Out of the pit arid on the rock: a song of praise.
The title of the psalm indicates that it is one of David's: against that no adequate argument has been raised. £ Therefore, as David's we regard it. We are called on to a treatment of it in three several topics. In this, the first, we look at it as a song of praise for delivering mercy—for delivering mercy experienced by the psalmist himself, who, having written this grateful hymn, hands it "to the chief musician" for use in sanctuary service. Where can our notes of praise for Divine interposition be more appropriately sung than in the fellowship of the saints in the house of the Lord? We are left in doubt, indeed, as to whether the help thus celebrated was temporal or spiritual. Either way, the progression of thought in these ten verses is the same. For homiletical purposes we can scarcely let our remarks run on both lines at once. We shall, therefore, confine our thoughts to one kind of deliverance, viz. that from spiritual distress; while a pulpit expositor will find the progression of thought equally appropriate, should he desire to use it to incite to praise for temporal mercy. But our present theme is— praise for delivering grace.
I. HERE IS A CASE OF SORE DISTRESS . £ ( Psalms 40:2 .) "An horrible pit;" "the miry clay." Two very striking expressions, which may well represent, figuratively, the wretchedness and peril of a man who is deep down in the mire of sin and guilt, and on whose conscience the load of guilt presses so heavily, that he seems to be sinking—to have no standing; as if he must soon be swallowed up in misery and despair.
II. THE DISTRESS LEADS TO PRAYER . ( Psalms 40:1 .) There was a "cry" sent up to God for help. And this help seemed long delayed. There was a prolonged waiting in agony of prayer, that deliverance would come. The Hebrew is not exactly, "I waited patiently ," but "waiting, I waited," signifying "I waited long." He who, broken down under conviction of sin, pleads with God for mercy, and will not let him go except he blesses him,—such a one shall never wait in vain.
III. PRAYER IS ANSWERED , AND DELIVERING GRACE IS VOUCHSAFED . ( Psalms 40:2 .) How great the change! From sinking in a pit, the psalmist is lifted up and set upon a rock] How apt and beautiful the figure to set forth the change in the penitent's position, when, after being weighed down by sin, he is lifted up and set firmly on the Rock of Ages!
IV. HENCE THERE IS A NEW SONG IN THE MOUTH . ( Psalms 40:3 .) How often do we read of a new song! The song of redeeming grace is new, superadded to the song of creation. It will be ever new; whether on earth or in heaven, it can never grow old, it can lose none of its freshness and glory!
V. AS THE RESULT , THERE IS A TWOFOLD EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE .
1 . Surrender of will , heart , life , and all , to God. ( Psalms 40:6-8 .) "In the roll of the book" it was prescribed that Israel's king was to fulfil the will of God, and that such fulfilment of the will of God was more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. Note: The doctrine here expressed is no mark of a later date than David (see 1 Samuel 12:1-25 .; 1 Samuel 15:22 ; Psalms 1:1-6 .; Psalms 51:16 ; Isaiah 1:11 ; Jeremiah 7:21 ; Hosea 6:6 ; Micah 6:1-8 ).
2 . The proclamation of God ' s mercy before men. ( Psalms 40:9 , Psalms 40:10 .) There is nothing like the experience of "grace abounding to the chief of sinners," to give power in speaking for God. He who having been first "in the pit," then "on his knees," then "on the Rock," is the man who will have power when he stands "in the pulpit."—C.
Grace and gratitude.
"Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord, look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged." So said the prophet ( Isaiah 51:1 ), and it is good for us betimes to follow this counsel. It will not only teach us humility, but bind us more firmly in love and gratitude to God. It is the depth that proves the height. It is the misery that measures the mercy. It is by the utterness of the ruin that we realize the completeness of the restoration. It is by contemplating the gloom and horrors of the abyss into which we had sunk through sin, that we can best comprehend the wonders of the redemption wrought for us through Jesus Christ. The psalmist dwells upon two things.
I. WHAT GOD HAD DONE FOR HIS SERVANT . "Pit;" "clay." These images mark:
1 . The greatness of the danger. The pit was "horrible," gloomy and terrible, the place of certain destruction if no help came ( Genesis 37:24-27 ). The clay is called "retry," to indicate that there was no solidity—nothing but a foul, seething mass, where no rest could be found ( Jeremiah 38:6 ).
2 . The greatness of the deliverance. It was free—in God's time ( Psalms 40:1 ); complete ( Psalms 40:2 ); joy-inspiring ( Psalms 40:3 ); morally influential ( Psalms 40:4 ); prophetical, typifying and giving promise of many other "wonderful works" of God ( Psalms 40:5 ; cf. Paul, 1 Timothy 1:16 ). It should also be noticed that the deliverance was wrought out
II. WHAT HIS SERVANT WOULD DO FOR GOD . "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" is the question of the prophet; and he gives the answer, "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what cloth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" ( Micah 6:6-8 ). The same great truth had been taught long before by Samuel, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice" ( 1 Samuel 15:22 ).
1 . The sacrifice of the will. Without this all else is vain. There is death, not life; the letter, but not the spirit; the form of godliness, but not the power.
2 . The obedience of the life . Whatever way we interpret the obscure phrase, "Mine ears hast thou opened," the meaning seems to be the free and complete surrender of the soul to God. The right disposition leads to the life-devotion ( Romans 12:1 ; 2 Corinthians 5:14 , 2 Corinthians 5:15 ).
3 . The thanksgiving of the heart. Both privately and publicly, in our daffy life before God and before men, we are to serve in the spirit of love and joy. Amidst all the changes and chances of our mortal state, we should continue faithful to him who hath called us that we might show forth his praise. Thus we shall have part with these saints of God—
"Who carry music in their heart,
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat?
Thanksgiving and prayer.
The first part ( Psalms 40:1-10 ) is a thanksgiving, the second part a prayer. The situation is that of one who, on one side, set free from a heavy affliction, is still oppressed on the other. We have all ground for thanksgiving for the past, and for prayer for the present and future. This section may be divided thus: what God had done fur the psalmist and for his country; and what the psalmist had done for God.
I. WHAT GOD HAD DONE .
1 . For the psalmist.
(1) Delivered him from threatened destruction into great safety. The specific nature of the salvation is not mentioned, But it suggests and describes what Christ dyes in the deliverance of the man who trusts in him, the greatness of the salvation.
2 . For the Hebrew people as a nation. ( Psalms 40:5 .) Turns from the goodness of God towards himself to his larger manifestations of himself in the national history. His wonderful thoughts or purposes, and his wonderful deeds on behalf of Israel, are too great and too manifold to be enumerated. But we turn to what God is doing for the world, and say, "God so loved the world," etc.; not only our country, but the whole world. How great a Worker and Thinker God is for the whole universe!
II. WHAT THE PSALMIST HAD DONE FOR GOD . ( Psalms 40:6-10 .) To manifest his gratitude.
1 . By his deeds. ( Psalms 40:6-8 .)
2 . By his words. ( Psalms 40:9 , Psalms 40:10 .) Unwearied in proclaiming to others what Jehovah had done for him.
The author of the psalm, according to the title, was David, and no argument of the least weight has been brought against this view. The occasion may be conjectured to have been his restoration to his throne after the brief usurpation of Absalom. Absalom's aiders and abettors may be alluded to in Psalms 40:4 , and the remnant of his party in Psalms 40:14 .
The psalm falls into three portions:
Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire . Will the right return be by sacrifices and burnt offerings? No, the psalmist answers to himself; it is not these which God really "desires." Samuel had already preached the doctrine, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" ( 1 Samuel 15:22 ). David goes further. Apart from a spirit of obedience, sacrifice and offering are not desired or required at all; rather, as Isaiah says, they are a weariness and an abomination ( Isaiah 1:11 , Isaiah 1:12 ). The one thing needed is obedience—a cheerful, willing obedience to all that God reveals as his will. Mine ears hast thou opened . Either, "Thou hast taken away my deafness, and given me ears open to receive and embrace thy Law;" or, perhaps, with special reference to Exodus 21:6 and Deuteronomy 15:17 , "Thou hast accepted me as thy voluntary servant, and bored through mine ear, to mark that I am thy servant for ever." Burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required . Of the four kinds of offering mentioned in this verse, the first ( זבח ) is the ordinary offering of a victim at the altar in sacrifice; the second ( מנחה ), the meat offering of flour, with oil and frankincense accompanying it; the third ( עולה ) is the "whole burnt offering," representative of complete self-sacrifice; and the fourth ( חטאה ), the "sin offering," or "trespass offering," of which the special intention was expiation.