Who is ever fully immune to uncertainties, or secure from hardships? David’s testimony here is sure to encourage you.
2 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.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
4 Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
5 Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but my ears you have pierced;
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, O my God;
your law is within my heart."
9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth
from the great assembly.
11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth 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, O LORD, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me.
14 May all who seek 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 love your salvation always say,
"The LORD be exalted!"
17 Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay.
Confidence in God
As you read this psalm, the transition from celebration to requests in verse 11 stands out. David’s starting point is vivid. Have you ever walked through a deep, sticky bog? Remember the relief you felt when you finally reached solid ground? God’s faithfulness is that solid ground for David. He also invites us to see how our proper confidence in God starts in the heart and flows out in our voices and choices (vs 8,10).
In the second half of the psalm, David acknowledged the stubborn fears and doubts common to life. Personal sin erodes our certainties about God’s character. The only solution is to call on God to restore our vision of his greatness. But it’s not something we achieve on our own. David noted the counterpoint voices of life. Discouraging sceptics are present in every setting, ready to challenge faith by calling out ‘Aha! Aha!’ whenever we stumble (v 15). Do these people distract us from seeing God’s character? The solution is to engage God – to always cry out, ‘you are my God, do not delay’ (v 17).
Think of places in life that feel like a deep, muddy bog. We find ourselves unable to move forward. Yet when we call to God for help he responds in love and draws us to safety.
David is troubled by enemies (vs 14,15), but his own troubles no longer take first place in his thinking. Instead he looks back on his past experience of salvation (vs 1–3), which prompts him to praise the Lord for this and innumerable other blessings (vs 4,5). He has learned that praise is appropriate in the midst of trouble. His worship is transformed by a keen awareness that the Lord requires inner righteousness rather than mere outward religiosity (vs 6–8). In the New Testament these verses are identified as the words of Christ and related to the substitutionary work of Christ.1 The emphasis is on his voluntary giving of himself to be the perfect, effective, once-for-all, sacrifice for sin. In prayer, David has been granted a glimpse into the Lord’s eternal plan of salvation. He testifies to the Lord’s goodness in public, unrestrained witness (vs 9,10). He focuses on the Lord’s character rather than simply on his own experiences – a good example for us. How readily do you count your blessings, turn them into praise and testify to the Lord’s goodness?
Only after praise and thanksgiving does David begin his urgent prayer for deliverance (vs 11–17). Prayer is directed both to his spiritual need in the light of his own sin and to his physical need in the light of his enemies’ activities (vs 12–15). He knows that only the ‘mercies’ (see v 11) of steadfast love, truth and divine help can deal with the evils which threaten him. Those evils are very real, but he is not totally self-absorbed. His prayer is for ‘all who seek you’ – global as well as personal (v 16). Apparently David found cause to pray this prayer more than once in his life (see Ps 70). Like most of us, it seems he needed to learn life’s lessons by repetition.1 Heb 10:5–9 (uses the Greek translation of Ps 40)