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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 40

Verse 1

Psalms 40:0.

The benefit of confidence in God. Obedience is the best sacrifice. The sense of David's evils inflameth his prayer.

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

Title. מזמור לדוד למנצח lamnatseach ledavid mizmor Though this psalm, in its primary sense, may be applicable to the sickness which God had inflicted on David, and the distress to which he was reduced by his enemies (see the two foregoing psalms), in devout thankfulness for deliverance from both of which he may here be supposed to declare his resolution to serve God cheerfully and faithfully; yet some passages in it may be much better applied to Christ's readiness to do the will of his Father. Certain it is, that part of the psalm at least was prophetical, and related to our Saviour, to whom it is applied by the apostle. Hebrews 10:0.

Verse 2

Psalms 40:2. Out of an horrible pit As David often compares himself in distress to a sinking and drowning man; so here he compares the affliction from which he had been relieved, to that of a man thrown into some loathsome and nauseous dungeon, with much filth in it; such a one, we will suppose, as Jeremiah was cast into, chap. Psalms 38:6. Mudge, observing that this is a metaphorical way of speaking familiar to the sacred writers, adds, "Though, perhaps, it may here be literal, and Jeremiah the author of the psalm after he had been delivered from his dungeon."

Verse 4

Psalms 40:4. Respecteth not the proud The proud, and those who incline to lies, are, on one side, the haughty daring atheists, who laugh at all application to any power above; and on the other, those who put their confidence in idol-superstitions, which are all a lie and deceit. Mudge.

Verse 5

Psalms 40:5. Many, &c.— Many things hast thou done, O Lord, my God: thy wonders and thy thoughts towards us, I am not able to set in order before thee.

Verses 6-8

Psalms 40:6-8. Sacrifice and offering, &c.— These three verses, as they may possibly relate to David, who was a a type of Christ, may be thus considered.—Sacrifice, &c. The Psalmist here enumerates the principal sorts of sacrifices which were offered under the law. See on Psalms 51:19.—Thou didst not desire; i.e. "in comparison with obedience." Compare 1 Samuel 15:22.—But mine ears hast thou opened, or bored; which was a ceremony used to a slave, who would not have his liberty, but loved his master, and would not go out free: Exodus 21:5-6. Deu 15:7 and the ceremony was very significant; for boring the ear, signified opening it; and the opening of the ear, is a sign of hearkening, which in Scripture is frequently used for obeying. In allusion to this ceremony, God may here be said to have opened the ears of David, i.e. engaged him to obedience.—Then said I, Lo, &c. that is, "as if I had heard thee calling upon me, to do thee some exemplary service, I immediately said, Lo, I come, to make an offering of myself unto thee, and to pay thee a cheerful obedience." In the volume of thy book, means in thy law; which is here called a volume, because it was the manner of the Jews to roll up the books of the law. It is written of me; that is, so thy law particularly requires me as a king to do. Deuteronomy 17:18-19.—Is within my heart, means, "not only included in a book; but so treasured up in my mind, that I am perfectly in the knowledge, and continually exercised in the practice of it." Thus the passage may be explained in reference to David. But it relates in a higher and more proper sense to Christ; whom the Psalmist, while he is commemorating God's particular mercies to himself and his people, prophetically introduces as thus speaking with respect to the redemption of mankind. Sacrifice, &c. that is, "The sacrifices of the law are only typical and prefigurative: They make not a full satisfaction to thy infinite justice; and therefore thou dost not perfectly acquiesce in them."—Mine ears, &c. By this is intimated, in allusion to the exposition above given, Christ's taking upon him the form of the servant, and becoming obedient, even unto death. See Philippians 2:7. Then, that is, when he cometh into the world, &c. as the apostle explains it. Hebrews 10:5. In the volume, &c. This may allude to instruments drawn up between masters and servants, and accordingly signify, the roll or contract betwixt God the Father, and God the Son; wherein is supposed to be written the agreement preparatory to that great work of Christ's incarnation, in which he, undertaking perfectly to fulfil the will of God and to perform all obedience to him, had the promise from him that he should become the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey him. See Fenton; and more on this subject when we come to Hebrews 10:0. For my own part, I cannot help thinking, that the passage immediately and primarily refers to Christ; and indeed the whole psalm appears to have greater propriety, when understood as delivered in his person, than in that of another. See Pearse on the Hebrews, and Saurin's Sermon's, vol. 11: The whole passage may be rendered thus: Psalms 40:6. Sacrifice and offering didst thou not delight in, &c. Psalms 40:7. Then said I, Lo, I come; in the folded roll, or roll of writing, it is written of me, Psalms 40:8. That I should do thy will: O my God, I have delighted therein; yea, thy law, &c. Mr. Green, upon the passage Thou hast opened my ears, observes, If it be said, that the apostle to the Hebrews reads this differently; I answer, this does not appear to me. It is true, he found a different, but corrupted translation (ωτια, ears, as the learned have observed, having been changed into σωμα, body) in the LXX which was the version then in use; and he was obliged to quote it as he found it, under the penalty, if he altered it, of being deemed a false quoter. He therefore took the translation as he found it, especially as it served to illustrate his argument equally well. Upon this quotation from the LXX the apostle argues, Psalms 40:9. He [Christ] taketh away the first, (namely, legal sacrifices) that he may establish the second, (namely, obedience to God's will,) in offering himself a sacrifice for the sins of mankind: And thus he must have argued upon a quotation from the Hebrew text as it stands at present.

Verse 9

Psalms 40:9. I have preached righteousness The person speaking here declares that he has done what God required. If we understand it of David, the benefits and mercies which God had vouchsafed to him and his people must be meant by righteousness; but if of Christ, as seems most proper, then it must refer to the righteousness of God revealed by faith, and made known by Jesus Christ to his church.

Verse 15

Psalms 40:15. Let them, &c.— They shall be desolate {with their own shame for a reward of their turpitude.} Green renders it, after Bishop Hare, Let those who say, unto me, aha, aha, instantly return back with shame.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, None ever yet trusted in God, and were confounded. The Psalmist acknowledges, by blessed experience, that in his deepest distress God had not failed him. I waited patiently for the Lord; though his burden was heavy, and help long delayed, he fainted not, but cried unto God, and God heard and answered him. He brought me up also out of the horrible pit of despondence, and out of the miry clay, in which he had been fastened, and set my feet upon a rock, where his faith was strengthened and confirmed, and established my goings, that no power of evil might be able to turn him aside. Then was his mouth filled with joy; he hath put a new song of praise into my mouth; and from his own experience he doubted not but others would be encouraged to exercise the same faith; many shall see it and fear, and shall trust in the Lord; and whoever so doth, renouncing every other confidence, will be found truly blessed and happy. Thus Jesus waited on God, when agonizing in the garden, and bleeding on the tree: horrible indeed was the pit in which he lay, when, loaded with the guilt of all our iniquities, the pains of hell gat hold upon him; but he cried, and God heard him. From the grave he brought him up, raised him to the throne of glory, firm as a rock, and established as the days of eternity. With everlasting joy upon his head, there he reigns; and all his people, renouncing every other hope of righteousness, and every lying vanity which would draw off the singleness of their eye from him, look to him, trust in him, fear him, and find themselves blessed in so doing. This relieves their despondence, rescues them from the horrible pit of hell, raises their hearts from melancholy fears to confidence, and changes their voice from mourning to praise; rejoicing in Christ Jesus, in his sufferings, intercession, and infinite merit, and deriving from thence joy unspeakable and full of glory.

2nd. Then follow the words of the Divine Redeemer the song of praise put into his mouth. Many and wonderful are the works of God, wonders of creation and providence, admirably ordered and disposed with infinite wisdom, all designed for the good of men, and so innumerable, that we are lost in the vast abyss, and know not where to begin or where to end the song of praise: but one more eminent, more transcendantly glorious than all the rest, stands forth, and claims peculiar admiration. Great is the work of worlds, spoke into being at a word; great the upholding power which still preserves and regulates with wondrous harmony the vast creation; but greater far the vast design and wonderous execution of man's redemption, by the incarnation, sufferings, and death of God's eternal Son.
1. The insufficiency of all ceremonial sacrifices is here intimated, and their utterly ceasing to be offered when the oblation of Jesus once for all should abolish these shadows. They were indeed of divine institution, but all their efficacy lay in directing the offerer's faith to the vicarious sufferings of the Son of God: for their own sakes they were never acceptable to God, who could take no delight in the blood of bulls; nor could they ever pacify the sinner's conscience, which required a better sacrifice than these to take away sin.
2. The voluntary oblation of Christ, in consequence of the divine designation, is mentioned. Mine ears hast thou opened, or, as the apostle quotes it, a body hast thou prepared me, and this his choice: it was not what he was obliged to, but by voluntary engagement, and the constrainings of mighty love towards miserable man. But, having once engaged, he ratifies the agreement, professes his readiness to abide by it; yea, takes delight in executing it; and from his heart is ready to fulfil all the will of God respecting his mediatorial work, whether by obedience or sufferings. Note; If Christ so readily engaged for us, what gratitude and willing subjection do we owe him in return?

3. He became himself the great preacher of the redemption that he wrought out; in which also God's faithfulness to his promises appeared, and his transcendant loving-kindness to the children of men. These Jesus declared, nor kept back from us any thing of the whole counsel of God. Blessed be his name, that his divine sermons have reached unto us: oh! that we may experience divine teaching also, and read so as to understand.
3rdly, Though the latter part of this psalm may refer to the Psalmist's case, as resuming his prayer in the view of the glorious redemption accomplished for him, yet it may be also well applied to the Redeemer himself.
1. In executing his work, he must bear our sins, and carry our sorrows; and under these he complains and cries for help. Though in himself without sin, holy and harmless, yet when he appeared in our nature he became sin for us, that is to say, an offering for sin, for all our sins; so that, in this view, never was a guilty soul so heavy laden: more than human strength was needful to support the dreadful load; the humanity fainted, but by the eternal Spirit he was upheld. He prays, and pleads the truth and grace engaged to support him through his sufferings; and, as his distress is urgent, he cries for present and immediate help, and was heard because he feared. Note; (1.) Since Jesus sunk not under the load of the sins of the world, shall our sins lead us to despair? God forbid. (2.) They who continue to trust in the Divine faithfulness, may depend upon seeing the fulfilment of the promises. (3.) There is a throne of grace open, and through Jesus we may come boldly; no tender mercy will be withheld, no kindness refused, no help delayed, when through his name we pray in faith.

2. He prays for, or prophecies, the confusion of all his enemies, which he foresees ready to be accomplished. The powers of hell which sought to destroy him, must fall as lightning before him; the Jews who at his crucifixion cried insultingly, "Aha, so would we have it," are long since desolate to their shame, dispersed among all the nations, and every where a proverb of reproach; and all his foes, whether fallen angels or impenitent sinners, must at the last day feel the effects of his indignation, driven backward into hell, and covered with everlasting confusion. Note; All the afflictions of a saint of God, however Satan and his enemies may insult over him, shall terminate to his comfort and their confusion.

3. He prays for his faithful ones, those that love thy salvation; love him, the author of it, and delight in the gracious way in which it is accomplished for them, and bestowed upon them; and seek thee, make God's will their rule, God's glory their end, and the enjoyment of God their sovereign happiness. Let them rejoice, on earth beginning the song of praise, and to eternity crying continually, the Lord be magnified.

4. He concludes with a believing resignation of himself to God. Though he was rich, for our sakes he became poor and needy; yet the Lord regarded him in his low estate; and therefore, trusting in his saving help and deliverance, he cries to him to make no delay. Note; (1.) Our spiritual poverty is great; but we have an inexhaustible treasury, which the key of prayer can unlock. (2.) In every trial, let us not think the time long; the promise is sure to persevering faith, the moment hasting by, time expiring, eternity approaching, and there the consummate happiness and glory of the faithful shall be accomplished.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 40". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.