Psalm 40 From Out of a Pit onto a Rock to Singing Songs of Praise

Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Introduction: Waiting Patiently on the Lord in Suffering

Verse 1:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.

The story is told of a warning going out that people were told to evacuate from rising flood waters. A person drove on up to a property and told the owner, ‘I am here to help you evacuate.’ The owner replied, ‘I have prayed to God for rescue. I will trust him and wait on him to rescue me.’ Not long after the waters had reached the floor boards of the property. A man in a dingy arrived with the request that the person leave with him. Again came the reply, ‘I have prayed to God for rescue. I will trust him and wait on him to rescue me.’ A little while later the flood waters had reached the roof of the property and the owner was forced atop the roof. A helicopter came to the rescue but the property owner declined rescue, once again repeating, ‘I have prayed to God for rescue. I will trust him and wait on him to rescue me.’ When the person died, it is said that the person protested to God, ‘Why did you not rescue me from the flood?’ God’s reply was to say, ‘Did I not send you a person in a car, and another in a dingy, and yet a helicopter to rescue you? And yet each time you refused my help?’ God was listening and there all along.

Psalm 40, like many other Psalms, calls us to remember the acts of God. This is similar to mindfulness. Eastern mysticism and modern mindfulness blend into ‘a theology of now’. They teach us to pay attention to our circumstances and the environment about us in a way that helps us to get in the moment and experience it for what it is. However, the Bible, as Psalm 40 does, calls us to patiently pay attention to the presence of God. When we can affirm the presence of God we will soon enough see what the Lord has done and continues to do for us.

Patience with God is an act of faith. It is long-suffering that does not let go of hope. Patience, like love, does not blame nor keep a record of someone’s failures. Patience does not accuse God of failing to send help when needed. Rather patience expects God’s help in times of need, waits respectfully on God’s timing. God inclines his ears to us in the pits of despair. Can you imagine, no, do you believe that God turns his ear toward your cry? He does! And so to every ache of heart, mind, body, soul and spirit, as to every tear.

Psalm 40 speaks about 3 things we experience as we hang on in patient suffering: A Pit, A Rock, and A Song of Praise. Together they form our witness. The theme that stands out to me in these verses is ‘Out of the Pit to Songs of Praise.’

Verse 1:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.

A Pit – As to the Pits

Verse 2 a:

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;

It is so easy to slip into a pit of despair and self-destruction. Let me humour you. Around the summer of 1978 I was trapped by the flood waters of the mighty Narrabri River – well, every river is mighty in flood. This was before the new bridge was built there in the late 1970s. I had been told that since the flood waters were subsiding it might be safe for me to wade my Yamaha RD 250 through the shallow flood plains well out of the township of Narrabri.

I made the ride from Moree, examined the railway bridge to see if I could push my bike over it, perched high above the flood waters. The rail sleepers were too widely spaced and the bridge far too high. That left the option of wading the abating waters. I was confident that I could push my bike through them, but soon found that I needed to get on the down side of the stream to hold my bike up. I also needed to keep a sense for the road base under my feet. The water lapped my petrol tank. I had probably walked the bike through 500 meters of water. What I did not expect was that there would be rapids ahead. Evening had arrived. There was no going back. I was grateful the flood waters were unquestionably receding. The rain clouds had cleared. I was also grateful for a dry patch of road dirt the size of a single garage. What concerned me was that people 500 meters across the river ignored my every yell, beep of my bike horn and the flashing of bike lights. My bike would not kick start. It was to prove a simple matter of changing engine oil. However, I spent the night dressed as heavily as I could with shaving cream all over my face to ward off an invasion of mosquitoes.

At no time had God abandoned me during one of the longest and loneliest nights I had ever had. I had created my own disaster. I hoped that the advice I had been given was good advice. However, I had other advice. And the decision was mine. Pits and miry waters come in many forms. What is far worse than misadventures are the many daily realities that cause us despair. In the last chapters of 2 Corinthians, St Paul spoke honestly of being driven to the point of despair. There is no shame there. Nor are we alone in these desolate places, as you will come to see. That is our comfort.

Verse 2 a:

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;

A Rock – Out of a pit, now we are set upon a rock.

Verse 2 b:
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

The night I spent with flood waters behind me and rapids ahead had been lonely in the spiritual sense. I had not been thrown into a pit, but at morning light I was rescued from a watery grave, and my feet lifted ‘out of the mud and mire.’ There is nothing like being on solid ground when surrounded by flood waters, just as there is nothing quite like having a home built on solid rock rather than sand when the rains come down (Matthew 7: 24-27). Throughout The Bible, as in Psalm 40, the picture of a Rock refers to Christ. (We call this typology: the use of an image, a picture or person as a type of the Christ who was yet to come.) Christ is ‘The Rock of our Salvation’ from whom living waters flow (Exodus 17; Numbers 20, et alia).

A man had fallen into a slimy pit. He had no one to rescue him. That is until another man came along. The second man jumped into the slimy pit with the first man. His action evoked the first man to ask why the other man jumped into the pit with him. The second man responded that he had been in the pit before and knew that the only way out was not from above but from below. There was no magic rope or wooden ladder. There was no means of reaching down and pulling the man out. The second man boosted the first man upon his shoulders from which the first could climb and gain a ‘firm place to stand.’

That story is not finished, is it? And deliberately so! Jesus is our heavenly ladder. Picking up on the Genesis story of Jacob’s Ladder, Jesus said of himself “Truly, truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man” (John 1: 51). Because Jesus descended from heaven to rescue us by entering the pits of human suffering and despair, he took upon himself to experience abysmal suffering for our sins. So he is able to rescue us, even as he was raised from the dead. There is no pit so deep or wide that he is not able to rescue us from. However, you will always find him in that pit with you, not out of it laughing at you pondering your stupidity. Make no mistake, he is there for you. He is your way out.

Verse 2 b:
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

Songs of Praise – we have been in the pit and stuck in miry waters, then had our feet set upon a Rock. It’s time for a Song before we all get depressed, don’t you think?

3 a

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.

There can be days when we become exhausted beyond our ability to speak. Our tears can wear us out. Yet in those moments there remains the memory that God is the Rock of our Salvation, our Fortress (Psalm 46), and that ‘If God is for us who can be against us…’ (Romans 8: 26 ff.). These are common word associations in the Psalms. Biblical remembrance is a mindful, thoughtful, recollection and meditation on the goodness of God. It lifts us out of ourselves, our situations and circumstances to place us on solid ground. From there you come to see that you are secure in the loving arms of God, that nothing can touch you other than what God permits in that moment to grow you into a world changer-usually by humbly influencing one person at a time with your testimonies of hope and praise.

From such a state of mindful remembrance flows a song of praise. When we call upon the Lord from the pits of suffering God delights to hear and deliver us. He sets our feet upon the solid Rock which is Christ. Biblical remembrance is a two way street. We need to remember God, however he never forgets about us. He waits upon us to remember him and call upon him. When we do remember and meditate on him and his works, from this emerge our songs of praise.

The Bible is full of stories of God acting to save, heal and deliver. The Bible records many such stories in the form of songs: the Songs of Moses, Miriam, Elizabeth and Simeon – to name but a few: “Pharaoh’s army got…” These are the stories of our ancestors in the faith. They are the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, of those who went before them, and those who came after them; the stories of Joseph, David, Jeremiah and Daniel – each cast into a pit.

St Paul and Silas sang hymns and songs from their prison cell. Many hymns and songs have come to mind as I prepared this message. I doubt that I can hit many if any notes in any of the songs, yet each one is mine and I take moments at home and in the car to pretend that I can sing. I know full well that there will be a day when God will heal my voice and all of heaven and earth will rejoice with me. Till then, I am comforted because I know that when we cry to God from the pits he inclines his ears toward us.

I cannot endorse the proclamations of dreams as voices from Heaven. The Bible is replete with dreams and visions. However, there is a warning about them as well. The warning is this, that the person who has a dream or vision should say no more than that he had a dream or vision. He or she is no more intimate with God than the person who does not have a dream or vision. They are to be desired, but they are the least measure of intimacy with God. Faith, hope, love, these along with humility, long-suffering, and other fruit of the Spirit are far more significant, and bring others much closer to God than the noisy protests of having experiences that others do not have. With that warning in mind, I wish to share a dream that I had.

I was staying in a cult-like environment. It was tormenting to say the least. It happened that I felt so tormented by the experience that I dreamt I was being thrown around a room and down stairs by forces unseen. It was all very real, but I could not open my mouth to call on the name of Jesus for help. That has never bothered me in such situations, since I have always been taught that the angels God has assigned to us are always with us, and that God is closer to me than my own thoughts. What happened next in my dream was of immense comfort and intrigue to me.

It is a joke in some circles, that I cannot hit a merry note if I tried. On this occasion I heard the most magnificent voices of an angelic choir singing in perfect harmony. They were singing the most beautiful praise of our victorious Lord Jesus I could ever imagine. I felt in my spirit that the child like faith I had received through The Holy Spirit from my parents and in Sunday School was being affirmed. I was, as I had been taught, and always will be in the company of God’s Holy Angels. Then, as if to drive the point home, I heard in the background an off key voice singing along with this Heavenly Choir. I had a sense for what this was about, but as I rested the next day, I imagined asking God whose or what that voice represented. I imagined, and I have to say imagined, that God said, ‘It was yours. It is my added assurance to you, that you are always in the protective custody of my Heavenly Angels.’

God the Father hears our cries. He sends his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to rescue us. Jesus entered the pits of humanity and hell itself to rise from the dead. Why? So that we too can be raised from the pits in the hope of the resurrection to eternal life. The Holy Spirit recalls songs of comfort within us, even giving us a new song. You may recall that top of the chart song from the 1970’s, ‘By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ It is based on Psalm 137, a song from the depths of despair when God’s people had become refugees on foreign soil, bereft of house, home, and everything familiar. It expresses the every day desire of God’s people to be at rest in God’s presence and to worship him with unrestrained joy.

Each day we get to sing a new song to the Lord. For those of us who cannot sing that well, the song may be something less than musical, but it will always be a melodious life in the eyes and ears of other people.

3 a

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.

Conclusion: A Witness – It is the stories from the pits that count most in life. These are whence your greatest witness comes. It is not that people do not undertake heroic feats climbing great mountains. However, it is the stories in which people overcome great adversities like the flood waters that tore through the Lockyer Valley in these last days, from which people forged new lives and new songs. It is from such pits and miry waters from which we have had our feet set upon a Rock, and been moved by the Spirt of God to sing a song of praise to the Lord. The sum total of these experiences is the witness we give to others.

3 b
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Leighton Ford told the story of a young woman who had became a Christian. She told her flat mate that she, her flat mate, was the reason for her becoming a Christian. The flat mate asked how this could be so, since she struggled with so much depression? The young woman said that she had become a Christian because of the way her flat mate coped with her depression. Our lives from the pits and miry water, to having our feet set upon a Rock and the songs that our lives play out, these add up to the witness we give to others.

Story telling is part of ancestral faith and tribal practice. It is that which records our history with God as the main actor in each story. Story telling gives us our identity. It reminds us who we belong to, where we have come from, and where we are heading. Stories are fundamental to our remembrance and to the learning of lessons. Each and every Biblical story is deeply personal. They are entwined with our own in much the same way as our family stories tell others about who we are, where we have come from, and what we have done. Communal story telling is what Christian education at home and in worship is all about. Our own stories have great significance as our testimonies and witness to how God is at work in our lives.

Right now God is placing a song of testimony and witness in your heart and mind. Our witness recalls God’s promises-promises of pardon and position in Christ. Our witness recalls God’s provision in which he pastures and prospers his people. Our witness recalls God’s power and protection. When the songs of witness are strong no pit of hell or prison gate can prevent our spirits from rising above the abysmal despair that threatens to engulf us.

For one last time today: from out of the pit and miry waters we are set upon a Rock, which is Christ. Then songs of praise form in our hearts and on our lips. Trust me, others do notice as we rest secure in the Promises, the Provision and the Protection of God, who is the Rock of Our Salvation. And as we do:

3
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Michael Uebergang

2 thoughts on “Psalm 40 From Out of a Pit onto a Rock to Singing Songs of Praise

  1. Hello blogger, i must say you have high quality content here.
    Your page should go viral. You need initial traffic boost only.
    How to get it? Search for: Mertiso’s tips go viral

Leave a Reply to 94Cyril Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s