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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Psalms 40

Verses 1-17


THE occasion of this psalm is some great deliverance which has been vouchsafed to the author of it, for which he desires to praise and thank God. Of this deliverance he speaks in Psalms 40:1-3, which form a sort of introduction to the whole. He then passes on to a more general praise of God for all his glorious manifestations of himself in the history of his people (Psalms 40:5). The thought next occurs—How is he (the writer)to manifest his gratitude? And this leads to the noble outburst in Psalms 40:6-10. Not by sacrifice and offering, not by a mere legal and formal obedience, but by complete devotion of the inner man as regards himself (Psalms 40:6-8), and constant proclamation of God's goodness as regards others (Psalms 40:9, Psalms 40:10). The strain then changes. Although recently delivered from some great peril, the psalmist is still encompassed by sufferings and dangers. There are sin and infirmity within (Psalms 40:12), there are cruel enemies without (Psalms 40:14, Psalms 40:15). He therefore (in Psalms 40:11-17) betakes himself to humble supplication for himself (Psalms 40:11, Psalms 40:13, Psalms 40:17) and for the godly generally (Psalms 40:16), that God will be their Helper and Defender, and, above all, will "make no tarrying" (Psalms 40:17).

The author of the psalm, according to the title, was David, and no argument of the least weight has been brought against this view. The occasion may be conjectured to have been his restoration to his throne after the brief usurpation of Absalom. Absalom's aiders and abettors may be alluded to in Psalms 40:4, and the remnant of his party in Psalms 40:14.

The psalm falls into three portions:

(1) the introduction (Psalms 40:1-3);

(2) praise of God and promise of obedience (Psalms 40:4-10);

(3) prayer to God (Psalms 40:11-17).

Psalms 40:1

I waited patiently for the Lord; literally, waiting, I waited—a common Hebrew idiom, when an idea is to be emphasized. No writer enforces upon us more earnestly than David the duty of awaiting God's pleasure (Psalms 27:14; Psalms 37:7; Psalms 62:1, Psalms 62:5; Psalms 69:3, etc.). And he inclined unto me; literally, bent towards me—an anthropomorphism, but most expressive. And heard my cry; i.e. answered it—gave me what I prayed for.

Psalms 40:2

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit; literally, a pit of tumult or uproar, which is variously explained. Some imagine a pit with rushing water at the bottom of it, but such pits are scarcely known in Palestine. Others a pit which is filled with noise as a warrior, with crash of arms and amid the shouts of enemies, falls into it. But pits, though used in hunting, were not employed in warfare. The explanation that שׁאון here is to be taken in the secondary sense of "destruction" or "misery," seems to me preferable. Out of the miry clay (comp. Psalms 69:2, Psalms 69:14). Such "clay "would be frequently found at the bottom of disused cisterns. And set my feet upon a rock; i.e. upon solid ground, where I had a firm footing. And established my goings; literally, and make my steps firm (comp. Psalms 17:5; Psalms 18:36; Psalms 94:18).

Psalms 40:3

And he hath put a new song in my mouth (see the comment on Psalms 33:3). Even praise unto our God. Mercy and praise are cause and effect. The deliverance recorded in Psalms 40:2 produces the praise of Psalms 40:3-5. The phrase, "our God," shows us how David instinctively identifies himself with his people. A mercy shown to him is one shown to them. Many shall see it, and fear (comp. Deuteronomy 13:11; Deuteronomy 17:13; Deuteronomy 19:20; Deuteronomy 21:21, where the phrase, "all Israel shall hear and fear," is used of the effect produced by the capital punishment of a high-handed transgressor of the Law). There may be an allusion here to Absalom's end, which was probably followed by a certain number of executions. And shall trust in the Lord; i.e. shall have their faith in God strengthened.

Psalms 40:4

Blessed is that man (rather, the man) that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud; or, turneth not to the proud—does not go over to their party or espouse their principles. Absalom's adherents are probably the persons intended. Nor such as turn aside to lies; i.e. "prefer falsehood to truth," the cause of the ungodly to that of God himself.

Psalms 40:5

Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done. It is not only for his recent deliverance (Psalms 40:2) that the psalmist owes thanks and gratitude to God. God's mercies in the past have been countless, and have laid him under unspeakable obligations. And thy thoughts which are to us-ward. God's thoughtfulness for man, his consideration and providential care, deserve praise and thanks equally with his wondrous acts. They cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee. They are so numerous that it is impossible to reckon them up. Many of them, moreover, are secret, and escape our notice. If I would declare and speak of them. they are more than can be numbered. Words, therefore, are insufficient; and some better return than mere words must be found.

Psalms 40:6

Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire. Will the right return be by sacrifices and burnt offerings? No, the psalmist answers to himself; it is not these which God really "desires." Samuel had already preached the doctrine, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22). David goes further. Apart from a spirit of obedience, sacrifice and offering are not desired or required at all; rather, as Isaiah says, they are a weariness and an abomination (Isaiah 1:11, Isaiah 1:12). The one thing needed is obedience—a cheerful, willing obedience to all that God reveals as his will. Mine ears hast thou opened. Either, "Thou hast taken away my deafness, and given me ears open to receive and embrace thy Law;" or, perhaps, with special reference to Exodus 21:6 and Deuteronomy 15:17, "Thou hast accepted me as thy voluntary servant, and bored through mine ear, to mark that I am thy servant for ever." Burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Of the four kinds of offering mentioned in this verse, the first (זבח) is the ordinary offering of a victim at the altar in sacrifice; the second (מנחה), the meat offering of flour, with oil and frankincense accompanying it; the third (עולה) is the "whole burnt offering," representative of complete self-sacrifice; and the fourth (חטאה), the "sin offering," or "trespass offering," of which the special intention was expiation.

Psalms 40:7

Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me; rather, then said I, Lo, I come with the roll of the book written concerning me. "Then" means "as soon as my ears were opened." "Lo, I come," marks ready and prompt obedience (see Numbers 22:38; 2 Samuel 19:20). The psalmist represents himself as brining with him "the roll of the book," i.e. the book of the Law in its ordinary form of a parchment roll, to show what it is that he is prepared to obey. This book, he says, is written "concerning him," since it contains precepts concerning a king's duties (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

Psalms 40:8

I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy Law is within my heart. The obedience to be rendered will be a true and acceptable obedience,

(1) cheerful, and

(2) from the heart.

Consciously or unconsciously, David speaks as the type of Christ (see Hebrews 10:5-7).

Psalms 40:9

I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: rather, I have proclaimed righteousness. David has sung the praises of God in the "great congregation,'' and extolled his righteousness and truth (Psalms 35:18). He has not "preached," in the modern sense of the word, since the preaching office was reserved for the priests and Levites. Lo, I have not refrained my lips; or, I will not refrain my lips. I will continue to glorify thee openly, and praise thy Name while I have my being (Psalms 104:33). O Lord, thou knowest; i.e. thou knowest the truth of my statement as to the past, and the sincerity of my promise as to the future.

Psalms 40:10

I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth from the great congregation. David's psalms furnish a running commentary on these statements. Composed, as appears from the titles, mainly for use in the "great congregation," they set forth the righteousness, faithfulness, salvation, loving-kindness, and truth of God in the strongest possible way. Contemporary Israel, and later Israel, and the Church which has succeeded to the place of the original Israelites, and become "the Israel of God," are alike indebted to him for the wonderful strains in which he has shown forth and magnified these qualities of the Almighty.

Psalms 40:11

Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord. The supplicatory portion of the psalm here commences. David beseeches God, whose loving-kindness is so great (Psalms 40:10), not to withhold from him those "tender mercies" which he lavishes so freely. As he is bent on "not withholding," or "refraining," his lips (Psalms 40:9), so it is fitting that God should not "withhold," or "refrain'' (כלא) his kindness. Let thy loving-kindness and thy truth continually preserve me (compare the last clause of Psalms 40:10).

Psalms 40:12

For innumerable evils have compassed me about; literally, for evils have gathered upon me until there is no number (comp. Psalms 40:1, Psalms 40:2). The exact nature of the "evils" is not mentioned; but the worst of them appears to be "the deep and bitter consciousness of sin" revealed in the next clause. Another was, beyond all doubt, the continued animosity of enemies (Psalms 40:14). Mental and bodily weakness may have been added, and have completed the crushing load whereof complaint is made. It is noted that tile exceedingly deep consciousness of sin here displayed "belongs altogether to a late part of David's life" (Canon Cook). Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; rather, so that 1 am not able to see. An actual failure of sight seems to be intended (comp. Psalms 6:7; Psalms 31:9; Psa 28:1-9 :10). They are more than the hairs of my head; i.e. they are more in number. Therefore my heart faileth me; i.e. "my courage" and "my strength of mind" (comp. Psalms 38:10).

Psalms 40:13

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver us. Though one deliverance is just effected (Psalms 40:2), it is not enough; something more is required. The psalmist's life is still threatened by enemies (Psalms 40:14); he is still scoffed at and flouted (Psalms 40:15). O Lord, make haste to help me; literally, Lord, make haste to my help (comp. Psalms 22:19; Psalms 31:2; Psalms 38:22). The Church follows the example set, when she says in her versicles, "O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us."

Psalms 40:14

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. The remainder of the psalm from this point is detached later on in the Psalter, and becomes a separate psalm—the seventieth. Whether the detachment was the work of David or another, is uncertain. The differences between the two versions are slight (see the comment on Psalms 70:1-5.). The present verse repeats almost exactly Psalms 35:4 and Psalms 35:26. It is again repeated, with slight variations, in Psalms 71:13.

Psalms 40:15

Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame; rather, by reason of their shame (Kay, Alexander, Revised Version). Let the shame and disgrace that attach to them (Psalms 40:14) cause them to be desolate, or deserted of all. That say unto me, Aha, aha! (comp. Psalms 35:21, Psalms 35:25).

Psalms 40:16

Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee. The psalmist cannot long be satisfied with mere prayer for self. He must extend his supplication, and make it cover the whole body of the faithful, "all those that seek God" (comp. Psalms 25:2, Psalms 25:3, Psalms 25:20-22; Psalms 28:1-9, etc.). Let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified; ie. "Give them constant occasion to say, and give them the grateful heart to say, The Lord be praised for his mercies" (comp. Psalms 35:27).

Psalms 40:17

But I am poor and needy. David could say this in time of trouble. No one is more in need than a discrowned king, driven from his throne and land, and not yet restored to either (2Sa 9:4 -20). Yet the Lord thinketh upon me. The "poor and needy" are those whom God especially considers (see Psalms 9:18; Psalms 10:12, Psalms 10:17, Psalms 10:18; Psalms 34:6; Psalms 35:10, etc.). Thou art my Help and my Deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God (comp. Psalms 40:13, and the comment ad loc.).


Psalms 40:3

The song learned in tribulation.

"He hath put a new song," etc. Trouble impoverishes the children of this world, but enriches the children of God. As St. Paul says, if our hope in Christ were an illusion, Christians would be of all men most pitiable; just as one who has been left heir to an immense fortune, and then by discovery of a later will loses all, is far poorer than he was before. But, as our hope is no illusion, but "a living hope," resting on a living Saviour, and the word of the living God, this life is immensely the richer for it. The "new song" of which the text speaks is one to learn which the heart must be tutored in the school of trouble.

I. A SONG OF DELIVERANCE. An ungodly heart, emerging from trouble, has the sense of relief, escape, not deliverance. Like a shipwrecked man, swimming for his life, heaved by a high wave on shore; not like sinking Peter, caught in the hand of Jesus, treading the waves at his Saviour's side. The difference is immense. Was it worth while for the mariner to be shipwrecked, half-drowned, and lose his all, for the pleasure of standing again on dry ground? Certainly not. He has lost much, gained nothing. But was it worth while for Peter to go through that terrible experience? Had the night been twice as dark, the storm twice as fierce, had he sunk to the very bottom, it would have been a small price to pay for the joy of feeling himself grasped and lifted up in the Saviour's hand; the triumph of walking on the raging waters at his side (see Psalms 34:4-6, Psalms 34:17).

II. A SONG OF FORGIVENESS. The deliverance celebrated was not from mere calamity, but from guilt and its terrible consequences (see Psalms 40:12). This is taking the psalm as uttering David's own experience. But the contrast is so startling, even violent, between the tranquil thankfulness, sense of rectitude, and spiritual insight of Psalms 40:4-10, and the awful sense of sin in Psalms 40:12, that it seems very hard to reconcile, except by understanding that the Spirit of prophecy here made David the mouthpiece of an obedience, excelling and superseding sacrifice, only realized in Christ; and of that appalling, overwhelming view and sense of the terrific nature and amount of human guilt, which only he could have who "knew no sin," but "was made sin for us."

III. A SONG OF PRAISE. Deliverance is sweetest, most joyful, in the exercise of God's love, power, care; the answer to prayer; the fulfilment of promise. Forgiveness of sin is, of all God's good gifts, that which most reveals his love in compassion for the unworthy and disobedient, and in the provision of atonement. "Herein is love" (1Jn 4:9, 1 John 4:10; Romans 5:8).

IV. A SONG OF DEEPENED EXPERIENCE; enriched spiritual life; wiser, stronger,' humbler faith. When tribulation has wrought patience (Romans 5:3, Romans 5:4); when "our extremity has been God's opportunity," and his presence has grown more real, his promises more precious and full of comfort; when we have learned to pray as never before, and prayer has been answered; when we have been made to feel our own utter weakness, and our Saviour's strength has been perfected in us;—then the very trial which threatened to confound and uproot our faith becomes the school in which we learn to trust God and know him, and therefore to praise him, as never before (1 Peter 1:7). So we gain some foretaste of the "new song" sung before the throne (Revelation 5:9, Revelation 5:10).


Psalms 40:1-10

Out of the pit arid on the rock: a song of praise.

The title of the psalm indicates that it is one of David's: against that no adequate argument has been raised. £ Therefore, as David's we regard it. We are called on to a treatment of it in three several topics. In this, the first, we look at it as a song of praise for delivering mercy—for delivering mercy experienced by the psalmist himself, who, having written this grateful hymn, hands it "to the chief musician" for use in sanctuary service. Where can our notes of praise for Divine interposition be more appropriately sung than in the fellowship of the saints in the house of the Lord? We are left in doubt, indeed, as to whether the help thus celebrated was temporal or spiritual. Either way, the progression of thought in these ten verses is the same. For homiletical purposes we can scarcely let our remarks run on both lines at once. We shall, therefore, confine our thoughts to one kind of deliverance, viz. that from spiritual distress; while a pulpit expositor will find the progression of thought equally appropriate, should he desire to use it to incite to praise for temporal mercy. But our present theme is—praise for delivering grace.

I. HERE IS A CASE OF SORE DISTRESS. £ (Psalms 40:2.) "An horrible pit;" "the miry clay." Two very striking expressions, which may well represent, figuratively, the wretchedness and peril of a man who is deep down in the mire of sin and guilt, and on whose conscience the load of guilt presses so heavily, that he seems to be sinking—to have no standing; as if he must soon be swallowed up in misery and despair.

II. THE DISTRESS LEADS TO PRAYER. (Psalms 40:1.) There was a "cry" sent up to God for help. And this help seemed long delayed. There was a prolonged waiting in agony of prayer, that deliverance would come. The Hebrew is not exactly, "I waited patiently," but "waiting, I waited," signifying "I waited long." He who, broken down under conviction of sin, pleads with God for mercy, and will not let him go except he blesses him,—such a one shall never wait in vain.

III. PRAYER IS ANSWERED, AND DELIVERING GRACE IS VOUCHSAFED. (Psalms 40:2.) How great the change! From sinking in a pit, the psalmist is lifted up and set upon a rock] How apt and beautiful the figure to set forth the change in the penitent's position, when, after being weighed down by sin, he is lifted up and set firmly on the Rock of Ages!

IV. HENCE THERE IS A NEW SONG IN THE MOUTH. (Psalms 40:3.) How often do we read of a new song! The song of redeeming grace is new, superadded to the song of creation. It will be ever new; whether on earth or in heaven, it can never grow old, it can lose none of its freshness and glory!


1. Surrender of will, heart, life, and all, to God. (Psalms 40:6-8.) "In the roll of the book" it was prescribed that Israel's king was to fulfil the will of God, and that such fulfilment of the will of God was more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. Note: The doctrine here expressed is no mark of a later date than David (see 1 Samuel 12:1-25.; 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalms 1:1-6.; Psalms 51:16; Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 7:21; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:1-8).

2. The proclamation of God's mercy before men. (Psalms 40:9, Psalms 40:10.) There is nothing like the experience of "grace abounding to the chief of sinners," to give power in speaking for God. He who having been first "in the pit," then "on his knees," then "on the Rock," is the man who will have power when he stands "in the pulpit."—C.

Psalms 40:11-17

Poor and needy: a prayer and a plea.

There are many psalms which begin in a sigh and end with a song, showing us that even in the act of waiting before God, and of waiting on God, the darkness often passes away. We find our burden rolling off in the very act and energy of prayer. In this psalm, however, matters are reversed; and immediately following on a song of triumph and a vow of surrender, there is a piteous wail. This dissimilarity, nay, almost discordance, has led to a very general opinion that what here seems to be the latter part of this psalm is actually another psalm, which has somehow or other come to be attached to this one. The probability of this is confirmed by the fact that Psalms 70:1-5. is the same as the close of Psalms 40:1-17. But, of course, at this distance of time, data which would fully explain that cannot be expected to be available. Still, it is a great comfort to be permitted to think of this paragraph as being penned at a different time and under different circumstances from those which called forth the preceding ten verses. It would be discouraging, indeed, if we found that in one and the same breath the psalmist was triumphantly set upon a rock, and then in a minute or two bowed down with a weight of woe! We are not called on to entertain such a doleful supposition; and are glad, therefore, to deal with this piteous prayer and plea as standing by itself. It is not difficult to seize the progress of the thought.

I. HERE IS A SOUL IN DEEP DISTRESS. (Psalms 40:12.) Whether the "evils" are the iniquities themselves, or the form in which those iniquities are brought home to him, is not absolutely clear. Probably the latter is the case. Very often surrounding circumstances may bring to us bitterly painful reminders of past sin. And this may be one of God's means of bringing a soul to repentance through the avenue of remorse and shame.

II. HERE IS AN UTTER ABSENCE OF SYMPATHY FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD. Yea, something more than a lack of sympathy; for there is ridicule (Psalms 40:15), there is joy over his sorrow (Psalms 40:14, latter part); there is even an effort to destroy his peace, and perchance to further a plot against his life. Note: In the moments of deepest distress, when we look for succour from man, we find that the greater part are so engrossed in their own affairs, that they have never a tear to shed over another's sorrows, nor a hand to help in another's needs. This is hard. But it is a part of the discipline of life; and it is made use of by God to drive us to himself.

III. THE PSALMIST IS SHUT UP TO GOD. (Psalms 40:11, Psalms 40:13, Psalms 40:17.) It is not for nought that we are sometimes shut off from the sympathies of man. However trying, it is an infinite mercy when we are left with God alone. There, however, we have a perpetual Refuge. There are no fewer than four comforting thoughts specified here.

(1) There is the nameJehovah;

(2) there is the assurance of having a share in the thoughts of God (Psalms 40:17); there is in God

(3) loving-kindness; and

(4) faithfulness. "Thy truth," i.e. thy fidelity to thy promises. Note: Whoever has such a Refuge to which to flee, is well prepared for the worst of times.


1. One part of his prayer, and a prominent part too, is against his enemies. (Psalms 40:15.) We need not imitate David here" (see our homily on Psalms 35:1-28.). Let us leave our enemies in the hands of God; or, rather, let us pray for them.

2. A second part of his prayer is on behalf of the godly. (Psalms 40:16.) Note: This indicates that the psalmist was not moved by private feeling only, but by a pious public spirit.

3. A third part of his prayer is for himself. (Psalms 40:13 and Psalms 40:17.) Note: It will be very selfish of us if we pray only for ourselves, and very unnatural if we do not include ourselves.—C.

Psalms 40:6-8 (taken along with Hebrews 10:5-9)

The supreme surrender, and its eternal value.

That some of the psalms are applied to Christ does not warrant us in applying them all to him; £ and even if some verses of any one psalm are applied to the Messiah, we. are not thereby, warranted in applying all the verses in such psalm to him. £ There are direct Messianic psalms, which apply only to the Lord Jesus Christ; such are the second and the hundred and tenth psalms. Critics—some of them, at least—demur to this as being contrary to psychological law. But it is not merely by the psychological law of the natural man that these Messianic psalms are declared to have been written. We are pointed, for their origin, to a fourfold divergence from naturalistic psychology.

1. It is not of psychology we have to think, but of pneumatology.

2. Of the pneumatology of the spiritual man.

3. Of the pneumatology of the spiritual man when "borne along" by the Divine Pneuma.

4. Of such action of the Divine Pneuma on the human for a specific Divine purpose. All this is indicated in 2 Peter 1:21; and therefore all such critics as those to which we refer are totally beside the mark (see our remarks on Psalms 32:1-11.). But there are also psalms which are indirectly Messianic. They are marked, speaking generally, by the pronoun "I." The writer speaks for himself, in the first instance; but whether he knew or intended it or not, the words had such a far-reachingness about them, that they could only be filled up in their perfect meaning by the Lord Jesus Christ. £ Such is the case with the verses now before us. They first of all apply to David, and it is quite possible that he intended nothing further; if so, unwittingly to himself, he was borne along to utter words whose fulness of meaning could only be disclosed by the Incarnation, by David's Son, who had eternally been David's Lord; and, as such, the doctrines they contain are truly sublime. There is a somewhat difficult matter, which may be indicated by the questions:

(1) How came the phrase, "Mine ears hast thou opened," to be rendered by the LXX; "A body hast thou prepared me"? and

(2) whether of the two readings is to be accepted? Dean Alford (see his Commentary, in loc.) prefers to leave the difficulties unsolved. Dr. J. Fye Smith, Dr. Boothroyd, £ and others, with little hesitation, express their conviction that the original and correct phrase is that adopted by the LXX. Calmet £ suggests, "On lit dans l'hebreu antes, peutetre pour corpus autem." Archdeacon Farrar £ says, in his notes on Hebrews 10:5-7, "Finding the rendering in the LXX; believing it to represent the true sense of the original (as it does), and also seeing it to be eminently illustrative of his subject, the writer naturally adopts it." On the whole, then, the variation presents an interesting point in textual criticism, rather than any doctrinal difficulty. Since, in either case, the substantial meaning is, "My bodily frame has been marked out and sealed for the performance of thy will." By the very frequent quotation from the LXX. rather than from the Hebrew, even when they vary, the sacred writers show how much more important in their view was the main thought than the precise form of expression. £ Having, then, in two separate homilies, dealt with this psalm in its application to David, we will now luxuriate in these verses as finding their highest and noblest application in Christ, and in him alone. In so doing, eight lines of thought require to be laid down.

I. THERE IS A MOMENTOUS PRINCIPLE UNDERLYING BOTH THE HEBREW AND THE CHRISTIAN ECONOMIES. It is this—that sin has disturbed the relations between man and God, so that nothing is right with man till these relations are readjusted and harmony is restored. The whole of the Mosaic economy was an education in the evil of sin. "By Law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20); "The Law was our child-guide unto Christ" (Galatians 3:24).

II. UNDER THE LAW, THE PEOPLE WERE TAUGHT THAT SIN MUST BE PUT AWAY BY SACRIFICE. "Without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). But there will ever remain this wide, this infinite, difference between Jewish and pagan sacrifices—the pagan sacrifices started from man, and expressed his desire to propitiate God; the Jewish sacrifices were appointed by God himself, as by One pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin, who would cancel guilt only as sin had been condemned.

III. THE VARIED SACRIFICES UNDER THE LAW WERE BUT A "FIGURE FOR THE TIME THEN PRESENT." The doctrine of the insufficiency of fleshly sacrifices is found not only in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but also in the Old Testament (see 1 Samuel 15:22,-23; Psalms 51:16; Psalms 40:6-8; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 7:22, Jeremiah 7:23; Micah 6:6-8). The more discerning and spiritually minded of the Hebrew saints saw and felt how ineffective were all the varied offerings £ to ensure peace with God; and, because ineffective, they were necessarily typical Hence—

IV. THE OLD TESTAMENT DISPENSATION WAS IN ITS ENTIRETY BUT PROPHETIC OF ONE WHO SHOULD COME. (Cf. Luke 24:44; Acts 17:2, Acts 17:3; Acts 28:23; Daniel 9:24-27. £) The entire argument in Hebrews 9:1-28. and 10. shows this. From the time when he who saw Messiah's day from afar said, "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering," the outlook of the Church of God was towards One "who should come into the world."

V. THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, IN THE FACT OF HIS INCARNATION, DECLARED THAT BE HAD COME TO ACCOMPLISH THE UNFULFILLED MEANING OF OLD TESTAMENT SACRIFICES. We are not told here that he said this by his Spirit in the fortieth psalm, but that "when he came into the world" he said it. His entrance into our race was itself the great declaration. £ That act of "emptying himself" spake volumes then, and will do through all time; and thus he put upon the ancient words the sublimest possible significance.

VI. IN ACCOMPLISHING TYPE AND PROPHECY, JESUS FULFILLED THE WORD OF GOD. His advent to earth was an absolute self-surrender to the Father's will (cf. John 4:34; John 6:38). He fulfilled the Father's will

(1) by revealing the Father;

(2) by honouring the Law;

(3) by condemning sin;

(4) by thus laying a basis for the forgiveness of every penitent.

VII. ON THE GROUND OF THIS SURRENDER OF HIMSELF, SIN IS PUT AWAY. "He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26). The absolute surrender of the will of the Eternal Son to the Eternal Father accomplished, in fact, that which all past sacrifices had accomplished only in figure. The surrender of that will ensured the fulfilment of all the purposes for which that will was surrendered. "He hath obtained the eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews 9:12; see John 6:38-40).

VIII. SIN HAVING BEEN PUT AWAY FOR EVER, THE ANCIENT SACRIFICES HAVE CEASED FOR EVER. "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second" (Hebrews 10:9); "By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Any pretended repetition of the Saviour's sacrifice in the Mass is impiety. No repetition of it is possible. All Old Testament sacrifices have ceased; the Old Testament priesthood has ceased, and has never been renewed. £ Note: What now remains for us? Only

(1) to accept the one offering of the Son of God as all-sufficient; £ and

(2) to render now the only sacrifice which is possible for us, viz. the loving, the absolute surrender of our will to him who hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, that we may stand perfect add complete in all the will of God.—C.


Psalms 40:1-17

Grace and gratitude.

"Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord, look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged." So said the prophet (Isaiah 51:1), and it is good for us betimes to follow this counsel. It will not only teach us humility, but bind us more firmly in love and gratitude to God. It is the depth that proves the height. It is the misery that measures the mercy. It is by the utterness of the ruin that we realize the completeness of the restoration. It is by contemplating the gloom and horrors of the abyss into which we had sunk through sin, that we can best comprehend the wonders of the redemption wrought for us through Jesus Christ. The psalmist dwells upon two things.

I. WHAT GOD HAD DONE FOR HIS SERVANT. "Pit;" "clay." These images mark:

1. The greatness of the danger. The pit was "horrible," gloomy and terrible, the place of certain destruction if no help came (Genesis 37:24-27). The clay is called "retry," to indicate that there was no solidity—nothing but a foul, seething mass, where no rest could be found (Jeremiah 38:6).

2. The greatness of the deliverance. It was free—in God's time (Psalms 40:1); complete (Psalms 40:2); joy-inspiring (Psalms 40:3); morally influential (Psalms 40:4); prophetical, typifying and giving promise of many other "wonderful works" of God (Psalms 40:5; cf. Paul, 1 Timothy 1:16). It should also be noticed that the deliverance was wrought out

(1) in harmony with eternal righteousness. King Darius was bent on saving Daniel from the den of lions, and "Laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him;" but in vain. The law was against him. The decree which he himself had established bound his hands. He could do nothing (Daniel 6:14-17). But the King of kings is a just God and a Saviour (Isaiah 42:21; Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26). Also in harmony with man's freedom. there is a certain order in the method. Man can do nothing without God, but God will do nothing without man. We are made willing in the day of his power. First there is the cry; then the hearing; then the lifting up; then the setting upon the rock; then the new song and the new service, as the outflow and the expression of the new heart. "By grace are ye saved, through faith" (Ephesians 2:4-10; Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30).

II. WHAT HIS SERVANT WOULD DO FOR GOD. "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" is the question of the prophet; and he gives the answer, "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what cloth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:6-8). The same great truth had been taught long before by Samuel, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22).

1. The sacrifice of the will. Without this all else is vain. There is death, not life; the letter, but not the spirit; the form of godliness, but not the power.

2. The obedience of the life. Whatever way we interpret the obscure phrase, "Mine ears hast thou opened," the meaning seems to be the free and complete surrender of the soul to God. The right disposition leads to the life-devotion (Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15).

3. The thanksgiving of the heart. Both privately and publicly, in our daffy life before God and before men, we are to serve in the spirit of love and joy. Amidst all the changes and chances of our mortal state, we should continue faithful to him who hath called us that we might show forth his praise. Thus we shall have part with these saints of God—

"Who carry music in their heart,
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat?


Psalms 40:7, Psalms 40:8

The heart of Messiah.

"Lo, I come!" Many questions might be asked as to this announcement. Who is this? Whence, and whither, and for what purpose, does he come? It is enough that we can identify the Speaker (Luke 24:44; Hebrews 10:5-7). Let us therefore ponder his words.

I. THE WILL OF GOD WAS THE CHIEF THOUGHT OF HIS HEART. We see this in his earthly life. See him at his first Passover. When Joseph and Mary found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, his answer was, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" He was but twelve, and yet, at that tender age, how intense his consciousness of the trust committed to him! So it was on his baptism at the Jordan (Matthew 3:15); in the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4); at the well of Jacob (John 4:34); and onward to the end. Daily, hourly, constantly, to the last moment, it was his chief thought to do the will of him that sent him, and to finish his work (John 3:34; John 5:19; John 6:37). Evermore, as the will of the Father was revealed to him, it was accepted and obeyed in the spirit of love. The will of the Father was equally and truly the will of the Son. This is true freedom.

II. THE WILL OF GOD WAS THE SECRET STRENGTH OF HIS HEART. It was said of Moses, "He endured as seeing him who is invisible." So it has been with God's servants in every age. The sense of the invisible, commerce and familiarity with the great unseen world, alliance with God, make men strong for duty. So it was in the highest sense with Christ. The will of God was the strength of his heart, because:

1. It harmonized with eternal righteousness. Our Lord knew he had the most absolute conviction, that in doing the will of God he was walking in the path of truth and righteousness. Hence he was' strong and brave (Isaiah 42:1-4).

2. It harmonized with the highest good of man. When men's hearts are not in their work, they soon weary. But when labour is congenial, it is no longer a task and a burden, but a delight. So it was with Newton in his love of truth; with Howard and Wilberforce and Livingstone, in their generous enthusiasm for humanity. And so it was in the most perfect way with our Lord. He came to save, and not to destroy.

"Good will to men and zeal for God
His every thought engross."


1. He enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God (John 15:10).

2. He perfectly filled up the plan of God for the development of his human nature. His life was the only life that answered perfectly to the will of God—with no defect to be supplied, no error to be corrected, no blemish to be remedied.

3. He accomplished the redemption of his people.

4. He glorified the Father.—W.F.

Psalms 40:17

God's thoughts.

"I am"—what? The question is important. In order to judge rightly, we must have a right standard. We are not to measure ourselves by ourselves, or by the rules of society, but by the perfect Law of God (2 Corinthians 10:12; Romans 3:20). "I am poor and needy." What then? If comparing ourselves with all that is true and noble and good, with all that is highest and holiest, we are penetrated with a sense of Our own sins and unworthiness, what are we to do 9 Cast down, lying prone in the dust, there speaks within us the "still small voice" of consolation," Yet the Lord thinketh upon me." Here is—

I. HOPE FOR THE WRETCHED. We may be "poor," wanting in all that is good. We may be not only "poor," but "needy," with cravings and desires which earth cannot satisfy. Like the miserable outcast, we may be ready to say, "No man cared for my soul" (Psalms 142:4). Yet there is hope. God thinketh upon us. And we have the outcome of his thoughts. "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). It is when we realize our state that we are open to help. It is when we turn to God that we find that he has already turned to us, and that his thoughts towards us are thoughts of mercy and of love (Isaiah 55:6-9).

II. COMFORT AMIDST THE DESOLATIONS OF LIFE. Many are "poor and needy" because bereft of what they held dear. In time of trouble what should we do? Some say," Trial is common." Others tell us," You have had your turn of joy: why complain now that you are visited with sorrow?" Others exhort us to patience; they say," Time is the great healer." Others again exhort us to submission, to bow to the inevitable. To such and such-like we can but answer, as Job did, "Miserable comforters are ye all" (Job 16:2). But when we remember God, then we are truly comforted. Sympathy is sweet, but more is necessary for us. The Lord not only" thinketh upon us," but he has provided for us "strong consolation" (Hebrews 6:18). The Bible contains the thoughts of God, and it is rich in instruction and comfort. Christ Jesus has come to make known to us the thoughts of God, speaking to us as a Brother, in dear words of human speech, and remembering what he has said, we are comforted (Isaiah 41:14-17; John 14:1; 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3-6).

III. INSPIRATION FOR THE LABOUR OF LIFE. It is a great thing to know what our true work is; but we may know this and shrink with a sense of our unfitness. So it was with Moses, but God thought of him (Exodus 4:10-14). So it has been in a humbler way with many. We feel, when face to face with duty, that we are ill equipped and weak. We are ready to halt. But if we keep our minds open, if we watch for opportunities, if we are ready to do the work that lies nearest to us, what our "hand findeth to do," God will not fail to help us. Whatever is good in us is of God, and showeth that God thinketh upon us. Our best thoughts are his thoughts. All the greatest things done by men have been, first of all, God's thoughts, put into their minds to quicken, to inspire, to move them on to noble ends. So it was with Carey, and Wilberforce, and Raikes, and hosts of others. It is helpful to a servant to know that his master thinks of him; to a soldier that his captain thinks of him; to a young man, far from home, that his mother thinks of him; and so, and in a far higher way, it is inspiring and comforting to every true worker in the cause of truth, to know that Christ thinketh of him, and that whatever he does is done under the great Taskmaster's eye, and will not fail of due recognition and reward.—W.F.


Psalms 40:1-10

Thanksgiving and prayer.

The first part (Psalms 40:1-10) is a thanksgiving, the second part a prayer. The situation is that of one who, on one side, set free from a heavy affliction, is still oppressed on the other. We have all ground for thanksgiving for the past, and for prayer for the present and future. This section may be divided thus: what God had done fur the psalmist and for his country; and what the psalmist had done for God.


1. For the psalmist.

(1) Delivered him from threatened destruction into great safety. The specific nature of the salvation is not mentioned, But it suggests and describes what Christ dyes in the deliverance of the man who trusts in him, the greatness of the salvation.

(2) The deliverance had filled him with grateful joy. "Put a new song into his mouth." Every new experience of the Divine love should rouse anew the spirit of thanksgiving; it is a new revelation of God's mercy. His experience is, "Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust."

2. For the Hebrew people as a nation. (Psalms 40:5.) Turns from the goodness of God towards himself to his larger manifestations of himself in the national history. His wonderful thoughts or purposes, and his wonderful deeds on behalf of Israel, are too great and too manifold to be enumerated. But we turn to what God is doing for the world, and say, "God so loved the world," etc.; not only our country, but the whole world. How great a Worker and Thinker God is for the whole universe!

II. WHAT THE PSALMIST HAD DONE FOR GOD. (Psalms 40:6-10.) To manifest his gratitude.

1. By his deeds. (Psalms 40:6-8.)

(1) He gives obedience to his Law, instead of seeking to please him by sacrifice. God had opened his ears to hear and his eyes to read his will as prescribed to him in the roll of his book. Obedience better than any ceremonial observance.

(2) His obedience was thus not only intelligent, but came from the heart. The Law was in his heart; he loved obedience.

2. By his words. (Psalms 40:9, Psalms 40:10.) Unwearied in proclaiming to others what Jehovah had done for him.

(1) What he preached. The righteousness, faithfulness, and loving-kindness of God. He preached what he saw in his own history and the history of the nation.

(2) Gratitude gave him courage openly to declare God's goodness. If he had been ungrateful, or had wanted courage, he might have been tempted to hide God's dealings among the secrets of his private experience. Every man's duty to profess his convictions; and to declare that he is on the side of Christ and the Church.—S.

Psalms 40:11-17

Discipline lifelong.

Though the sufferer has been delivered from one great distress, he is still encompassed by great sufferings and dangers, from which he prays to be rescued. Suggests—

I. THAT THE WORK OF OUR DISCIPLINE AND SALVATION IS A LIFELONG WORK. No one act of deliverance is sufficient; no one deliverance can cover the whole of our experience.

1. Fresh sin brings a renewed consciousness of suffering. (Psalms 40:12.) The psalmist suffered so in this respect that his eyes became dim from exhaustion; he felt his sins to be more than the hairs of his head, so that his heart failed in strength. Sense and soul both gave way.

2. Men in high station are in constant danger from enemies. (Psalms 40:14, Psalms 40:15.) However righteous in conduct and blameless in character. Bad men have selfish ends to attain, and they try to get good men out of their way by slander and persecution.

3. As life advances, the sense of our poverty and need deepens. (Psalms 40:17.) If we are growing wiser and better, we get a deeper insight into what we ought to be and might become, and so nourish a Divine discontent with our poverty and weakness.


1. Gratitude for the past will inspire us to prayer. This was the case with the psalmist (Psalms 40:1-10).

2. We are encouraged to pray by the thought of the goodness of God. (Psalms 40:11.) He appeals to "the tender mercies," "the loving-kindness," and "the truth," or the faithfulness, of God to those who trust in him.. He knows that "God thinketh upon him."

3. He appeals also to the retributive justice of God. (Psalms 40:14, Psalms 40:15.) He is sure that God will deal righteously with his enemies.

4. He is emboldened to seek for speedy deliverance. (Psalms 40:17.) In the first verse he says he waited patiently for the Lord; here he becomes impatient for the Divine interference. The patience means persevering prayer; the impatience means urgent prayer; and both are right and acceptable and necessary to the believer in earnest about salvation.—S

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 40". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.