To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
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4 Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
5 You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.
6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
O Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!
The Old Testament Testifies to Christ
To those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, the Bible is just classic literature; but to the disciples of Christ, the Bible is God’s word, a way of life, and the testimony of Christ. The whole Bible is telling the story of one man: Jesus Christ. Although Psalm 40 was written by David, a thousand years later the New Testament writer of Hebrews quoted verses 6-8 as referring to Jesus: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.’ Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
In order to understand the mystery of the Scriptures, we must be illuminated by the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament was written in preparation for the coming of Jesus, the source of our salvation hope. The New Testament tells us to rejoice and be glad, for this hope he has come. Our salvation is secure, for the rock of our salvation is Christ.
The difficulties we encounter (as well as the temptation to sin we fall into as we endure these hardships) make it clear we are not our own savior. Our righteous deeds cannot save us. As verse 6 says: “‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, in burnt offerings and sin offerings, you have taken no pleasure.’” The sacrifice God wants is a perfectly obedient heart—and this eternal atonement was offered by Christ, who prepared and laid down his body for us.
We can joyfully come praise the Lord, for he showed, from the beginning, the things that are yet to come. In ancient times, he spoke of things that had not yet been done. Christ was from the beginning, and he is the true God who became flesh. In all our trials, we see the hope embodied in Christ. In Christ, we see the predestined end of history and the direction of the whole world. Our prayers and praise are not based on the expectations of our own hearts, but on the faithful promises of God.
The Sin-Bearing Lamb
Christians live in a duality of time and space. We know that from eternity God has all authority and power. Yet looking at life, sin seems to be in power in this world. Every day, countless bad news streams in. We seem to see a living hell on earth, and as we look closely at our hearts, we find them full of indifference, selfishness, laziness, pride, and adultery. These sins haunt and chase us, chilling our hearts.
In modern Chinese society, every few days some breaking news we do not know how to respond to is brought to our attention. Opinions surround us, and we feel forced to take part. Our conscience is not free and peaceful, and we cannot handle the anger and helplessness in our hearts. But the vanity and suffering of life and the ugliness and sin of the world make even more clear how greatly we need a Savior. Where sin abounds, grace abounds.
In a society filled with sin and affliction, we feel this same way as we read the laments of the Psalms. We pray with urgency: “Lord, be gracious and deliver me; help me quickly.” In the midst of trouble, we must humble ourselves. Weeping, we are willing to confess we are poor and needy sinners. At the same time, we deeply understand that God is our help in time of need: “Lord, do not leave me to myself, but give me an obedient and submissive heart. May I more and more see how ‘in the scroll of the book it is written’ of Christ: your salvation has been accomplished and your sacrifice is perfect.” (v. 7)
Christ has already borne ugliness, misery, and the burden of sin in this life. He is the sin-bearing Lamb; he tasted death; he bore our burdens; he rose victoriously. Because of this, when we come to face the hardships of our circumstances and the evil of our own hearts, we are to cry out to him. One pastor said, “I confess that, if I had not experienced the painful desperation of isolation, I would not have come to God in frantic prayer. I would never have experienced the power of the gospel and of God’s service to us.”
Lord, in the midst of a suffering world and in the throes of the battle of the flesh, help us to see the suffering Christ, the one who“learned obedience through what he suffered” and was made perfect. Let us focus our hope on Christ, the Almighty who was, is, and will be forever, the Son of Man who daily carries our burdens. What he has done is written “in the scroll,” and the salvation he has obtained is sure. (v. 7) Let us rejoice and be glad!
Brother Fan is a pseudonym for a preacher at an urban house church in southwest China.