Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Psalms

Psalm 40 Commentary

Let’s open our Bibles to Psalm 40.

Psalm 40 is a lament psalm that starts with praise and confidence – and then moves into the lament and petitions. And what’s interesting is that it seems like David begins with praise from the past in order to deal with his problems in the present.

So, we can give this psalm the title Past Praise Applied to Present Problems.

The superscription is unremarkable in the sense that we’ve seen these two phrases many times in the psalms.

KJV Psalm 40:1 <To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.>

Psalm 40 Commentary
Praise | 1-5

So now, verses 1 through 5 consist of David praising the Lord.

And it turns out that David is praising the Lord for a past event that he begins to tell us about in verse 1.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

Now, in Psalm 39:7 last time we heard David say to the Lord, “What do I wait for, Lord? My hope is in you!” And now, here in Psalm 40 we have David telling us about a time when he waited for the Lord.

Psalm 40 Commentary
Waited Patiently

And David is emphatic about this. In the Hebrew, the phrase waited patiently is literally waiting, I waited. In other words – he really waited. He didn’t lose his cool. He wasn’t anxious. He held fast to waiting for the Lord to help him.

And what did the Lord do in response? David pictures the Lord as bending or stooping down and listening to David’s cry.

Psalm 40 Commentary
Crying

So, note that while David was waiting – he was also crying. Waiting for the Lord doesn’t have to be done in silence. No – part of waiting patiently for the Lord for David was this crying to him.

And now that God turned his attention to David, we’re going to see the record of God doing something else for David in verse 2.

2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit,
out of the miry clay,

and set my feet upon a rock,
and established my goings.

Psalm 40 Commentary
The Horrible Pit

So, David pictures God as having brought him out of a pit. And in the Hebrew, it’s a “pit of roaring.” Another way the KJV translates that word horrible is with the words “noise” and “tumult.” David felt like he was trapped in a deep pit full of noise and tumult. No rest. No escape… But God rescued him from it.

Psalm 40 Commentary
Miry Clay

And God also rescued him from this miry clay. Literally, this “wet clay of mud.” The wet clay is what Jeremiah sunk into when he was in the cistern of Malchijah. But God rescued David from whatever in his life seemed to him to be like a deep dark muddy well.

Psalm 40 Commentary
Feet and Path Established

And so, God brings David up out of that muddy pit! And he sets his feet on a rock – so that he’s firm and established.

And it’s not only his footing that feels established – his path in life was settled by the Lord as well.

Verse 2 is a picture of God bringing David from total instability and immobility – to an established path in life. This is what God had done for David in times past.

Psalm 40 Commentary
Joy Expressed in Song

And you can imagine that when God does this in a person’s life, the correct response is joy expressed in song. And that’s what we see from David in verse 3.

3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth,
even praise unto our God:

many shall see it, and fear,
and shall trust in the LORD.

Psalm 40 Commentary
A New Song

So, the new deliverance that God granted David called for a new song. Perhaps this psalm is what David is talking about – it’s old from our perspective, but when David was writing it, of course it was new.

Psalm 40 Commentary
Trust in the Lord

And David hopes that this new song – and its testimony concerning what the Lord is able to do – will win people over to the Lord and influence them to trust in him.

And whoever ends up doing that – putting his trust in the Lord – is blessed, according to verse 4.

4 Blessed is that man
that maketh the LORD his trust,
and respecteth not the proud,
nor such as turn aside to lies.

Psalm 40 Commentary
The Proud and Liars

So, David lays out some options in life here. And the options are mutually exclusive. You can make the Lord your trust. Or you can respect or turn your attention to proud people and swerve toward those who give themselves to lies.

Psalm 40 Commentary
Blessed

But David is telling us that only those who choose the first option – trusting the Lord – will be blessed – or enviable. And we’re supposed to take it from David – he’s been there!

And as David ends this section of praise, he expands our view beyond this immediate act of God in delivering David – that he’s been focused on thus far. David now in verse 5 wants to remember all of God’s works and thoughts toward his people that he describes as wonderful and abundant.

5 Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done,
and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee:

if I would declare and speak of them,
they are more than can be numbered.

Psalm 40 Commentary
One of Many Such Acts

So, just as David hoped that many would see and fear and trust the Lord, so too many are God’s works and thoughts concerning his people. Not just David – but all of God’s people.

God had done a work for David which prompted him to create a new song. And yet, this is just one of a million acts that God has carried out for his people historically.

Psalm 40 Commentary
Actions and Thoughts

And of course, God’s actions on behalf of his people are fueled by his thoughts for his people.

And so, David says that both God’s gracious thoughts about his people and his corresponding deeds are innumerable.

And that ends the section of praise in Psalm 40.

Psalm 40 Commentary
What’s Next?

NEXT: Keep studying Psalm 40 in the following articles:

  1. David’s confidence in Psalm 40:6-10 (and an explanation of how Hebrews 10 uses Psalm 40)
  2. David’s lament in Psalm 40:11-12
  3. David’s petition in Psalm 40:13-17
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