A Psalm a Day: Psalm 40

posted in: Prayer, Psalms, Reading, The Bible, Theology | 0

Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, I’m going to pick up the discipline. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:

  • What is this Psalm about?
  • What does this Psalm teach about God?
  • How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.

psalm 40

On the eleventh of December, here’s Psalm 40:

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;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.
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.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
    but my ears you have opened—
    burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
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.”

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.

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.

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.

What is this Psalm about?

Psalm 40 is a total gear change from Psalm 39 – from a litany of pain and lament, to a prayer that comes from a place of gratitude, to make the same request, that God would act. In the sequence of Psalms 39 and 40 one can detect a compositional hand – but in this Psalm there is a lot to learn from. The first ten verses are honest prayer and praise, someone crying out honestly to God. There’s then a pivot to prayer, to intercession, to request.

What does this Psalm teach us about God?

The God of Psalm 40 is a God who comes, a God who turns, and a God who hears – and that’s just verse 1! God is a wonder-working God (v5), a protecting God (v11), and a personal God (v17). In fact, this last is perhaps the most pertinent. We’ve seen in the preceding 39 Psalms, to a greater or lesser extent, the ways in which God is the sovereign creator and redeemer of all. Yet here God is clearly an intimate, close, present and personal God. In that way God is so unlike the various gods of people who are not as majestic as Him or as petty as us. Psalm 40 seems to me to make explicit what is implicit throughout the Psalms – ‘you are my God’ – God is concerned with individuals.

How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

Verse 3 calls us back to praise and worship. Verse 5 invites us to focus on God, and God alone, and the wonders He does. The Psalm is rippled throughout with hints and glimpses of the fabric of reality. And I think that that is what makes this Psalm so powerful and valuable for God’s people today – those words and truths, but the reminder that comes in the final verses. Verse 16 invites anyone to seek Him, verse 17 makes it clear that God is talking to you, no matter how ‘poor or needy’ you may feel. In this, I find great comfort. And I’d encourage you to seek that comfort too.

A prayer drawn from Psalm 40:

Lord, 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!” Lord, may that be true for me today. 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. Amen!

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