A hundred and twenty years ago the Hymn writer wrote “He brought me out of the miry clay, he set my feet on the rock to stay”, and it is a great hymn, but not all that original. David wrote the same sentiments three thousand years before Henry Zelley put pen to paper. But that shouldn’t surprise us, Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Really if you think about it “Adam was the last man to have an original thought.”
You see both Henry and David took the same journey, travelled the same road to meet their God, and again not surprising it is a journey that many of us have made as well, so let’s take a look into the intimate thoughts of David and perhaps we will be retracing the steps in your own journey. Or maybe you will see yourself on the side of the road and realize that you still need to take the next step.
Psalm 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. I think that if the truth was known it wasn’t so much that David had to wait for God to do something as God had to wait for David to do something. Most of us are like Augustine who as a young man prayed “Lord, make me chaste (sexually pure) – but not yet!”
But the longing and desire of God’s heart is that we would reconnect with Him. Remember last week one of the scriptures we looked at was Romans 5:10 For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life.
So the first thing we see is That this is a
Picture of God Waiting for Us David said he was waiting patiently for god to help him, but the reality was that God was waiting patiently for David to ask him for help.
Last week people were all abuzz about the group from California that was predicting the Return of Jesus, and I know that there are people that wonder why he hasn’t returned yet. Well the reason is found in 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. In the book of history the return of Christ will close the chapter called grace and open the chapter called Judgement and while apparently there are those looking forward to reading that chapter it appears that God isn’t all that anxious to write that chapter.
Do you remember the story of the prodigal son? Sure you do, Jesus told the story in Luke chapter 15. The youngest son demanded his inheritance from his rich father and when he got it he did like most of us would do with our inheritance at that age he blew it. Partied it away and when he was broke and destitute he swallowed his pride and came back to the farm looking for a job, but listen to what he found. Luke 15:20 So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
The father respected his son’s ability to make his own choices even if they weren’t good choices, even if they were choices that alienated the son from his father, even if they were choices that broke the father’s heart. But the father never stopped loving the son and never stopped waiting for his son to return. And in the story it said that the father saw his son returning while he was still a long way off, do you know what that means? It means that Dad was waiting and watching for his son to return. But it was up to the son to make the trip home.
You understand the application here right? God wants his kids to come home, he wants the friendship to be restored but he’s not going to pull you kicking and screaming into the fold. He respects your ability to make your own choices even if they aren’t good choices, even if they are choices that will alienate you from your heavenly father, even if they are choices that will break your heavenly father’s heart.
Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long, thinking “well if he’s waiting for me he can wait a little longer.” It’s not all about the “there and then” it is also about the “here and now.” Last week when all the talk was of the impending rapture someone asked me, “if the rapture happens will be it too late then to join the ‘Jesus team’?” I don’t know when it might be too late but why would you waste your life? I guess the question would be: Do you just view Jesus as a fire escape from hell?
So what is it that starts us on the journey?
Psalm 40:2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. . .
This Is A Picture Of Where David Started Out If you go back to the beginning of the story you discover that we were created for the Garden, to live in the sunshine to have a relationship with God. And when mankind rebelled they turned their back on all of that and determined to find their own way, but there has always been that longing that yearning, that sense that something in life is missing. We were created to have a relationship with God and when that is missing it leaves a hole, a vacuum in our soul.
And in seeking that which we have turned out backs on there is a frustration of never quite being able to get there. Have you ever had the sensation of one step forward two steps back? You are trying to get from point “a” to point “b” but you can’t quite make it. It’s like you are walking on ice, swimming against the tide or perhaps trying to climb out of a pit with muddy walls. Your intentions are good but it seems like the very forces of nature are pushing back against you.
And in a very real way they are, and they are the forces of your nature. The very nature that rebelled against God in the first place.
And it is frustrating and discouraging and depressing. David called it Psalm 40:2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. . . And there is such a sense of hopelessness wrapped up in those words. “The pit of despair.” The frustration of wanting to be a friend of God but not sure how to get there. Or perhaps it’s not even knowing what it is you want but knowing you want something.
I remember before I became a Christ follower, I was 18 years old and my very best friend in the world had chosen to follow Christ and him and his girlfriend had gone off to Bible College. One evening I drove to Sussex to visit with them and on my way home I stopped at my favourite auntie’s where my mother was visiting. And we got talking and I said “I don’t understand it, Reg and Sherry are broke, they can’t even afford to pay attention and they are happy, I have a great car and a great job and I’m miserable.” And my Aunt said “Maybe you need what they have.” And I said “I don’t know what it is but that’s not it.” But it was.
Let’s go back to the story, Psalm 40:2 . . . He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. If the pit is where David started out This is a picture of Where David Ended Up when he stopped trying on his own and finally called out to God, God was waiting and God lifted him out of the pit, but more than that he set David’s feet on solid ground. And in that statement there is the hope of stability, of new life the difference between day and night. No longer was David surrounded by the walls of despair and hopelessness now the sun was on his face, the ground was solid beneath his feet, the vacuum has been filled and David had been made complete. He was once again feeling what he had been created to feel. He was once again in a relationship with God.
This is what Jesus was telling us in Matthew 7:24-25 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.”
I don’t know about you but when I’m not on firm footing I’m a little skittish, never really comfortable, always half expecting to slip and fall. But when the ground under my feet is firm and dry and stable I’m a lot more comfortable.
That is the joy of our salvation, the knowledge that we are grounded in what is secure, which is what John told us in 1 John 5:13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.
But the story didn’t just end with David being lifted out of the pit, Psalm 40:2 . . . He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. This is a picture of What David Did When He Got There Sometimes people are pulled out of the pit, but they are not encouraged or not willing to go any further. Some just stand there and never move, and never grow and never do anything. There are folks like that in every church, don’t look around. They have never grown or matured in their Christian walk, are no further along in their relationship with Christ then when they were pulled out of the pit.
And others either fall back into the pit or climb back into the pit. Because we have been created to do something it’s not natural to do nothing. And so for some people they are touched by Grace but it becomes frustrating because they are not doing anything in their new lives, they have been given no direction and no encouragement and so they begin peering back into the pit, remembering what it was like when they had some direction, even if it was the wrong direction.
Billy Sunday was a pro-baseball player in the states who became one of the greatest preachers of all time and he said “When a man starts to follow Christ and looks back it’s only a matter of time until he goes back” And if you think that is a little harsh consider the words of Jesus who said in
Luke 9:62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
So when you escape from the pit but don’t have a plan for moving forward you stay in dangerous territory. The Christian life is described as a walk, as a race, as a climb but never as a sit or a stand.
So David wrote that God steadied him as he walked along. And listen to the path that he walked along.
Psalm 40:3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD. David began to worship God. The words song or sing are mentioned almost 400 times in the Old and New Testament? It seems like from the beginning of time when God’s people came together they celebrated and worshipped with music. And when heaven is described there are always songs and singing. And so when David was lifted from the pit he began to celebrate singing songs of praise and worship.
And you may be thinking “but I don’t sing”, that’s fine because you can still worship. While music has been a part of worship for three thousand years it’s not the only part. Worship is attributing worth to God; it is taking time to take your eyes off yourself and setting them on God. It is looking up from the pit and looking to the creator. And that is why we take time on Sunday to come together. Part of the worship experience is stepping away from the everyday to stop and focus on God and his things.
But the walk wasn’t limited to worship, David writes in Psalm 40:4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud, or in those who worship idols. It also involves trusting God. Oh the joy of those who trust the Lord. It is an act of surrender and act of giving it over to God. Giving what over to God control, giving it all over to God . And that is the next step that we see. We love getting out of the pit, we love being able to worship God. He is so good, his grace is so sweet, his forgiveness makes us feel clean and new and refreshed.
And last week we looked at the 23rd Psalm whose entire focus is on the wonderful joy and confidence that comes with trusting God. And you can only trust God by trusting him. Not yourself, not others, not the stock market or the government but by trusting God.
But there is more than that, listen to Psalm 40:8 “I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your law is written on my heart.” This is a commentary on an earlier verse: Psalm 40:6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand— you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
Now we know that at that point in the history of Israel that God did delight in sacrifices and offerings, there were entire books of the bible that outlined the sacrifices and offerings that God required.
But what happened was that human nature took over and the sacrifices and offerings took precedent over obedience to God’s will. People didn’t see the need to be obedient if they were offering sacrifices. And so sacrifices were simply seen as the price to sin. Do what you want but at the end of the day offer a sacrifice. In 1 Samuel King Saul deliberately disobeyed God and when he was confronted with his sin and his disobedience his response was, “Well I was going to make an offering when it was all over.” And listen to the response from God’s prophet Samuel: 1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams.
And that isn’t an isolated thought, David wrote in Psalm 50:14 What I want instead is your true thanks to God; I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High. And again when David was dealing with his own sin and disobedience he wrote Psalm 51:16-17 You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. If I brought you a burnt offering, you would not accept it. The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.
And the prophet Hosea wrote these incredible words to the people of Israel: Hosea 6:6 I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings.
And in 2011 we don’t do that with sacrifices but we do it with God’s grace. It is seen as the price to be paid for sinning. How often do people think: I know it’s wrong but I will just ask for forgiveness. After all isn’t that what Grace is all about?
The same question was asked and answered 2000 years ago in Romans 6:1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? And then Paul answers it, even though it is actually a rhetorical question that doesn’t need an answer, Romans 6:2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
But David wasn’t just being obedient because he was afraid of being punished, it wasn’t a drudgery or a chore, listen again to is words Psalm 40:8 “I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your law is written on my heart.” David knew that God, his Father wanted what was for the very best for David. A relationship with God is not just a way to get out of hell, it’s not just joining “Team Jesus” to avoid judgement it is the fulfilment of all we were supposed to be.
When we treat others the way that Jesus wants us to treat them, when we treat ourselves the way that Jesus wants us to, when we treat God the way he deserves to be treated it brings a wholeness and completeness in our relationships. With others, with God and with ourselves. The book explains how we are supposed to behave, it tells us to love God and love others. And it tells us that he wants us to not only show respect to him and to others but also to show respect for ourselves as well, and often sinful behaviour is destructive behaviour, behaviour that God knows will harm us and he is telling us to be careful.