Psalm 40

Read: Psalm 40:1, 12 – 17

Psalm 40 is regarded in rabbinical tradition as the third of four psalms (Psalm 38 – 41) written by David when he was stricken by the Lord with a debilitating illness as punishment for sin (presumably the sin with Bathsheba).  The specific punishment recorded in Scripture for that particular sin was, however, the death of the child born of the adulterous union. Nevertheless, this psalm clearly arose from a severe personal affliction that was associated with discipline for sin; we simply don’t know the specific issue. The psalm was organized in a striking way. David began on a positive note, seemingly indicating that he had at last experienced deliverance from affliction. Then in verse 12 David described himself in the midst of affliction that was his own fault – “my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see!” – and in verses 13  – 17 he called out for the Lord’s deliverance.  This unusual organization suggests strongly that in verses 1 – 11 David, still in the midst of trouble, was encouraging himself by recalling previous occasions when the Lord had delivered him from trouble.

Think About It: On what occasions have I experienced God’s deliverance from great difficulties?  What could I do that would help me recall those occasions when I face other distressing circumstances?

Prayer: Praise the Lord for His steadfast love.


Read: Psalm 40:1; Psalm 145:19;  Isaiah 8:17; 40:31

David recounted in Psalm 40 several things that he did in response to his distressing situation. In v. 1 David said he waited upon the Lord.  The two Hebrew words translated “waited patiently” come from the same root – qavah – a root word which implies not just waiting, but waiting hopefully and eagerly. Roger Ellsworth writes concerning Psalm 40:1 in his commentary Opening Up Psalms (Day One Publications), “David responded to his dilemma by waiting patiently for the Lord. In other words, he cast himself and his situation completely upon the Lord as the only possible way out. This doesn’t mean he passively sat down and fatalistically said, ‘If the Lord wants to deliver me, he will deliver me.’ His waiting rather consisted of crying to the Lord. Prayer is the means God has ordained for working his purposes out in the lives of his children.”

Think About It:  When I am facing a challenge or a threat, what alternatives do I have besides waiting patiently for the Lord?  What is the likely outcome of choosing those alternatives? What does Isaiah 40:31 promise to those who will “wait upon the Lord”?

Prayer: Lord, grant me the grace and the wisdom to wait patiently for You.


Read: Psalm 40:3, 5, 9, 10

In verses 3, 5, 9, and 10 of Psalm 40, David recalled that in previous difficult situations, he proclaimed God’s wondrous deeds, told the glad news of God’s deliverance, and spoke of God’s faithfulness, salvation, and steadfast love. He didn’t just speak it – according to v. 3, he sang about it in a new song of praise that God gave him. The 19th century Ukrainian rabbi known as Malbim wrote regarding Psalm 40:3 that singing an existing song of praise is sufficient when God has provided deliverance through natural means, but when God miraculously brings about salvation, a new song of praise is called for.

Think About It: What are some examples from David’s life of God’s miraculous deliverance? How have I experienced God’s deliverance by miraculous means (Titus 3:5)?  Do I joyfully tell others the glad news of God’s deliverance, faithfulness, salvation, and steadfast love?

Prayer: Lord, grant me boldness in proclaiming to others the glad news of Your salvation.


Read: Psalm 40:7, 8; Proverbs 3:3, 7:3; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 10:5 – 9

Malbim (see above) thought that the “scroll of the book” David referred to in Psalm 40:7 was the tablet of his heart. That interpretation is borne out in the next verse where David wrote “Your law is within my heart. In all of his troubles, including those he had brought upon himself, David came to recognize God’s will for himself (“it is written of me!”) as expressed in the law, and came to delight in doing that will. Paul used a similar image of God’s writing on the heart in 2 Corinthians 3:3, with the implication that the Spirit of God is writing a message in our hearts that is to be read by others.  Psalm 40:7 – 8 must also be read on another level as prophetically referring to Christ, whose birth, life, atoning death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven all happened in fulfillment of what was written in “the scroll of the book” – that is, in biblical prophecy.

Think About It: What message from God do others read in my life?

Prayer: Lord, may others read Jesus and His Gospel in my life.


Read: Psalm 40:2; Psalm 69:2, 14; Jeremiah 38:6; Romans 7:21 – 25; Matthew 7:24 – 25; 16:16 – 18

David praised God’s saving acts on his behalf in Psalm 40.  In Psalm 40:2 David said God drew him up from the miry clay and put his feet on a rock.   According to the Talmud, the “miry clay” is one of seven Scriptural expressions used to describe Gehenna (hell). The quicksand-like nature of miry clay tells us that apart from God’s mercy and grace, there is no escape from either the temporal or the eternal consequences of sin.  David praised God for not only pulling him out of the pit, but for putting his feet on the rock and giving him firm footing.

Think About It: According to Romans 7:21 – 24, what keeps a person from doing the good that they know they should do and want to do? According to Romans 7:25, who is our only hope for deliverance? According to Matthew 7:24 – 25 and 16:16 – 18, what is the “rock” that God has provided as firm footing?

Prayer: Thanks be to God for salvation in Christ.


Read: Psalm 40:6, 11; Ephesians 2:8 – 9; Hebrews 10:5 – 9

In Psalm 40:6 and 11 David praised God for saving Him based on His mercy, steadfast love and faithfulness. David said that God did not require offering and sin offering.  This was true, in spite of the complicated sacrifice system established by the Old Testament Law, because God’s mercy and grace was not (and is not) dependent on any work of man. David recognized that God saved him on the basis of His mercy and grace; there was nothing David could do to earn salvation.  Hebrews 10:5- 9 explains the prophetic significance of Psalms 40:6 – 8. Matthew Henry wrote regarding Psalms 40:6 – 8, “The psalmist, being struck with amazement at the wonderful works that God had done for his people, is strangely carried out here to foretell that work of wonder which excels all the rest and is the foundation and fountain of all, that of our redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ.” God can be said to not require burnt offering and sin offering, because He Himself provided the all-sufficient, once-for-all sacrifice for sin in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was never the blood of animals that provided atonement; the Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward to the cross of Christ.

Think About It:  What are some concrete differences in the way people who believe they have to earn their salvation think, feel, and act, in contrast to the way people who believe they are saved by grace through faith think, feel and act?  Do I think, feel, and act consistently with my belief that I am saved by grace through faith?

Prayer: Praise God for providing salvation full and free by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.


Read: Psalm 40:4, 16; Psalm 34:3; Psalm 70:4; Luke 1:46; Matthew 19:26; Philippians 4:13

David’s testimony to God’s deliverance in Psalm 40 has practical implications for everyone. In Psalm 40:4 David contrasted the blessedness of the man who trusts the Lord with those who go astray, turning to the proud and following a lie. The Hebrew word translated “man” in v. 4 is geber, which can mean “warrior” – no ordinary man, but a man of potential self-sufficiency and power. Blessed indeed is the potentially self-sufficient person who does not trust in himself, does not follow the example of the proudly self-reliant, but instead trusts in the Lord. In Psalm 40:16 David encouraged all those who seek the Lord to rejoice in Him and say continually, “Great is the Lord!”  This encouragement is similar to “magnifying the Lord” (Psalm 34:3, Luke 1:46), which means to make the Lord appropriately great in our thoughts, especially in relation to difficulties in which we find ourselves.

Think About It: Do I demonstrate in my thoughts and actions that I believe Matthew 19:26 and Philippians 4:13?

Prayer: Lord, please help me to recognize that all things are possible for You. You are great!