Psalm 40: Drowning in Sin

“Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me.

“For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” (Psalm 40:11-12)

Whoa! Was that an octave change? Did David’s song about the great goodness of God just hit some minor notes? He’s seriously shifted gears from praising God to asking God for help to pointing out what a big sinner he is.

ps40_350It shouldn’t surprise us. When you look deeply into the goodness of God, when you really force yourself to dwell on just how kind and intensely generous he is, you eventually start to notice the enormous contrast between his goodness and your own lack of it.

David felt very aware of his sinful choices. He uses the language of illness to describe his shame: I can’t see; my heart fails. He begs his good God for mercy and help to escape the consequences of his sin.

Think: Does participating in the worship of God ever make you more aware of your own sinful choices? Do you ever feel the desire to confess your sin to God and ask for his help in overcoming it?

Pray: Ask God to let his goodness provoke you to confess to him your lack of goodness and then thank him for forgiving your sin through your faith in Jesus’ death in your place on the cross.

Do: Look for contrasts and similarities this week between God’s character and yours.

Psalm 40: Thwart My Enemies!

“Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.

“May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.

“May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame.” (Psalm 40:13-15)

Do David’s requests here sound manipulative and arrogant to you? He spends half the chapter talking about God’s great goodness. Then he admits that he, David, is a huge sinner facing painful consequences. Then he asks God to shame, confuse, disgrace, and appall his enemies.

ps40_350First, David was in a unique position. His enemies—the enemies of Israel—were also God’s enemies. So David was praying that God would trip up the enemies of God. It’s not completely self-serving.

Still, David is just being honest in his request, just as we are when we ask God for anything. What does the good God owe to us? Nothing. How much have we sinned? Plenty. What do we deserve? Exactly what we’ve got coming. We all ask for God’s mercy, for his grace, for things we don’t deserve when we ask him for anything. It’s what God invites us to do as his children.

Think: Do you ever hesitate to ask God for help because you feel you don’t deserve it? Does it make sense to think we ever deserve any good gift from God? Why not ask him for help and trust him to answer according to his great love and mercy?

Pray: Thank God that he hears our requests, even though we don’t deserve to be heard, because he loves and forgives us. Thank him for giving you so many good gifts you could not have earned.

Do: Make two quick lists, one of five good things you’ve earned from God and one of five good things he’s given to you just because he loves you in Christ.

Psalm 40: Happy Now?

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The LORD be exalted!” (Psalm 40:16)

God wants you to be happy. Be careful now. Some people hear those words and reach a wrong conclusion. They take that truth and start twisting until it becomes a crippling lie.

ps40_350“Because God wants me to be happy, I’m going to have sex with my girlfriend. After all, that’s what makes me happy.” Or, “Going to church doesn’t really make me happy, so it must not work.”

David’s request here—and God’s will for us—is to find our happiness in looking for God, to see his goodness as a reason celebrate. When he rescues us (and he has rescued Christians from hell through Jesus), David expects that to pull positive emotion from us, along with our praise for God.

Think: Have you ever found yourself feeling glad as a result of God’s goodness to you? Do you think it’s a problem if we don’t tend to experience positive emotions in response to God’s love for us?

Pray: Ask God what David asked of him, that as his follower you would celebrate and be happy in him.

Do: Make a quick list of some of the things or experiences that make you happy. Circle the ones that have to do with seeking God or experiencing his goodness.

Psalm 40: What Do You Need from God?

“Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer, O my God, do not delay.” (Psalm 40:17)

What do you need from God? Your answer to that question says a lot about how you think of him—and how your think of yourself. Sometimes we think of God as our safety net. Mostly we can handle life on our own; he’s just there if we get into any major trouble.

ps40_350David’s view was exactly the opposite, and he was no loser. He was the powerful king of Israel. He commanded armies. He wrote music and poetry. He ruled. He was a capable guy. But how did he view God and himself?

He said, “I am poor and needy.” He saw that he needed God completely, that his only hope of success was God being God in his whole life. He begged God not to delay the next rescue, because he knew his life could not move forward without God’s good help.

Think: Do you tend to think of yourself as needing everything from God for your life to work—or just needing occasional help from him when you get stuck? What’s wrong with that second view?

Pray: Tell God that you know you need him for everything in your life, that you can’t do anything worth doing without his help. Thank him for his goodness, and ask him to help you grow more needy of him.

Do: Make a quick list of the things you don’t need God’s help with. Are you sure?