?

Well, again, not exactly.  Throughout the psalms we see the psalmists coming before God

  • In joy

    • O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exalts

  • In awe

    • O LORD our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth

  • In thankfulness

    • I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart

  • In confusion

    • Why O LORD, do you stand far away?  Why do you hid yourself in times of trouble?

  • In comfort

    • The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want

  • Even in anger, blaming God

    • You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep

The psalms represent the full spectrum of human emotions.  God wants us to be honest with Him about how we feel.

So…if it’s not about the CONTENT…if it’s not about the EMOTION BEHIND THE CONTENT…what then is it that determines our silence or our speech?

Well our psalm for this morning has the answer.


I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue.”

Let’s briefly pause here, and reflect on what it is that David is saying.


I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue.

A thousand years later, the Apostle James writes to believers - we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 

If we see this as David’s goal here in this psalm - to not sin AT ALL WITH HIS TONGUE, to be perfect in his speech…then this is an ENORMOUS GOAL.  Though this is a GOOD GOAL - this should be the goal of each and every believer…for us to be PERFECT, for us to COMPLETELY DEFEAT SIN IN OUR LIFE…that’s not exactly what David is getting at here.

This is said in a very specific context.  David is thinking of a very particular sin.  One that he is drawn into, one that he is trying to fight here.


I 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.”

David insists on being SILENT when the wicked are in his presence.  This will keep him from the particular sinful tendency that he is fighting.

And we MUST understand this psalm in this way.  Because silence in the presence of the wicked is not applicable in every single scenario.  We should not take this as general advice for each and every one of us.

Because…ask yourself this…when we are in the presence of the wicked, we should not speak?  Not at all?  Not even a little bit?  Not to share the gospel with them, not to call them to repentance, not to plead with them to change their wicked ways and find the joy and peace and hope of knowing Jesus Christ?

In that particular scenario, being silent in the presence of the wicked, placing a muzzle on your mouth is sinful.  We MUST share the gospel.

So WHAT is David saying here?  If you’re tracking along with me so far, you’re probably a little confused.

And that’s fine.  I’ll admit that I struggled with this psalm this week.  It’s not immediately clear what is going on.  It’s not immediately clear the lesson that David was inspired to teach us in this psalm.

But there are answers.  There is truth here - beautiful, wise, applicable truth for each and every one of us.  The context, the rest of this psalm sheds a lot of light on the confusing start of it.

We need to ask ourselves…what is it that is on David’s mind?  What is David wanting to say?  What is eating him up from the inside?

We are invited into David’s struggle in the verses 4 through 13.

It’s clear that David is in a CRISIS.  He is in an existential crisis - just as we heard earlier in Psalm 37 - David is struggling with the nature of this fallen world.

Verse 6 - Surely a man goes about as a shadow!  Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps us wealth and does not know who will gather!

Just like Ecclesiastes - life is pointless.  Life is vanity.  Breath.  A chasing after the wind.

David is in an existential crisis, and he is struggling also with the discipline of the LORD, just as we heard earlier in Psalm 38.  He has received rebuke from the LORD because of his sin, and he is struggling with it deeply.

Verse 10 - Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand.  When 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.


So, let’s put it all together now…David is in crisis - both about the current circumstances in his life, and life in general.  David wants to avoid sinning with his tongue, and so he is silent before the wicked.

Do you see where this is going?

David is doubting the goodness, the wisdom, the justice of God.

David is struggling with God, with who He is.  There is real doubt in him, and David desires to voice his struggle.  His doubt.  His complaint.

But in the wrong company…voicing these things IS SIN.

And how?

Because you are, in your doubts, you are leading others astray.  You can harden the wicked in their wickedness.

Expressing your doubts - and we all have doubts - expressing your doubts about God’s existence, expressing your doubts about God’s goodness, even BLAMING HIM for your troubles…in the right context, in the context of fellow believers, in the context of those who are strong in their faith…this is right.  This is proper.

Because what will happen?  They will comfort you.  They will pray with you.  They will sit with you in your sorrow.  They will encourage you to wait upon the LORD.

He saved you before, He will save you again.  It’s not hopeless.  There’s never been a moment when you were forgotten.  Never a moment when God didn’t love you.  His providence may be painful at times…but He loves you.  Don’t you forget it!  And while it may be hard for you right now to feel HIS LOVE…receive MY LOVE.  In the meantime, let me show you God’s love.  Let me make the transcendent transparent for you in your time of struggle.

This is what happens, or at least, what should happen, when you express your doubts and struggles to your brothers and sisters in the faith.


But the wicked?  The unbelieving?

When they see this…they might CELEBRATE.

Ha!  Where is your God NOW?

See?  I TOLD YOU He doesn’t exist.

I KNEW that He isn’t good.

If there is someone teetering on the edge, maybe believing in the God of the Bible, maybe embracing secular humanism…expressing your doubts, expressing your complaints…that might just push them away from God.

Think of it like this…what is EVANGELISM?

Evangelism is sharing the good news of the gospel.  Sharing the news that God loves you -  SO MUCH - that He created you for perfect fellowship with Him.  Sharing the news that God loves you - SO MUCH - that when we sinned and rejected Him, He came up with a plan of salvation.  Sharing the news that God loves you - SO MUCH - that the plan involved the ultimate sacrifice: His only Son.  Sharing the news that God loves you - SO MUCH - that through this sacrifice, He has restored that relationship, that through faith, we can be restored to full fellowship with Him for eternity.  Evangelism is the way that God gathers His scattered church to Himself.



But what about what David was tempted to do?  We can think of this as REVERSE-EVANGELISM.

Sharing the news that you feel as though God DOESN’T LOVE YOU.  God hates you - SO MUCH - that He has prepared a life for you that is short and unfulfilling.  God hates you - SO MUCH - that your short life is futile.  God hates you - SO MUCH - that He adds to the suffering and misery of life by disciplining you.  What a wonderful way to turn people away from God.



When we encounter doubts in this life, waiting upon the LORD sometimes looks like silence.  Because though doubting is not a sin, expressing those doubts wrongly, expressing those doubts in the wrong company, can absolutely be a sin.  A horrible and destructive sin.

Waiting upon the LORD in silence is maybe how we have always understood the phrase.  It’s not ONLY THIS, as we have heard in the previous weeks, but it does INCLUDE THIS at times.  Waiting upon the LORD in this way can feel ABSOLUTELY AWFUL.

We can’t logic our way out of our doubts and fears - step one, step two, step three - problem solved, doubts alleviated, faith and comfort returning…that’s not how it works.

And simply stuffing our emotions down, busying ourselves with various other tasks…pretending that we don’t feel this way…too blessed to be stressed…that’s not proper either.

While we WANT to express our doubts, shout our feelings from the rooftop…there are times when we need to silence ourselves.  Giving in to every emotion you have doesn’t make you AUTHENTIC…it makes you undiscerning, foolish, and, frankly, childish.  Not every emotion you have is right.  Not every thought you have is true.

They are REAL in the sense that you are REALLY FEELING THEM…they are REAL in the sense that they have to be dealt with…but they are not necessarily REAL as in true.  It’s NOT TRUE that God doesn’t love you…as much as you might feel it at times.  It’s NOT TRUE that God has abandoned you.  It’s NOT TRUE that God has forsaken you.

It is RIGHT, it is PROPER, when you feel these things to keep silent so that your doubts don’t lead to your sin, or the sins of others.


“But what then of Christ?  What then of our Saviour,” one of you might ask?  "Didn’t He do EXACTLY THIS?"

On the cross, in His deep despair, in His deep anguish and torment, in the presence of the wicked…and such wicked men you have never seen before - the wicked men who revelled in the torture of an innocent man.  The wicked men who nailed our Lord’s blessed body to the cross and cast lots for His clothing…

Did our Lord NOT express His doubt?




Yes He did.  And it’s important that He did.  It wasn’t sinful, it wasn’t foolish, it wasn’t childish.  It was beautiful and comforting and wonderful…even as it was the most heartbreaking cry that has ever been vocalized.

Because what is NOT TRUE for us…was absolutely true for Him.

Because what will NEVER HAPPEN TO US…happened to Him that day that was dark as night.

We should not express our doubts in front of the wicked, because our doubts ARE NOT TRUE.  We should not express our complaints that God doesn’t love us, that He has forsaken us…because these thoughts ARE NOT TRUE.

But for our LORD…they were absolutely 100% true.

They are NOT TRUE FOR US because they WERE TRUE FOR HIM.

And this is the gospel.  Us expressing our doubts is reverse evangelism, speaking of God improperly…but our Saviour expressing His agony is true evangelism, speaking of God’s justice in absolute truth.

He WAS FORSAKEN…so that we will never be.  His days WERE CUT SHORT so that we will live forever.  He was condemned and punished for our sins that we might be declared innocent, and not receive a SINGLE DROP of the cup of the wrath of God.

Our Saviour expressed the truth of the gospel, and should never be silenced.

And both our Lord’s speech, and our psalmist’s silence led to the same conclusion, the same next step - entrusting themselves to their faithful father in prayer.  THIS is the time and the manner in which we should all speak.  Our final point.

Verse 2 - I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse.  My heart became hot within me.  As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: O LORD

We can see here that, in David’s desire to keep himself from sin…he went too far.

As we just heard in our first point, it is honorable, it is important, it is VITAL for us to guard our mouth around the wicked, especially when we are filled with our own doubts and concerns.

But the same should not be true of our speech when it comes to God.

Waiting upon the LORD NEVER means that we keep silent before our Heavenly Father.  After all, the first step of waiting upon the LORD is prayer.

We need to speak to our covenant God.  And we are allowed to, even encouraged to bring everything before Him.  We are encouraged to bring our doubts before Him - for how else will we be comforted?  How else will we have our confused minds changed by His divine truth, our distressed hearts comforted by His divine love?

God LOVES IT when His people bring their concerns before Him.

The psalmist was right to keep silent before the wicked, but he was wrong to keep silent before God.

But finally he spoke

As I mused, the fire burned - when he pretended that everything was fine, when he lied to himself and lied to God, the reality of what he was feeling burned within him like a fire.  He HAD TO GET IT OUT.

As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.”

Wow.  David is dealing with some difficult issues here - no wonder he decided not to speak of them in front of the wicked, no wonder he was reluctant to bring them before God.

This isn’t a pleasant topic.  The preacher, in Ecclesiastes, he made himself busy so that he wouldn’t have to think about all of this.  He planted gardens, he undertook building projects, he surrounded himself with the pleasures of wine and women.  But it all kept coming back to this.  Because busyness…busyness does not satisfy, busyness can distract for a while, but you keep coming back to the difficult things of life.  Busyness is not an answer.  Only GOD has the answer.  ONLY GOD IS the answer.

And this is where our psalmist is going with his struggle.


Let me know how fleeting I am

This request has more to it than meets the eye.  Because we see in the next verses that David DOES KNOW exactly how fleeting he is.


Behold you have made my days a few hand-breadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.  Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!

So, if David knows this already, if this is David’s struggle…what is he really asking of the LORD here?

Well, this is a struggle, David is emotional, finally this jumble of emotions and doubts and issues come spilling out of him, after he can hold back no longer…but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a logic to what David is saying.  This doesn’t mean that verses 4 through 13 are just an illogical dump of David’s feelings.  No, not at all.  These words, however emotional they are, are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and useful for teaching, encouragement, and correction.

So what is the argument here?

We see the answer in verse 7 - and it is SO COMFORTING.

Let’s begin at verse 6 - Surely 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!

And now the answer, now the hope - And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in YOU.

As David looks at the wicked surrounding him, as David looks at his own life, he feels hopeless.  And why?  David feels hopeless because there is that part of him, that very human part, that thinks that meaning can be found in stuff.  That joy, fulfillment, and hope can be found in earthly pleasures and treasures.  Again, we can think of Ecclesiastes.  If the preacher was in fact Solomon, then this is a trait that David passed on to his son.  But really, it’s just part of human nature.

We look out at this world for meaning, and when we don’t find it, we wonder what the problem is.  Meaning MUST be out there!  We just have to look a little harder.

For Solomon, even though he didn’t find true fulfillment in the first 699 wives, maybe joy would be found in wife 700.  Let’s have a wedding!

Let’s just build ONE MORE garden.

Let’s drink just ONE MORE bottle of wine.


And what David is asking is that God confirm to him what he already knows - we should not wait for true and ultimate fulfillment on this earth, instead, we must turn to the LORD.

LORD show me, once and for all, that my life here is short and fleeting.  Show me that what is around me will pass away.  Show me that my only hope, my only joy should be in you.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you!

I am waiting on you Lord.  I am hoping in you - do not let my hope be put to shame.


And…if psalm 39 ended at verse 7…it would be SO NICE.  It would be a lot easier on me, it would be a lot easier on you.

It would follow such a simple formula - I doubt, I should take my doubts to God, He will comfort me with Himself.  Wonderful!

But the psalm goes on, because David is struggling…not only with this world…not only with earthly things…but with heavenly things too.


My hope is in you!

This isn’t just a positive statement of faith.  It IS THAT of course, but there’s an edge to it.  A bite to it.

My hope is in you…and God…you are making things worse for me.

I’m already struggling with worldly things, and now, on top of that, you are heaping up discipline on me.

Look at the final verse of the psalm - it’s so depressing that it’s almost chilling - Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more.

David is saying - turn your face from me O God!  My life is short enough as it is, I don’t want to have to spend my few years here being disciplined by you.  Leave me alone, give me just a little peace before you take my life from me.

This is an honest cry, even though it is so unfair.

This is David’s REALITY, even though it’s not ultimately true.

But we know that David doesn’t fully believe this.  This is his experience, and yet, in his struggle, he is preaching to his soul.

If he truly wanted God to leave him alone, why would he come to Him in prayer?  Why would he ask God to teach him - let me know how fleeting I am!  Why would he wait upon the LORD?  Why would he hope in Him?  Why would he pray verse 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.

He wants to hear God’s answer, David wants to know the absolute truth of all of this.

Where there is the childish temper tantrum of verse 13 - I wish I HAD no Heavenly Father…it would be so much better without Him! … there is also the faith of verse 7, there is also the plea of verse 12, the recognition that, in his sojourning, in his wandering brief life…he is not walking alone.  He is walking with the LORD beside him.  The Lord is the one who can bring peace, and David desperately wants it.

It would be easier, beloved, if David was one-dimensional.  The man of faith.  The man that, despite everything the world threw at him, he never doubted in God for a moment.

It would be nice if David wasn’t an adulterer or a murderer.

It would be nice if Solomon was only wise.

It would be nice if Paul was only an Apostle and not a former blasphemer and persecutor.

If Peter was only the rock of the church and not the disciple who denied his Saviour.

But that’s not life.  That’s not the reality for the believer.  We aren’t JUST ONE THING.  We are a messy mix of faith and foolishness, of trust and transgression, of sin and strength.

And in all of this, in all of OUR WEAKNESS, we rely on HIS STRENGTH.

In all of our confusion, we rely on HIS TRUTH to get us through.

And, as hard as it is to let go, to let go of that pride disguised as planning, that busyness, that WE can solve everything if we are only smart enough, if we only have enough time, if we only work a little harder…as HARD AS THAT IS to give up, to let go of…when we acknowledge what we lack, when we acknowledge that our lives are fleeting, our emotions can lead us down wrong paths, and we wait upon the LORD…then we can find peace and hope and joy like nothing else.

We must realize that our God’s love for us is so great, so strong, so powerful, so PERMANENT, that our doubts, our accusations, our childish tantrums when we try to push Him away…won’t change that love for a moment.  He isn’t going anywhere, and His love will not wane or waver.  His love is a promise to us, signed in the blood of His Son - the one who perfectly taught us how to wait upon the LORD, who, with the last breaths of His brief and fleeting life proclaimed: Into your hands I commit my spirit.  Wait upon the LORD - He is ALWAYS THERE - in this fleeting life, and then forever.  


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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