- Psalm 40 is a psalm of David that continues the same line of thinking as psalms 38 and 39. Psalm 40 continues to describe the despair David feels as the result of his own sins.
- As we examine this psalm, we will notice a layout that some may consider backward. The first section of the psalm describes God delivering David. The rest of the psalm describes how David was praying for the deliverance before he received it.
I. Describing God’s Deliverance (1-3; NIV)
A. Life in the pits
- The first sentence of this psalm shows us that David is practicing what he has been preaching in the past two psalms. David has offered counsel to those in similar circumstances as David to wait for the Lord (38:15; 39:2). David begins this psalm declaring that he is waiting patiently for the Lord. Even though he was being disciplined by the Lord and describing his suffering as receiving blows from a hand, David is patiently waiting for these things to end.
- In verse 2, David brings out some imagery of what it is like to be in sin and paying the punishment for sins. David described it as a “slimy pit,” “mud,” and “mire.” All of us have and will endure times that are truly “the pits,” just as David describes.
- Many times we must deal with the pits of sin. We can find ourselves caught in the muddiness of sin. Many times one sin leads to another sin and we have great difficulty trying to extract ourselves from the mire. The help we need is not simply one another, because we are in our own slimy pits of sin. Each of us must call to the Lord for help us out of our mess.
- Many times our pit is dealing with failure. If we have set our heart to desire to be like God, it is a devastating thing to continue to fail. We want to do better and we have great intentions to improve our lives, but it just is not working out how we would like. We have all failed. We must bring our failures in life and with God to the Lord.
- One of the more difficult pits to extract ourselves from are destructive habits. We have habits that are very difficult to manage and difficult to break. From uncontrolled temper, to alcohol, from laziness toward God to drugs, from patterns of self-pity to sexual sins, we all have to deal with habits that are not acceptable and work to break them. But we need God to help us out of these pits.
- Many times the circumstances of our lives are the pits. How many times do we find Paul in terrible circumstances? We read of Paul being beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, persecuted, and finally sacrificed his life before the emperor of Rome. In the midst of all that pain and mess, Paul could say, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
B. God can bring us through
- Look at what David says God did for him. (1) He turned and heard my cry, (2) He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, (3) He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand, and (4) He put a new song in my mouth. Great things can happen in our lives when we put our trust in the Lord.
- God will turn to us and hear our pleas when we draw near to him. We have previously noticed in these psalms of David that we must draw near to God for God to draw near to us. As David turns his cries to the Lord, the Lord responds by turning to David, noticing his plight and hearing his cry. But more important, God can do something about our lives. He can change our circumstances. He can take the mud of our sinful clothes and give us holy, white robes. He can be the replacement to help us overcome our destructive habits. We underestimate the impact that God can make in our lives.
- Not only can God get us through, God can make things better than they were before. He has the ability to help us become better people, living in better circumstances, and giving the stability to our lives that we yearn for daily. We will be able to sing the new song of victory when God lifts us up. The problem, I believe, is that we do not believe God is this active in our lives. We have the tendency to think God cannot make these radical changes in our lives. But David is telling us it happened to him and it can happen to us.
II. Praising God’s Goodness (4-10; ESV)
A. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord
- David describes to us the great blessings of having a right relationship with God and putting our trust in God. David declares that he is able to put his trust in the Lord because of the great works that God has done in the past. Verse 5 says, “The things you planned for us no one can recount to you” (NIV). Some versions say, “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you” (ESV). The implication is that all that God has done for us is so numerous that no one could remotely recount it all. Verse 5 concludes, “they would be too many to declare.”
- Keeping this in mind can certainly help us get through the times when we are in the slimy pit. We must remember that God has carried us through other terrible circumstances. It may not have been easy, but we made it because the Lord was there for us. God can get us through the pits of life today as well as he could in the past.
- Further, what God desires of us is not mere deeds. David declares to the Lord, “Sacrifice and offering you have not desired.” However, we know that God commanded sacrifices and offerings be made to the Lord. David is trying to tell us that doing good deeds does not appease God. Good actions are not what God is looking for. First, good actions do not take care of our sins. God does not desire good deeds when we have violated His law. Second, these acts toward God are not the full requirements of God, according to verse 6. Rather, God wants us to desire to do His will and have His law in our hearts (vs. 8).
B. Application to the work of Christ (Hebrews 10:5-10)
- Perhaps of greater interest is this section of scripture is quoted by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 10:5-10 and applied to Jesus. Verses 5-7 are the quotation from psalm 40: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'”
- Our first point of interest in the quotation is that the writer of Hebrews states the quotation as Christ speaking these words, not David. Therefore, either David was prophesying and not speaking of himself in psalm 40, or the writer of Hebrews by inspiration applies David’s words to Christ also.
- The writer of Hebrews now explains how these words apply to Jesus: “When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:8-10).
- The writer of Hebrews continues to refer these words as spoken by Jesus himself. After saying that God did not desire sacrifices and offerings, Jesus says that he came to this earth to do the will of God. What did Christ come to do? The scripture says He came to abolish the first in order to establish the second. Abolish the first what and establish the second what? Verse 10 says that it is by the second will that we have been sanctified. The writer of Hebrews is talking about wills, or covenants. In our day, we would call this a “last will and testament.” Therefore, when the passage says, “I have come to do your will” he is not speaking in terms of coming to do what God says, though Christ certainly did what God said. But that is not the point. When it says that he came to do God’s will, it is speaking about God’s covenant or testament. Christ came to fulfill or complete God’s covenant.
- Now the writer of Hebrews explains what it means for Christ to fulfill God’s will (covenant). Christ took away the first will (covenant) and established a second will (covenant). It is through this second will (covenant) that we are sanctified (made holy) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.
- In quoting psalm 40, the writer of Hebrews has made two important points. First, the blood of animals does not take away sins. If they had, God would desire sacrifice and burnt offerings. But these requirements of the law do not take away sins. Second, by Christ fulfilling the law, he was able to set aside the first covenant with its condemnation for our sins and establish a new covenant that does take away our sins (sanctifies us). The old covenant sacrifices did not take care of our sins nor the reminder of guilt caused by the sacrifices. But the sacrifice of Jesus Christ removes our sins and our guilt away from us. This is one of the great blessings we miss in this text. The blood of Christ takes away the reminder of sin because our sins have been fully dealt with by Christ and we are now sanctified. How great it is to be washed in the blood of the Lamb!
III. Praying For Forgiveness and Deliverance (11-17; NIV)
A. Needing God’s love and mercy
- David continues his cry to the Lord by declaring his need for God’s mercy, love, and truth to always be around him. Some commentators have trouble seeing the connection between the last section of this psalm and these final verses. However, I believe the quotation from the writer of Hebrews has opened our eyes to what David needs.
- Verse 12 shows the connection: “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” David needs forgiveness for all his sins. David realizes, however, that the sacrifices and burnt offerings are not going to remove his sins from him. Thus, David said earlier in this psalm, “Sacrifices and offerings you did not desire…burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.”
- David sees his need for God to take care of his sins. Is it any wonder that the Lord declares David to be a man after his own heart? Clearly this was one of the reasons why David was a man after God’s own heart. David understood that sacrifices were not going to be enough. David understood that there was nothing he could do to remove the stain of sin that were on his hands. Further, David understood that he was deserving of the just punishment for his sins.
- We must see that we have the same need as David. We need to see that there is nothing we can do for our sins. We must see that we cannot remove the stain of sins that is on us. We can do good deeds, be good moral people, and have changed lives, but that does not remove our sins. This is the point Paul made in Ephesians 2:5 when he told those Christians “by grace you have been saved.” Paul said it again to the Ephesians three verses later in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
B. Rejoicing in our salvation
- “May those who love your salvation always say, ‘The Lord be exalted.'” We must always see that our lives are continually in a slimy, muddy pit. But God has lifted us out of that mire, set us on stable ground, and made us victorious.
- Let us never take for granted the salvation we have in the Lord. Let us always be mindful and thankful for the forgiveness of sins that has been extended to us despite our sins. Let us never be like the Jews we read about in the days of Jesus who assumed that they had done something special that God took notice of them over others.
- “So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:20-22).