On Sunday 24 April I was privileged to teach the flock.
Text was the whole of Psalm 40. Sermon notes below.
Author of this Psalm? Read the intro – A Psalm of David.
Well, that was easy wasn’t it? You don’t need to open a commentary to find that out.
Who is he writing this for? Well, again, that’s in the same verse – to the Chief Musician. See, you don’t need a theological degree to study the bible. It’s made for simple people like me to understand – to the Chief Musician, from David.
And the fact that he’s referring this to the Chief Musician gives it weight. Gives it importance. This is entrusted to the Chief Musician, not just any musician. In fact no less than 55 Psalms begin this way. That tells us two things. It tells us that what he is about to say is important, that we need to hear it. It also tells us that most of what is said in this book is important.
Another thing it tells us that this Psalm is for everyone. The Chief Musician would not be given the task of putting this to music just intended for his own audience, or for the choir. No this is intended for all to hear, and take note of.
Bible scholars have attributed this as a Messianic Psalm. When we read this, we can see Christ all the way through it. One New Testament writer also attributes this to Jesus, so that put all doubt to rest. We’ll uncover that later.
I love the poetry of the first 2 verses in this chapter. First we read David is waiting on the Lord. Why is he waiting on the Lord? He heard my cry. Oh, you were crying. Why were you crying? Oh, you were in a horrible pit! It’s like an opening shot of a movie where when you watch something close up, but you don’t get the true context of what’s going on until the camera has zoomed out fully.
· David Cried Out
I don’t know about you, but when I used to read that David waited, I tend to drift off a bit. I used to think that all David’s life consisted of was: David got into trouble, David twiddled his thumbs while he waited for God to turn up, God rescued David. Then David would get into more trouble, he waited…etc.
But then I decided to dig a little deeper into what sort of trouble he was getting into.
He says in verse 2 there that he was in the miry clay in a pit. So I wondered what the miry clay reference meant, why he would use that metaphor. Every time I hear that, I think about that cheesy Hillsong song, “Jesus, Lover Of My Soul”. That song grates on me so much.
I looked further, and I found a story in the book of Jer, chapter 38. And it sheds a lot of light as to what a miry clay pit is. Context – Jeremiah had been prophesying a bit of doom and gloom, to which the hierarchy were getting annoyed at. Let’s read verse 4-6…
So, I learnt that the miry clay isn’t just an allegorical reference to a sticky situation, a spot of bother or just getting your feet stuck in the mud. It’s a lot more sinister than that. The dictionary term for a mire is “a tract, or area of wet, swampy ground; bog; marsh”.
The miry clay pit is a place of hopelessness. It’s a dead end, literally. You are left to rot, with no access to food, water, and maybe even light. And because it’s dark and it’s damp, I would hate to think what sort of insects or rodents might be inhabiting the pit. And if it was during the winter months, you will probably suffer from hypothermia as well. There is no hope of escape without rescue from the outside.
And just as an aside, you can read it later, but book-ending this story in Jeremiah, you’ll see that he was thrown in the miry clay for prophesying from God. He prophesied, was thrown in the pit, was pulled out, he ended up giving the same prophecy. What an awesome picture of faith, with Jeremiah learning to trust in God regardless of circumstances, or consequences.
So, David waited. And the hardest thing to do when there’s nothing you can do is – well, nothing.
You dream up all these ways of getting out. You can try to scale the walls, but you can’t get traction because when you try to take a step, you feet either sink further into the mud, or they slip out from under you. There’s no way out under your own strength, and it’s hopeless.
Now, we don’t have any record of David physically being thrown into a miry clay pit; so obviously he was talking metaphorically. We can take from that, that he was burdened with sin – for all through Psalms and 2nd Samuel, we read of David crying for forgiveness from God, because he knew that apart from all the people he’d lied to, cheated on, committed adultery with, arranged to be murdered – the only way he could obtain relief from his tortured conscience was from the one person he was waiting on – read verse 1 – “I waited on the Lord”. No one else would do. No one else could rescue him. No one else could save him from the guilt of sin and separation from his God. No one else could restore a right relationship between God and himself, but God Himself.
You’ve all heard that old adage “there’s no such thing as an Atheist in a foxhole” – it pertains to troops at war, dug in, and under heavy attack from the enemy. At the end of the day, regardless of all the bravado and all the pride, there’s a deep sense of dread that causes you to cry out to God to rescue you.
So David cried out, and next
· God Heard His Cry
Verse 2 “He inclined to me, and heard my cry”.
Notice it was only after David cried out that God inclined to him. For those that cry out to God in a time of desperation, although it might take time – His time – they don’t wait in vain. God will rescue when He is ready.
On the other side of the coin there are those that do not cry out to God, so therefore will not be rescued. In fact, they’re ones who shake their fists at God for letting them get thrown into the pit in the first place. Or they may even cry out to their own paltry God to save them – one they have made to suit themselves. This God can’t hear because He doesn’t exist, and therefore can’t rescue them.
No, they’re not repentant of their actions. Their consciences are seared – and their fate is sealed.
But when we cry to God with a repentant heart, He hears. Ps 34:18 says “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit”. And again in Ps 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, and a broken and contrite heart – these, O God, you will not despise”. We meet God on His terms, not ours. And when we meet Him on His terms, that’s when He listens. So important, that step is – a repentant heart meets God’s approval.
He heard his cry, and next
· He Rescues
So, God doesn’t leave us as we are. He isn’t a cruel sadist – that is, one who derives comfort from others’ misery. No, He is a compassionate God, and He takes pity on those He loves. So, in His compassion, He reaches down to us, and He pulls us out of the mire.
Note that it was no work on David’s part that got him out. All it took was a repentant heart, a broken and contrite spirit, and God did the rest. He did the saving, and David had no hand in his own salvation. He couldn’t, for he was sunk in the mire, in a pit.
Any claim to saving himself would be empty words, and ultimately blasphemous – for it would attempt to divert the spotlight of glory off of God, and onto himself.
So He Rescues, and next
· He Sets His Feet On Solid Rock
Finally, God has pulled David from his misery. Instead of wallowing in his own self-pity, his feet are placed on the rock of steadfastness. There is no chance of his feet slipping out from under him here.
· He Established His Steps
Here, David is dusted off, his relationship has been restored, and he is shown the correct way to move forward. This is a vital step in his sanctification, for if he did not adhere to God’s way, he would fall into the pit of sin yet again.
· He put a new song in his mouth
Gone is the cry of desperation. Gone is the dread, the hopelessness, and the inevitable death that follows. This has been replaced by a beautiful song…verse 3-5… When he says many will see it, he is talking about when people hear the song, they will understand, fear God, and put their trust in Him.
The next portion, from verse 6-8, is where we the Messianic link comes in…v 6-8.
Now, that should ring a bell with you. Let’s quickly turn to Hebrews 10. From v 1-10.
We have just recently studied this book. Can everyone remember what the main theme of Hebrews is? That’s right – ‘Christ Is Better’. Put away your old sacrifices and offerings, for Christ has been made the perfect sacrifice on our behalf.
And Paul uses this text in Ps 40 to emphasise his point. And that’s why we can be assured that this is a Messianic Psalm.
So let’s look at the picture David is painting, and tie this together with how this connects to Christ.
David was dead in his sin. There was no way out. Any attempt to do things his way only ended up in him falling deeper into the mire.
So in his desperation, he repents, and he cries out to God. God inclines towards him, hears his repentant cries, saves him from certain death, and puts his feet on solid rock.
In the same way, we are also dead in our trespasses and our sin. All attempts at digging our way out are in vain. Everything we put our hope in is useless to us. Trying to be perfect is just vanity – trying to bribe God with our fake goodness, trying to offer useless and redundant sacrifices to appease Him.
And blaming and shaking our fists at God for putting us in this situation, well, that’s hardly likely to cause God to rescue us, will it? No, all of these attempts and attitudes will only lead to God doing one thing – turning a deaf ear, ignoring us, and leaving us in our misery.
But if we are repentant – if we come to the point when we realise that God is the only one who can save us, then we have hope.
We cry out to God. And God in his great mercy hears our cry.
But rather than wait for us to offer yet another sacrifice, He does something much better.
He sends His only Son – who lived a perfect and Holy life – into the pit of death, as a sacrifice on our behalf.
He took our pain, He bore our suffering, was pierced and crushed for our iniquities, and the punishment that brought US peace was on HIM. And by HIS stripes, WE are healed (Isa 53:4-5).
He was cruelly crucified in our place, a living sacrifice so that we can have a restored relationship with Him.
And after 3 days, God raised Him from the dead (literally pulled Him out of the pit) and restored Him to His rightful place at the right of His throne.
And what does all this mean for us?
Well, His perfect life, His perfect sacrifice, and His perfect Holiness is credited to our account IF we repent (that is, turn away from our sin) and place our faith on Him and His sacrifice on our behalf. God restores us because of what Christ did for us. God will lift us out of the pit based on who Christ is and what He has done for us – not for anything we have done to earn our own salvation.
If we do not place our faith in Him, and rely on our own strength try and climb out of the pit, then we are doomed for destruction in the mire, with no God to hear us, and no hope of rescue.
So what I’m going to do now is read the rest of Ps 40, this prayer of thanks of David, and then we will pray…
(Read Ps 40:4-17)