Saturday, January 22, 2011
Psalm 40: Sing A New Song
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
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 the LORD
and put their trust in him.
4 Blessed is the one
who trusts in the LORD,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
5 Many, LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened—
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, my God;
your law is within my heart.”
9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, LORD,
as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.
11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD;
may your love and faithfulness 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 to save me, LORD;
come quickly, LORD, to help me.
14 May all who want 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 long for your saving help always say,
“The LORD is great!”
17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
you are my God, do not delay.
Let’s look at the psalm
We don’t know what it was in David’s life that caused him to write this psalm but in the ancient middle east being stuck in the miry clay was a deadly situation. It was common practise to put people down a dry well or in a cistern as punishment. They were used as prison cells but it could be a death sentence. You’ll remember this is how Joseph’s brothers had thought to get rid of him by dumping him down a well. While theses wells had no water in it there would be a layer of mud and silt at the bottom. Prisoners could find themselves struggling till they were exhausted to stay above this miry clay, then they would drown in it. There was no way of getting out unless someone came to help them. In Jeremiah Chapter 28 the prophet Jeremiah is imprisoned in such a well and would have died had it not been for the timely intervention of Ebed-meleck who asks the king to release him and then with friends hauls Jeremiah up by ropes. This is why it is a great metaphor for salvation from our sins, we find ourselves imprisoned in them, like self dug graves and we cannot save ourselves we need someone to reach down and save us.
This new song in David’s heart is two fold It is a testimony to what God has done for him, so that people will come to put their trust in God. We often think our faith is private, but the Psalm invites us to join David in telling people what the Lord has done for us. There is power in our testimony, it gives praise to God and it gives hope to those who are struggling and maybe going down for the last time. God uses our story, just like he uses the history of his people to bring his hope and salvation.
Leonard Sweet talks about assessing the health and vitality of a church not being as simple as the ABC’s that’s Attendance, Buildings and Cash but rather it is a matters of counting stories of changed lives in Christ.
The author of the book of Hebrews puts these words of David in Jesus mouth. In Hebrews 10:5 as Jesus came into this world he came to do God’s will. He came to do all that God had purposed for him and he did it wholeheartedly. Jesus, the messiah and descendant of David is the ultimate example for us of what David was talking about here. His obedience made the sacrificial system obsolete.
In the midst of a new trial, David laments, he sings the blues, but it doesn’t stop him remembering what God has done for him in the past. In fact remembering God’s greater salvation in the past enables him to have hope.
I want us to take three things from this psalm today.
Nicholae Moldoveau was a Christian musician in Romania and was sentenced to 12 years hard labour under the Ceaucescu communist regime; his crime being a Christian. In prison he turned to writing praise and worship songs. They stopped giving him pens and paper to try and stop him composing worship music. Moldoveau would not stop he put soap on his bars and wrote his music with his fingers. Then when he was finished he would commit the song to memory. After twelve years he was released and one of the provisions of his release was that he did not write anymore of his songs. His reply was “Just keep me here and save yourself the trouble. I will not stop worshipping my God with my praise songs.”I don't think his faith and trust was ever inprisoned and the 360 songs he composed in prison are now used in churches right across a free Romania.