May 15: Psalm 40
God helps His servant
Common meter 86.86 New Britain (Amazing Grace), p. 29
I waited for the Lord my God, I waited patiently;
And He in mercy heard my cry, inclined His ear to me.
He brought me up out of the pit, out from the miry clay;
He set my feet upon a rock, there firm to stand and stay.
He put a new song in my mouth, God’s praise for all to hear;
And many now will trust the Lord, who see and learn to fear.
How blest the one who trusts the Lord, trusts not the false nor proud;
Who sees the wonders God has done, and sings His praise aloud.
For many are Thy thoughts toward us, with You none can compare;
Far more than I could ever count, more than I could declare.
An off’ring You have not required, but rather pierced my ears;
Burnt off’ring You have not desired, but rather, one who hears.
And so I said, “Behold, I come; it is prescribed for me;
Within Your scroll to do Your will, Your law my heart receives.”
I have proclaimed deliverance, glad news for all to hear;
You know I’ve not restrained my lips from speaking far and near.
I have not hidden righteousness alone within my heart;
But spoken of Your faithfulness; Your truth I did impart.
I’ve not concealed your steadfast love, Your faithfulness of old;
To all the congregation here I’ve your salvation told.
For You don’t hide Your mercy, Lord, or keep it far from me;
Your steadfast love and faithfulness keep me continually.
For evils have surrounded me, iniquities flood me,
More than the hairs upon my head; my heart fails within me.
O Lord, my God, deliver me, be pleased to be my aid;
Make haste, for many seek my life; let them now be dismayed.
Let those be turned back, put to shame, who in my harm delight;
Leave them appalled and desolate, who would destroy my light.
Let those who taunt me be appalled; Let them be brought to shame
who say to me, “Aha, aha!” and harm my life and name.
Let those who seek You now rejoice, all who in You abide;
Let those You save, say with one voice, “The Lord be magnified!”
Since I’m in need, afflicted, Lord, remember me this day;
You are my help, my Savior sure; O God, do not delay.
The correct “voice” for Psalm 40 is not in doubt. We know from Hebrews 10 that these are words springing from the heart of Christ our Lord and have reference to the sacrificial obedience of His Passion and death. We begin, then, by examining that interpretive context in Hebrews. The prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, says Hebrews, possessed only “a shadow of the good things to come.” The sacrifices of the old covenant did not really take away sins, and their effectiveness depended entirely on the sacrifice of the cross, of which they were only a foreshadowing. Indeed, “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb.10: 4). In support of this thesis, the author of Hebrews quotes our psalm: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire…In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.” Christ’s own obedience to God’s will is the key to our psalm, and Hebrews goes on to quote the pertinent verses, referring them explicitly to the Incarnation and Sacrifice of Jesus the Lord (Psalm 40:6-8). The body “prepared” for Christ in the Incarnation became the instrument of His obedience to that “will” of God by which we are redeemed and rendered holy (Heb. 10: 10,14). The various sacrifices of the Old Testament, which are spoken of from time to time throughout the Book of Psalms, have now found their perfection in the one self-offering of Jesus the Lord. (Reardon, p. 77-78)