40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
40:2 He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
40:3 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.
40:4 Happy are those who make the LORD their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods.
40:5 You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.
40:6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
40:7 Then I said, “Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
40:8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
40:9 I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD.
40:10 I have not hidden your saving help 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.
40:11 Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.
Psalm 40 is a heartfelt psalm written by someone who was in a dire place and then was redeemed by the Lord. Steven J Cole wrote a bit on Psalm 40 and what it means to wait on the Lord while you are in the pit. Let us take a look at the wise words from Mr. Cole.
THE WAY OUT OF THE PIT IS TO WAIT INTENTLY ON THE LORD.
David says (Ps. 40:1), “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” Waiting on the Lord is a common theme in Scripture. For example, Psalm 37:7: “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” Again, Psalm 37:9: “For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.” And again, Psalm 37:34: “Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.” But, what does it mean to “wait” on the Lord? Our psalm gives us at least seven clues:
(1). WAITING ON THE LORD IS INTENTLY ACTIVE, NOT PASSIVE (40:1).
The Hebrew of verse 1 is an intensified form of the verb, literally, “Waiting, I waited.” The New English Bible translates it, “I waited, waited for the Lord.” It’s not a passive, ho-hum kind of waiting, like you do at the doctor’s office when you thumb through a bunch of magazines to pass the time. Rather, it is an intently active time when your situation in the pit tunes your heart to the Lord in ways that you would not normally experience. It means to wait expectantly as you hope for God’s promises to be fulfilled on your behalf. The more intense your situation, the more intently you wait upon the Lord to fulfill His promises.
(2). WAITING ON THE LORD MEANS TO CRY OUT TO HIM FOR DELIVERANCE (40:1, 13, 17).
God’s timing often does not coincide with our timing. We want it done instantly, but God has other purposes. But when you’re in a pit, there is a sense of urgency. In verse 1, David mentions his cry, which may have been as simple as, “Help, Lord!” In verse 13, he directly cries out, “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; make haste, O Lord, to help me.” In verse 17, he repeats, “Since I am afflicted and needy, let the Lord be mindful of me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.”
One reason we often do not cry out to God for deliverance is that we do not see ourselves as afflicted and needy. This is especially true in the case of those who do not see their own need for salvation from God’s judgment. They’re like the guy I mentioned last week, who saw himself as a “good sinner.” Good sinners may admit that they need a little assistance now and then, but they don’t need a Savior. You don’t need a Savior unless you are helpless at the bottom of a slimy pit. Because our tendency, even after salvation, is to think that we can do it ourselves, the Lord graciously keeps putting us in one pit after another, so that we cry out to Him.
(3). WAITING ON THE LORD MEANS TRUSTING HIM ALONE (40:3, 4, 11).
In verse 3, David expresses his hope that because of his testimony of waiting on the Lord, others will also come to trust in Him. In verse 4, as we’ve seen, he mentions how blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust. In verse 11, some versions translate it as a prayer. The NIV, for example, translates, “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me.” But Derek Kidner (Psalms 1-72 [IVP], p. 160) says that unquestionably it is not a prayer; it’s a statement or reaffirmation of trust: (NASB) “You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.” Waiting on the Lord means, “Lord, You’re my only hope for deliverance.”
So waiting on the Lord is not just a passive biding your time. It is an active crying out to the Lord, trusting Him to answer because of His love and compassion.
(4). WAITING ON THE LORD MEANS RECOUNTING HIS MANY WONDERS AND HIS PROVIDENTIAL CARE (40:5).
Waiting on the Lord gives you time to think. But you’ve got to direct your mind to think about the right things. If you think, “Oh no, God has abandoned me! I’m doomed!” you will either panic or turn to the world for help. But if you think about God’s many wonders and how He has worked in the past to deliver His people, you will wait with expectant hope in Him.
As David waits on the Lord, he thinks about who God is and what He has done. He says (v. 5), “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.” Maybe David was thinking about the wonders of creation (see Ps. 104). God established the earth so that it is hospitable for us to live here. He placed the earth at the proper distance from the sun, so that we do not burn up or freeze. He waters the earth, providing crops for our food. He preserves us from many catastrophes that we don’t even know about. I heard recently that a meteorite came uncomfortably close to earth. If it had hit, it would have wreaked major damage. And yet I never heard any newsman giving thanks to God for preserving us from destruction!
David also was probably thinking about God’s many wonderful acts of delivering His people from trouble. He brought them out of Egypt in the Exodus. He preserved them in the wilderness. He enabled them to conquer the powerful Canaanite nations and occupy the Promised Land. He saved them time and again from powerful foes that threatened to destroy them. On the personal level, David had seen God deliver him from the bear and the lion, not to mention from Goliath and from Saul’s repeated attempts to kill him. If you have known the Lord for any length of time, you can think back to many times when you were brought low and the Lord delivered you. So as you wait on Him now in whatever pit you may be in, recount His many wonders and His kind thoughts toward you. Truly, there is none to compare with Him!
(5). WAITING ON THE LORD MEANS OBEYING HIM (40:6-8).
“Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.’”
The thought of verses 6-8 in the context is (I am following J. J. S. Perowne, The Book of Psalms[Zondervan], p. 335), “My heart is full of Your abundant goodness towards me. How can I express it? In times past, I might have thought that an offering was the proper thing to do. But now I realize that what You really desire is an obedient heart that delights to do Your will.” In other words, David is affirming what Samuel told the disobedient King Saul (1 Sam. 15:22), “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”
As you know, the author of Hebrews applies these verses to Jesus (Heb. 10:5-7). There, the author quotes the LXX, which translates the second line of verse 6, “a body You have prepared for Me.” This was apparently an interpretive paraphrase, where they used a part (the ear) and expanded it to the whole body (F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews[Eerdmans], p. 232). The Hebrew text (of Ps. 40:6) is literally, “My ears You have dug.” It has wrongly been interpreted to refer to the master’s piercing the servant’s ear with an awl (a different Hebrew word; Exod. 21:6; Deut. 15:17). But the idea here is that God opened the ear of His servant so that he would be obedient to His Word, which was in David’s heart. Applied to Jesus, that obedience was unto the cross (see Isa. 50:5-7).
The application for us is that when we’re in a pit, we must focus on continuing to obey the Lord, even if He does not deliver us quickly. The devil will tempt us to give up trusting in the Lord and to seek fulfillment in other ways. He will whisper, “God isn’t meeting your needs. If you want to get a mate, why keep waiting on the Lord? Look at all these nice, available non-Christians who could meet your needs!” Keep obeying God’s Word as you wait.
(6). WAITING ON THE LORD MEANS SEEKING HIM (40:16).
“Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘The Lord be magnified!’” In this context, seeking the Lord is a synonym for crying out to Him in expectant prayer. If you’re seeking the Lord and not just deliverance from your pit, you won’t forget about God after He delivers you. Sadly, many “use” God like Aladdin’s Genie and put Him back on the shelf when they get what they want. But here, the reason that David waits on the Lord and seeks Him is so that He will be magnified, or glorified. If David turned to some human scheme for deliverance, then David and his ingenuity would get the credit. By seeking the Lord alone, when the Lord answers, He gets the credit.
(7). WAITING ON THE LORD MEANS REJOICING IN HIM (40:16).
No doubt, David was rejoicing and glad about his deliverance when it came, but he makes the point here to rejoice and be glad in You (“in the Lord”). The joy is not just in the deliverance, but in the Lord who delivers. It means finding God as our eternal treasure, so that we rejoice in all that He is, as well as in all that He does for us.
So when you’re in the pit, wait intently on the Lord. Don’t turn to the world for answers. Turn to the Lord. Waiting on Him means crying out to Him; trusting Him; recounting His many wonders; obeying Him; seeking Him; and rejoicing in Him.
[Featured image from mygodandmydog.com]