One afternoon at boarding school, my friends and I were playing in the outbuildings behind the school. Some of the rooms were used for storage and we were allowed in them. But the school maids lived in the others. We were nosy and went into the maids’ rooms to explore. Naturally, just as we were coming out, a teacher caught us. I’m not sure how I managed it, but while the others were receiving a strong reprimand, I managed to hide in one of the storage rooms and avoided punishment. I’ve always been ashamed of that incident, but I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to avoid discipline.
The Psalmist knows he is being disciplined by God, but begs Him to stop. He knows he deserves the discipline and he knows it is good for him, but he doesn’t like it. He wants it to end so he can be happy again.
Sometimes God disciplines me and it’s not fun. I could try to avoid it – although God sees me when I hide from Him – but I know I need it. Instead, I can learn the proper responses from this Psalm.
I should bear the discipline in silence and especially not speak about it to unbelievers. I shouldn’t complain about my suffering. I know God is the One who has done it, and I need to be careful not to malign Him. Of course, that’s not easy. The longer David keeps his mouth shut, the more the words build up in him. But when he finally explodes, it is in prayer. His words are directed toward God, not in complaints about God.
At this point, David recognizes his mortality. He wants to be reminded of the brevity of his life. I too should respond to discipline with a desire for God to put it into perspective. The things I think are important lose their value in light of eternity. God disciplines me in order to prepare me to live with Him forever.
David particularly points out the vanity of accumulating wealth. Wealth provides so much for us. We usually get wealth by working, which is where many of us gain confidence and self-esteem. When we have wealth we are able to get all the comforts and pleasures we enjoy. Like David, I need God to remind me that these things are temporary and not trustworthy.
So I should hope in the Lord. He should be the foundation on which I rest and the One I depend on for everything I need and want.
Not hoping in Him is the reason for my discipline. When I trust anyone or anything other than God I am rebelling against Him. So I need to repent and ask God to rescue me from my rebellion. One of the things I can hope for is that He will eventually remove the scourge. But this isn’t a quick “I’m sorry God” so I can get back to being happy. God’s discipline consumes me and in my desperation I can only cry to God for help.
When I beg God to leave me alone, what I really want is for Him to stop the discipline by rescueing me from my rebellion. When I’ve responded in repentance and obedience I won’t need His discipline anymore. In that sense He’ll leave me alone and then I’ll be able to smile.
His discipline is painful and I don’t like it. But I have to get through it to reach the smile. He won’t leave me alone until I repent and submit. Ouch.