Sermon Notes

Life is Short

Cry or Cry out to God

Psalm 39:12-13

12 "Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were. 13 Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more."

David has moved a great spiritual distance from the point at which he began. His prayer is clearly one of repentance. He has come to the realization that life’s meaning cannot be related only to life here on earth and all that goes with it. He is a transient stranger whose home is God.

There is now a final plea to God to listen to his cry and weeping: hear, listen, do not be deaf, look away. To have a God while in crisis is for God to enter into the crisis with you. The ultimate result is that I rejoice again before I depart and am no more. The psalm ends where it began, in a silence that waits for an answering word from God.

David identifies with the humble role of a resident "alien" and "stranger". Both terms indicate a class of non-Israelites permitted to reside rather tenuously in the land. Having no solidarity group, the psalmist claims a place in God’s family. He sees this role as a family tradition. He embraces that he is a clanless visitor, like all who follow God.

Ripped from a native homeland, oppressed, having families torn apart, the voices of Africans brought to America as slaves cried out in songs like this:

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.

O my Lord, sometimes I feel like a motherless child.

Then I get down on my knees and pray.

David has come to understand the tenuous hold on life a sinner experiences, and longs for restoration of the secure relationship God promises the faithful. Unless God relents and ends the punishment, he has no hope but to depart and be no more.

Sin separates us from God. Having acknowledged his sin, he admits how great a distance this transgression has created between himself and the holy God. This sense of distance is the cause of weeping and a desire for change.

Sin creates this kind of distance from God. God is the one who scourges the psalmist with blows from his hand-who rebukes, disciplines, and consumes the wealth of humans. Yet God is also the one to whom he cries for deliverance. This humble recognition that God is at once judge and deliverer is what the Old Testament means by “the fear of the LORD." We have no hope in self or others, but only the hope God offers. This kind of awareness and vulnerability places you and me in a position of acceptance in which God can act as salvation and deliverance.

We need an appropriate perspective to live out our short human life. The daily pressures and concerns become subtly magnified into the meaning of life itself. Possessions, income, desires, enemies, friends—these are things that may become the stuff of life, as if they are going to continue forever. Life is limited in its span; if its meaning is to be found, it must be found in the purpose of God, the giver of all life.

Life is extremely short, and what matters above all else is the relationship with God. Perceiving this should cause us to confess our sin. We are only a sojourner here. Our deeper life is rooted in God; the world is the stage in which it is lived out.

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews in developing the great catalogue of men of faith says: “they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth” (Heb 11:13). Our permanence is not to be found in the world as such, but in God who granted us life in the world.

We’ve all been given this gift of life by our Creator. Sin has marred and shortened this life. You can go through life upset and crying about its futility and shortness as you try to deal with sin and its consequences on your own, or you can cry out to God and live an abundant life.

Cry and weep over your sin and the fact that you just did it again, not in despair, but to a God who offers salvation and deliverance through Jesus Christ.