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Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Psalms

David’s Lament in Psalm 40

And so, after praising the Lord in the first five verses, and then going on to express his confidence in verses 6-10, David now starts his lament in verses 11 and 12. And as we often see, he invokes the Lord or calls on the Lord in conjunction with his lament.

11 Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD:
let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.

David mentions here God’s lovingkindness – his faithful loyal love to his covenant people. That’s the lovingkindness that David in verse 10 said he did not conceal. He told others about it. And now, in light of that – David begs the Lord to preserve him with that wonderful lovingkindness.

David in verse 9 didn’t refrain his lips from proclaiming God’s goodness – and therefore now in verse 11 he begs the Lord to not withhold – same word – his tender mercies.

David did not conceal God’s truth in verse 10 – and therefore he asks that God’s truth – again, same word – would preserve him.

Why? Why all of a sudden is David begging God to be merciful and true to him?… This is where David reveals what is causing him to complain in verse 12.

12 For innumerable evils have compassed me about:
mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up;

they are more than the hairs of mine head:
therefore my heart faileth me.

Now, we can be kind of surprised at this sudden mention of David’s evils that have surrounded him. I think even more surprising is the mention of his iniquities.

And by the way – I think we also tend to want to think that this whole psalm applies to Christ. But that’s not the case – since Christ had no iniquities. So – at least verse 12 doesn’t apply to Christ. And at least verses 6-8 do apply to Christ. Beyond that, we don’t know for sure.

But let’s think about what’s happening with David in verse 12.

He’s surrounded by danger. And it’s all because of his sin. In fact, he pictures his sins as if they could take on physical form and multiply themselves on his head so greatly that he can’t lift his head to look up. And speaking of his head, David’s sins are more numerous than the hairs on his head. And for this reason, his heart fails him. He doesn’t have the inner strength to fight on.

And I think this is why David began this psalm the way he did. He reminds himself of what God had done for him in time past. He expresses the confidence he has in God – because he is on the Lord’s side. And he has to do this because all he can muster currently in terms of encouragement and praise is… nothing. He can’t praise right now. He has no confidence currently. He needs to pull back to a past time when God was his praise and when God was his confidence.

Have you been there? Maybe as we’re going through these psalms you’ve been struggling to think of much to praise God about in your current situation. Now – you might just need to think a little harder of what you deserve versus what God has given you. But you also might honestly need to go back to a time when God was your praise and when he rescued you out of a horrible pit and miry clay and set your feet on a solid rock!

David did it. You and I can, too.

And so, that has been what David is complaining about. Multiple dangers in his life that have been brought on by his sin.

NEXT: David’s Petition in Psalm 40

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