Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 7 2019 - Psalm 40 – Waiting for the Lord

I recently read an Advent book by Paula Gooder. The introduction was an extended reflection on waiting. We do not find waiting easy – at least speaking for myself. We wait in queues to be served. We wait for an appointment with the doctor. Sometimes, we wait for the morning. Rarely do I wait patiently. Paula Gooder, writing as a mother, uses the experience of pregnancy to demonstrate that waiting is not wasted time. The birth cannot be rushed and the waiting is necessary for the growth and development of the expected child. It is fruitful time, full of glad anticipation and of hope.

Psalm 40 begins with the words, "I waited patiently for the Lord." David had been in trouble. No doubt he wanted to be rescued and rescued quickly, but he "waited patiently for the Lord." He knew that only the Lord could help him so he did not rely on his own resources, nor did he turn to anyone else for help. He waited on the Lord with expectation and with hope. He waited in full confidence that the one in whom he placed his hope and trust would answer him and come to his aid.

And this is David's testimony:

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.

At the end of his waiting, God heard, answered and rescued him. David compares his predicament to being in a slimy pit. Not only would it be most unpleasant to be in such a pit, it would also be all but impossible to escape. Every time you tried to get out by your own efforts you'd slip and slide back down to the bottom covered with more mud and mire than ever. But God, says David, lifted him out and set his feet upon a rock. No more slipping and sliding but a firm and solid place to stand. David's mouth is filled with praises to God. The experience was worth the waiting.

David turns his experience into an urgent message to all who will listen: "Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord… May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!'" (vv. 3, 4, 16). The painful experience of waiting is turned into a joyful testimony of deliverance.

Left to ourselves we remain floundering around in the slimy pit of our own sin and helplessness. There is one alone who can help us and that is Christ, who gave himself for our salvation. Maybe it took us many years to come to that conclusion but, having recognised at last that Christ is our help and our hope we realise also that the years of our floundering were not wasted years; they led us at last to him. Now we gladly confess, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." Our experience of our desperate need and of God's gracious response in the Lord Jesus Christ puts songs of praise in our mouths: "Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done." It fills us with the determination to live in glad obedience to our Saviour (v.8), and encourages us to tell others of God's saving goodness (v.9). There is no-one like our God.

Father God, we thank you for our Saviour, the Lord Jesus, who came down into the slimy pit of our floundering and despair and lifted us up to stand upon the solid ground of his saving work. Gladly we confess that you, O Lord, are great. Help us not to hide away in our hearts the wonderful things you have done for us but to praise you openly and commend your salvation to all who will listen.

Peter Misselbrook