From My Soul Waits
I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation. (v. 9)
“I waited, and I waited, and I waited,” might be the opening words of this prayer – or, rather, this testimony. It is as if the psalmist is standing up before an assembly of fellow worshipers and telling them the story of his deliverance which, he admits quite frankly, did not come as quickly as he first wanted. As someone has said, God is never late, which means that waiting is bringing us into line with his divine timetable.
At the right time, God did answer the psalmist’s cry for help. He reached down from Heaven and, with arms strong enough to carry the freight of the whole universe, snatched his servant’s soul out of the crushing grip of the quagmire. We are not told the exact circumstances of the psalmist’s trapped condition, but we can look to our own experience of sufferings and difficulties with destructive holds upon us too strong to bear, much less escape. “For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,” wrote the prophet Jeremiah, “and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him,” (Jeremiah 31:11). We come to know God’s profound deliverance when we are at our most helpless. Psalm 40, therefore, begins as a “new song” of thanksgiving to God, whose saving works are too numerous to be counted and whose strength is the only hope of our salvation.
The writer to the Hebrews sees in this psalm the testimony of Jesus, whose singular delight was to do the will of his Father, (10:5-10). He declared to the world the utter reliability of God, and then endured suffering at the hands of that same world, all the while remaining steadfast in his determination to “trust in the Lord.”
Within a few verses the psalmist turns from addressing the people to addressing God. His testimony of recent deliverance – “I have not concealed thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness from the great congregation,” (Psalm 40:10) – becomes the very foundation of a renewed plea for God’s help: “do not thou, O Lord, withhold thy mercy from me,” (v. 11). Clearly, he is in trouble again (how familiar his story is to us). This time his own sins have taken him by the throat (v. 12) and, as if to add insult to injury, others seek to do him harm as well, (v. 14). But, he knows where to turn in his need, and in whom to place his hope. “I am poor and needy,” he cries. “Thou art my help and my deliverer,” (v. 17). He has waited upon the Lord before and he will wait again. Still, like all of us, he’d like not to wait too long and cannot help adding, “Do not tarry, O my God.”
From The Fathers
Christ has heard the prayer of his servants and has brought us out from the pit of misery and from the mire of dregs. We were drowning there, trapped in the whirlpool of our sins. Our soul was powerless to save itself. Thanks be to the Lord Jesus, God’s only Son, who came down from Heaven to forgive us our sins – to save us from the pit and slime of this world, from the mud and mire of this Earth, from this body doomed to death. In his own flesh he has restored our soul and steadied our tottering footsteps. Strengthened by God’s Word and absolved through the cross of our Lord, we walk no longer in the shame and disfigurement of vice, but in the forgiveness of sin, rooted and built in Christ. May that rock, which follows those who thirst, confirm the weak and unsteady, and may that firm foundation never be wanting to those in danger of falling. (Ambrose)
Yes, Lord, thank you! Many, many times, thank you!
You heard my cry, reached from Heaven, and snatched me up.
May my new song today be a new thank you!