14 May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. 15 May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ be appalled at their own shame. 16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’
17 But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.
Psalm 40: 14 – 17
David has been encouraging the readers of Psalm 40 to put their trust in God. To look to God as though he had already lifted our feet out of the mire and clay, setting them on firm a rock. He has reminded us that blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and what God requires from us is not sacrifice but our lives.
As we come to the end of this Psalm, so we are being reminded there are consequences for who or what we choose to put our trust in. The Psalmist is asking God to turn back in disgrace (v 14) all those who want to take his life or seek his ruin. At the same time, he is asking that all who seek God that they would rejoice and be glad.
To trust God or not to trust God has a consequence. We are
constantly being told that life is not black and white, and so often this is
true. Is it a black and white decision as to who we should vote for in an
election for instance? No, we make a judgement call, we weigh up the good and
bad for each party and we vote for the party or person who best fits our
thinking and beliefs.
In choosing to trust God we are not weighing up the options and going with the best fit for our life. In trusting God, we are either saying we believe he is worthy of all obedience, honour and praise or he is not. We either give God our trust or we don’t. If we only trust God in some things, then we are not trusting God.
As we finish our reflection of Psalm 40, we are being asked who do we trust? Do we come to God completely reliant on him, or do we come still thinking we can work some things out for ourselves?
Maybe it is appropriate the Psalm ends with ‘But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.’ When we trust God as he said we should then we will rejoice in him, but if we don’t then the consequence is that we will be turned away in disgrace.
Will we make this our prayer of dependence on God today, will
we come to God as people who are poor and needy, trusting that he will help and
deliver us in the very way Psalm 40 began. ‘I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the
mud and mire.’
Prayer (Mark 9:24 – I believe help; help me overcome my unbelief.) Lord Jesus we believe and trust in you, help our unbelief. We believe you have heard our prayers, help our unbelief that we would pray more. You have lifted our feet out of the mire, help our unbelief by filling us with the confidence we are secure in you. We believe you have given us a new song to sing, a new life to live, help our unbelief that others would see and hear, putting their trust in you alone. Amen
11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. 12 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. 13 Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me.
Psalm 40: 11-13
Throughout Psalm 40 David has been talking about God’s greatness. He has reminded us of how he believed that God has already heard his prayer, already lifted his feet out of the pit and onto solid ground. We have been reminded how blessed we are to believe and trust in God in this way. We have been reminded of all the good things God has already done for us and how this goodness is freely given. There is no demand for sacrifice or offerings.
David reminds us there can be only one response to such a gift. ‘Here I am… I desire to do your will.’
The psalm encourages us to continually proclaim God’s saving acts – David is not talking about telling people what we hope God might do, but to proclaim what he will do with such certainty that it seems as though it has already been done. Of course, the reason we can speak with this confidence is because in Jesus, his death and resurrection we see the first-fruits of God’s promise. We know what is coming.
It is only once David has praised God with this certainty that he cries for help. ‘Do not withhold your mercy from me Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me… Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me.’
It is right and proper that we have continued to focus on God’s goodness – even through this crisis. There is a reason for being careful not to forget God’s goodness, even when all we want to do is cry out to him. It is because when we start to understand how wonderful God has been and will continue to be to us, then when we do cry out it is with a hope filled with certainty and faith. Knowing how great God is encourages us to ask great things of him.
Psalm 40 is reminding us to praise God throughout this crisis, to remember God’s greatness throughout this crisis. It is also reminding us because God is so great to turn to him asking that he would ‘Be pleased to save us… and… come quickly, Lord to help us…’
Prayer Heavenly Father we thank and praise you for
all the great things you have already done for us. We thank you for the blessing
of a health service equipped with so many resources and such knowledge. We
thank you for the love of friends and family, above all we thank you for Jesus who
has already defeated sin and death. Father, it is because you are so great and
beyond compare that we ask for you to intervene in our world today, that you would
ease this crisis and save so many who are at risk from this virus. Amen.
9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. 10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.
O praise the name of the Lord our God, O praise his name forever more. For endless days we will sing your praise, oh Lord, oh Lord our God.
The psalmist is asking us to believe no matter our circumstances, or peril, or fear of Covid-19 and what it might do that God has indeed heard our cry. He is asking us to wait patiently believing with such certainty that God will lift us out of the mud and mire that we praise him now as though he’d already done it. To thank God now as though he’d already brought us through this crisis.
This is not God wanting payment upfront before he will act.
God does not work because we have given him something, God gives us the full of
measure of his grace freely and undeservedly. The psalmist is talking about us
giving God praise, declaring his greatness, his love, his faithfulness, his salvation
as though we had already received it in all of its fullness because we are so
sure, so confident that God will do all that he has said he will do.
This is not a time for God’s people to shrink back into the shadows. This is not a time to stop singing God’s praise. Now is the time to sing with ever increasing certainty that our God truly is a great God who has already intervened in this world and who has already lifted our feet out of the mud and onto solid ground.
Prayer O praise the name of the Lord our God, O praise his name forever more. For endless days we will sing your praise, oh Lord, oh Lord our God. Father God, thank you that even today as the world creaks under the pressure of Covid-19 still you are worthy of all praise. Thank you for the sure and certain promises of scripture that you will work all things for the good of those who love you and have been called by you. Help us as your people to declare these truths, to stand firm in these truths that many will see and fear and put their trust in you. Amen.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire – but my ears you have opened; – burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll 8 I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.’
Psalm 40: 6-8
If one good thing has come out of this current crisis it is that we are being given the opportunity to slow down and change the pace of our lives. Church can be an incredibly busy place. Everything church program needs people to organise and then deliver them. It takes time and hard work. We should also remember so much of this is done by people who are already busy with work and families.
While it is good to serve Christ’s church, we should be wary
of falling into the trap of seeing our service as a form of sacrifice or
offering which we use to bargain with God. Lord because I have done that or am
doing this would you please…
This was the trap so many taking part in the Old Testament sacrificial
system fell into. They thought because they had offered a bull, sheep or goat
on the altar that God was bound to forgive them. It was as though they were trying
to buy forgiveness, or barter with God; forgiveness in return for something God
Psalm 40 reminds us that God has already been good to us, he
has shown us his grace freely and it is not something we can buy or barter for.
God does not seek sacrifices and offerings, be they animals on the altar or
acts of service in his church. It is not our service God desires, it is us. Then
I said, ‘Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll I desire
to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.
Maybe having everything we do for God stripped away is a
good thing. No more bible studies to go to, youth programs to run, rotas to
organise or children’s lessons to prepare. Maybe having nothing to use as a
barter with God is a good thing because all we have left to offer is ourselves.
Take time today to reflect on your offerings to God. What is
it we are offering to God? The things we do or the people we are? Is it sacrifices
and sin offerings we are bringing or ourselves?
Reflect on these words from Micah 6:6-8 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God
4 Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. 5 Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.
Psalm 40: 4-5
It is almost impossible to switch on the television without hearing more about the Coronavirus pandemic. The problem of course is that we are running out of things to say. That’s not to say we shouldn’t take seriously the message to wash our hands, stay at home and save lives. It is incredibly important to follow this advice.
When the pandemic first struck the news and opposition politicians
were incredibly supportive of the government. As the weeks go by however, we are
beginning to see how this is changing. More and more criticisms are being made
about difficulties in supplying the correct protective equipment to the correct
places and how businesses are or are not being supported in government bailouts.
While it is good, right and proper to hold the government to
account in all these things I wonder have we lost sight of just how much has
been done, how big a task is before our government? Have we lost sight of the many
wonders they have already done and focus only on those areas where they are struggling
to catch up? Please pray for our government in size of the task they now face.
David, in Psalm 40 is wondering the same thing about God. He
is using this Psalm to force himself to focus not on what is happening, but on
what God has done and what he has said he will do. Many are the wonders you
have done, the things you planned for us. I wonder, do we realise just how much
God has already done?
John Calvin said this about Psalm 40.
Too often we quake at every breeze that blows, or else we toil to fortify ourselves by our own strength. But in contemplating God’s counsels and providence, we should reverently admire what we cannot comprehend, and so rise above the anxieties of this world.
John Calvin Abridged by David C Searle (Psalm 40:5)
This Sunday will be Palm Sunday and the start of our Easter celebrations.
In Jesus Christ God has already done all that could ever be done. He has
offered forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love. This is ours. Through
the resurrection we are also promised that today we only know a fraction of what
this forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love looks like, because when Jesus
returns only then will we receive these in all their fullness.
Our calling is not to look to the failings of this life, but to what Christ has done and what he will yet do to bring us into that perfect new heaven and new earth, where every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more mourning or pain. (Rev 21:4)
Prayer Lord Jesus, thank you for all you have done for us and will yet do for us. Forgive us for focusing on what is happening around us instead of looking to you and all you have done for us. Help us to rejoice in the news that you have come that we might have abundant life. (John 10:10) Forgive us also for when we are to critical of others, especially our government. Help us to see and give