Psalm 40 Wait/Lift-ing

Questions: Why do we wait? Will God lift us up? Has he already done so? Even if we’re still surrounded by trouble? Is that rational? Is there sufficient evidence?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 40:1-17

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

This Psalm always reminds me of the song, which makes it easy to miss the enormity of that statement. David is basically promising that if we wait for God patiently enough — and long enough — He will eventually hear us. And not just hear, but rescue:

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.

And not just mere survival, but sheer joy:

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.

To me, this is the central premise of theism: that if we wait on God (correctly) He will hear and intervene. One might even say that the central question of theism is that “If God does interact with creation, how, when, and why?” Or more personally, “How can I know that it is worthwhile to persevere in waiting on God?”

David’s already given us at least part of the answer: we can look to those in the past who’ve trusted God in impossible situations, and He has delivered them. Thus, intriguingly, he makes an empirical case for the rationality of trusting in God, rather than men (or self-determination):

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

So, how does David cultivate such a trust among his mind and heart? First of all by focusing on God, both His deeds and His regard for us:

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.

Second, by understanding that God wants our ” heartfelt delight”, not mere outward obedience:

Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book [it is] written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law [is] within my heart.

Third, by sharing that with others:

I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.

So, does all this give David a right to make demands of God?

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

Probably not. I read this more as a plea, and the preceding disciplines are what enable David to make that plea, and turn to God (rather than pride and lies). Since he really is hurting, from both external and internal woes:

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.

Beyond that, though, there is a sense where God is actually enable to enjoy helping David out:

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me.

From my own experience, I know the difference between the privilege of helping out someone we love, who is clearly worthy, appreciative, and able to make excellent use of our assistance; versus someone who is merely needy, whiny, and demanding — and seems all too likely to recreate the problem we’re getting them out of.

To be sure, sometimes we are called to succor the latter as well; but that is usually more duty than joy. While in David’s case the victory is pretty thorough:

Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil. Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha.

and not just against his enemies, but towards his friends; or should I say God’s friends:

Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified.

Not that he’s getting prematurely cocky about this:

But I [am] poor and needy; [yet] the Lord thinketh upon me: thou [art] my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

Ultimately, what matters most is not what we think of God, but what God thinks of us.


God, I confess I find it hard to believe you think so much of me. That you are eager to hear me, and that it is worthwhile to persevere in prayer. Father, teach me to dwell on your marvelous works, and sing of your glorious deeds. Help to remember the slimy pits from which you’ve rescued me, and the solid rock you’ve placed me upon. May I always praise you in the assembly of the faithful. And though I’ll always need help — for I am poor and needy, and burdened with iniquity — may I always live transparently before you, that you may be pleased to give me that help. Through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.