† Psalm 40 †
1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song 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 turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! 5 You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. 6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” 9 I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. 10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. 11As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! 12 For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. 13 Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! 14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life; let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt! 15 Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, Aha!” 16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” 17 As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God! Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust. We all want to be blessed, but perhaps we don’t really knows what it means to be blessed. The word appears some 300 times in the Bible, so clearly it is an important word.
But as with so many things of God, to be blessed is not something you may see or feel. You are blessed if God says you are blessed. And if God says you are blessed, it is because He makes it so. And to be blessed is NOT what the world and our Old Adam think it is. To be blessed is NOT to be happy, successful, wealthy, healthy, powerful, popular, admired, or secure.
Many people think that to be blessed means to receive good things in their life (according to what they think is good). So if you have received many “good” things, then you are blessed! Now, it is true that God is good and generous to all. Our Lord Jesus tells us that [God our Father] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45). Yes, the Most High [God…] is kind [even] to the ungrateful and the evil (Luke 6:35). However, the mistake unbelievers make is that they think earthly ease and happiness are signs of God’s blessings. But to be a recipient of God’s provision in this world does not automatically mean that one is blessed in the fullest sense of the word.
True blessedness is experienced only by those sinners who make the LORD their trust. This blessedness is theirs even when they are suffering. Think of poor Lazarus, laid at the gate of the rich man and whose sores were licked by the dogs. And yet, when he died, the angels carried his soul to Abraham’s side (see Luke 16:20-22). And think of King David, who wrote this psalm. David is certainly blessed, for he trusts in the Lord. And yet, David talks about having lots of troubles. He mentions the pit of destruction and that evils have surrounded him, iniquities have overtaken him, and that he is poor and needy. Now, that does not sound like one is who blessed.
And the truth is that no one’s life is to going to be all sunshine and rainbows. There is sin and evil in this world. It comes upon us from others, and it also comes out of us. There will be hurt, sorrow, sin, and death. That’s reality. Our reality.
But into this sad reality of an evil world came the Blesséd One. Jesus, the Son of the living God, from whom all blessings flow. Now, this psalm, written by David, does describe David’s experiences. But this psalm is about more than David. The book of Hebrews (chapter 10) quotes this psalm as talking about Jesus:
5 When Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 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.’”
Jesus is the One written of in the scroll of the book, the Old Testament. Jesus is One who delights to do God’s will. Jesus is the One who came to deliver us from this world’s sin and evil. And Jesus delivers us, not by offering burnt offerings in the temple, but by offering up His very Body on the cross. Jesus, the Blesséd One, became the cursed one for us on the cross. And by taking our curse, bearing it in our place, Jesus makes us blessed. Blessed not because we have everything we want in this life. Rather, blessed because we are baptized in the Name of the Holy Triune God, in whom we are made children of God and have the promise of everlasting life.
This blessing comes to us by faith alone. That is why blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust. Or we could say: Blessed is the sinner who puts his or her faith in the LORD. Same thing. We are blessed, for we are not on our own but are now God’s dear children. We are blessed, for we have the Word and promises of God. We are blessed, for we have the forgiveness of our sins, which means that our sins are not going to determine our future. Jesus is the One who determined that all we who call upon the Name of the LORD shall be saved. Thus, we are truly blessed, for in Jesus, with Jesus, and because of Jesus, death will not be our life; rather, we will live forever. In Jesus, life eternal is ours! What happens to us here and now are but light and momentary pleasantries or afflictions. That is not to make light of them, but to put them in perspective.
In Psalm 40, David looks both backward and forward as he considers his need for God. He looks back to past deliverance from God: He drew me up from the pit of destruction… and set my feet upon a rock. And David looks to future deliverance: your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me. And these past and future deliverances are the context for David’s present predicament, which leads him to cry out: O LORD, make haste to help me!. David looks to the past and to the future for help in the present.
How do you process present adversity? Family members are angry with you. Neighbours and colleagues disrespect you. The medical exam comes back with bad news. Your financial situation is desperate. Loneliness, anxiety, and fear weigh down your heart. When life is going into meltdown, it is often extremely difficult to see and feel the love of God as a present reality. God seems distant. Aloof and deaf to your prayers.
The way forward is to consider what God has done for you in the past and what you know He will do for you in the future. And what has God done for you in the past? Well, Someone far greater than David came in the flesh to do and delight in the will of God by being nailed to a cross as a curse for you, bearing all your guilt, shame, and sin. And what will God do for you in the future? Well, as St. Paul proclaims in Colossians: on the Last Day, when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (3:4). Do you see? The One greater than David—Jesus, the Son of God—came into this world and never faltered from doing the will of God. He then suffered what we sinners deserve and He rose triumphant from the grave. Looking back at this supreme act of deliverance, and looking forward to Christ’s return and our final deliverance, we learn to look to God in confidence, despite our present adversities.
Like David, you and I often live under the intense pressures of our own sins, sorrows, and sufferings and also all this world’s evils. But as He did with David, so God is leading us to a deeper sense of His unmerited grace in Christ. In our afflictions, God is leading us to compare and confess what we are and what He is, and then to glorify the Name of God. In your suffering, confess with David: I am poor and needy. But also confess that the Lord is your help and your deliverer. For only then can you look beyond your troubles to rejoice and be glad in the Lord, saying continually: Great is the LORD!.
You are a poor and needy sinner. God is your help and your deliverer. And in Christ, your calling is to glorify the Name of the Lord. This glorifying God as you struggle and suffer will not automatically remove your troubles. But to confess your poverty and God’s help and to give thanks to the Lord your God with your whole heart (see Psalm 86:12) is nonetheless the way of liberation. For you are praying God to glorify His Name in your life, come what may. And thus, you are free to receive whatever God sends you as His wise and holy will for you. You know that God’s glory includes His love for you in Christ. And so, in Christ, you are free to pray: “O Lord, in my life, even in my suffering and finally in my death, be glorified, O Lord!”.
In Christ Jesus, we have the greatest gift and blessing of all. And like David, our being blessed in the Lord gets us through good times and bad times, as we keep our eyes and our faith focused on the Lord.
Left to ourselves, we take our eyes off of the Lord and we place our faith in ourselves and the things of this world. And daily we commit grievous sins of thought, word, and deed. But the Lord does not restrain His mercy from us. He forgives us. And His steadfast love and faithfulness ever works to renew, refresh, and preserve us in the true faith. Yes, the Lord helps us to believe and trust His Holy Word. His Word promises us that we are blessed in Christ. We may not see that blessing or feel it. And prosperous unbelievers may seem way more blessed than us. But God has promised that only those sinners who trust in the Lord are truly blessed. And we know this promise is true, in spite of our suffering. Our Lord Jesus, the Blesséd One who became a curse for us, will certainly strengthen us when we doubt and protect us from all that seeks to pull us away from Him. Yes, Jesus will keep our eyes and our faith focused on Him and His cross, for there we see how much He loves us, how much He has done for us. Our Jesus has taken away from us our curse, so that now, there is for us only blessing in Jesus. Blessing that we have now and will have forever. Amen.
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