In February, Ryan Osmun went for a hike at Zion National Park in Utah. While freeing a fellow hiker trapped in quicksand, Ryan’s own leg became stuck. It took twelve hours before park rangers could get to the scene and rescue him.
In yesterday’s passage, Psalms 38–39, David described in vivid detail a difficult situation he had faced. This experience led to his internal struggle, reflected in Psalm 39. In the first ten verses of Psalm 40, David gave thanks for answered prayer. We can feel his relief in verse 2 as he declared, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet upon a rock.” Like a man who has been rescued from quicksand, David finally felt free.
Notice that he does not hesitate to give God the praise for what He has done: “I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord” (v. 9). David’s experience helped him recognize that God is not primarily pleased by external obedience, but by obedience that comes from the heart (vv. 6–8). When we give sacrifices and offerings to God, our motives matter. It is the combination of sacrifice with the right attitude that makes it valuable (see Jer. 6:20; Amos 5:22). David also recognized that the sacrifices outlined in the Mosaic Law pointed beyond themselves to the sacrificial work that would be done by Israel’s Messiah, Jesus (Heb. 10:5–10).
At the end of the psalm, David’s celebration over his rescue turns back to a plea for help. Once again, he has found himself in another difficult situation. He prays, “You are my help and my deliverer, you are my God, do not delay” (40:17).
Over and over in the psalms we saw David get into trouble, plead for help, be rescued, and then get into difficulty again. His cycle is familiar. But rather than being discouraged, the psalms give us words to engage with God honestly. These psalms are a precious gift to help us to communicate with God as we live the life of faith.