Life-Study of Psalms, by Witness Lee

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We may say that the title of Psalm 38 could be "Sin and Iniquity," and the title of Psalm 39 could be "Nothing and Vanity." Psalm 39 reveals the psalmist’s sentiment in his realizing the vanity of his life. This psalm shows us that we are nothing and vanity.

A. Keeping His Ways
by Muzzling His Mouth

In verses 1-3 David said that he kept his ways by muzzling his mouth.

B. Realizing the Nothingness and
Vanity of His Life

David realized the nothingness and vanity of his life and asked God to remove His chastening (for his transgressions) from him and look away from him as a stranger and sojourner (vv. 4-13). We always think that we are something and somebody, but David was brought by the Lord into a situation to realize that actually he was nothing and vanity. David said that every man at his best is altogether vanity (v. 5). He said that his days were as handbreadths. A handbreadth is very short, that is, only about four inches. David said that man goes about as a semblance, an empty show, and that people are bustling about in vain. They heap up riches, but they do not know who will come to gather them (v. 6).

At the end of Psalm 39, David asked Jehovah to hearken to his cry (v. 12). But I do not believe that God would answer him right away. God would keep David in his situation for a while so that David would be compelled to realize his real situation and his real condition. We need to realize that our condition is sinful, and our situation is one of vanity.

In Psalm 37 David had much to say. It seems that in this psalm he knew everything and could say everything. But in Psalm 38 he realized that his condition was sinful, and in Psalm 39 he realized that his situation was full of vanity. Many of us are still remaining in Psalm 37. In one meeting a brother prayed a long prayer. It seemed that in his prayer he knew everything, understood everything, and could say everything. Such a long prayer, however, kills everyone. Instead, we should be those who pray, "O Lord, I don’t know what to say, and I don’t know what to do. I even don’t know what I am. My lifetime is as nothing before You. Lord, have mercy upon me."

David eventually said that he was a stranger with God, a sojourner, just as all of his fathers were (Psa. 39:12). A stranger is one who does not know anything about the place where he is. In the New Testament, all the believers should be heavenly strangers and sojourners (1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11), sojourning as foreigners on this earth. This means that we all have been replaced by Christ. We all have been crucified with Him. Then it is a fact that it is no longer we who live, but it is Christ who lives in us. We need to see the human concept in the Psalms so that we can jump out of this concept into the divine concept in Paul’s Epistles.

The Bible tells us that the word of the Lord is the truth, the reality (John 17:17), and also the light (Psa. 119:105). Through the truth and light released in these messages, I hope that we can see what God wants us to be. God wants us to be nothing. God wants us to be replaced by Christ. Therefore, what God wants was expressed by Paul when he said, "I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20a). Christ has crucified me, and Christ has come into me to replace me. Now I have an organic union with Him. He lives and works, and I live and work with Him. Christ replaces me to live Himself through me. This is the divine concept of God according to the divine revelation of the New Testament.

(Life-Study of Psalms, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)