Psalms 40

PSALM XL

The benefit of confidence in God, 1-3.

The blessedness of those who trust in God, 4, 5.

The termination of the Jewish sacrifices in that of Christ, 6-8.

The psalmist's resolution to publish God's goodness, 9, 10:

he prays to be delivered from evils, 11-13;

against his enemies, 14, 15;

and in behalf of those who are destitute, 16, 17.

NOTES ON PSALM XL

The TITLE, "To the chief Musician," we have already seen, and it

contains nothing worthy of particular remark. Concerning the

occasion and author of this Psalm there has been a strange and

numerous diversity of opinions. I shall not trouble the reader

with sentiments which I believe to be ill founded; as I am

satisfied the Psalm was composed by David; and about the same time

and on the same occasion as the two preceding; with this

difference, that here he magnifies God for having bestowed the

mercy which he sought there. It is, therefore, a thanksgiving for

his recovery from the sore disease by which he was afflicted in

his body, and for his restoration to the Divine favour. The sixth,

seventh, and eighth verses contain a remarkable prophecy of the

incarnation and sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ. From the

eleventh to the end contains a new subject and appears to have

belonged to another Psalm. It is the same as the seventieth Psalm;

only it wants the two first verses.

Verse 1. I waited patiently for the Lord] The two preceding

Psalms are proofs of the patience and resignation with which David

waited for the mercy of God. The reader is requested to consult

the notes on them.

And heard my cry.] The two preceding Psalms show how he prayed

and waited; this shows how he succeeded.

Verse 2. A horrible pit] Literally, the sounding pit; where

nothing was heard except the howlings of wild beasts, or the

hollow sounds of winds reverberated and broken from the craggy

sides and roof.

The miry clay] Where the longer I stayed the deeper I sank, and

was utterly unable to save myself. The Syriac and Arabic translate

"The pit of perdition, and the mud of corruption." These are

figurative expressions to point out the dreary, dismal, ruinous

state of sin and guilt, and the utter inability of a condemned

sinner to save himself either from the guilt of his conscience, or

the corruption of his heart.

Set my feet upon a rock] Thou hast changed my state from guilt

to pardon; from corruption to holiness; in consequence of which

my goings are established. I have now power over all sin, and

can walk steadily in the way that leads to God's kingdom.

Verse 3. A new song] Cheerfulness and joy had long been

strangers to him. He seemed to live to utter the most doleful

complaints, and be a prey to suffering and wretchedness. Praise

for a sense of God's favour was a new song to him. The word is

often used to signify excellence: I will sing a most excellent and

eminent song.

Many shall see it] I will publish it abroad; and fear-to sin

against the Lord, knowing by my example what a grievous and bitter

thing it is.

And shall trust in the Lord.] Even the worst of sinners shall

not despair of mercy, being penitent, when they see that I have

found favour in his sight.

Verse 4. Blessed is that man] The man must be blessed and happy

who casts his soul, with all its burden of sin and wretchedness,

at the footstool of God's mercy; for he will save all who come to

him through the Son of his love.

Verse 5. Many-are thy wonderful works] The psalmist seems here

astonished and confounded at the counsels, loving-kindnesses, and

marvellous works of the Lord, not in nature, but in grace; for

it was the mercy of God towards himself that he had now

particularly in view.

Verse 6. Sacrifice and offering] The apostle, Heb 10:5, &c.,

quoting this and the two following verses, says, When he (the

Messiah) cometh into the world-was about to be incarnated, He

saith-to God the Father, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst

not-it was never thy will and design that the sacrifices under

thy own law should be considered as making atonement for sin; they

were only designed to point out my incarnation and consequent

sacrificial death: and therefore a body hast thou prepared me, by

a miraculous conception in the womb of a virgin; according to thy

word, The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent.

A body hast thou prepared me.-The quotation of this and the two

following verses by the apostle, Heb 10:5, &c., is taken from the

Septuagint, with scarcely any variety of reading: but, although

the general meaning is the same, they are widely different in

verbal expression in the Hebrew. David's words are

oznayim caritha lli, which we translate, My ears hast thou

opened; but they might be more properly rendered, My ears hast

thou bored; that is, Thou hast made me thy servant for ever, to

dwell in thine own house: for the allusion is evidently to the

custom mentioned Ex 21:2, &c.: "If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six

years he shall serve, and in the seventh he shall go out free: but

if the servant shall positively say, I love my master, &c., I will

not go out free; then his master shall bring him to the doorpost,

and shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him

for ever."

But how is it possible that the Septuagint and the apostle

should take a meaning so totally different from the sense of the

Hebrew? Dr. Kennicott has a very ingenious conjecture here: he

supposes that the Septuagint and apostle express the meaning of

the words as they stood in the copy from which the Greek

translation was made; and that the present Hebrew text is

corrupted in the word oznayim, ears, which has been written

through carelessness for az gevah, THEN, a BODY The first

syllable, az, THEN, is the same in both; and the latter, ,

which, joined to makes oznayim, might have been easily

mistaken for gevah, BODY; nun being very like

gimel; yod like vau; and he like final

mem; especially if the line on which the letters were written in

the MS. happened to be blacker than ordinary, which has often been

a cause of mistake, it might then have been easily taken for the

under-stroke of the mem, and thus give rise to a corrupt reading;

add to this, the root carah signifies as well to prepare, as

to open, bore, &c. On this supposition the ancient copy translated

by the Septuagint, and followed by the apostle, must have read the

text thus: az gevah charitha lli; σωμαδεκατηρτισω

μοι Then a body thou hast prepared me: thus the Hebrew text, the

version of the Septuagint, and the apostle, will agree in what is

known to be an indisputable fact in Christianity; namely, that

Christ was incarnated for the sin of the world.

The AEthiopic has nearly the same reading: the Arabic has both,

"A body hast thou prepared me, and mine ears thou hast opened."

But the Syriac, the Chaldee, and the Vulgate, agree with the

present Hebrew text; and none of the MSS. collated by Kennicott

and De Rossi have any various reading on the disputed words.

It is remarkable, that all the offerings and sacrifices which

were considered to be of an atoning or cleansing nature, offered

under the law, are here enumerated by the psalmist and the

apostle, to show that none of them, nor all of them, could take

away sin; and that the grand sacrifice of Christ was that alone

which could do it.

Four kinds are here specified, both by the psalmist and the

apostle: viz. SACRIFICE, zebach, θυσια; OFFERING,

minchah, προσφορα; BURNT-OFFERING, olah, ολοκαυτωμα;

SIN-OFFERING, chataah, περιαμαρτιας. Of all these we may

say, with the apostle, it was impossible that the blood of bulls

and goats, &c. should take away sin.

Thou hast had no pleasure.-Thou couldst never be pleased with

the victims under the law; thou couldst never consider them as

atonements for sin, as they could never satisfy thy justice, nor

make thy law honourable.

Verse 7. In the volume of the book] bimegillath

sepher, "in the roll of the book." Anciently, books were written

on skins, and rolled up. Among the Romans, these were called

volumina, from volvo, I roll; and the Pentateuch in the Jewish

synagogues is still written in this way. There are two wooden

rollers; on one they roll on, on the other they roll off, as they

proceed in reading. One now lying before me, written on vellum, is

two feet two inches in breadth and one hundred and two feet long.

To roll and unroll such a MS. was no easy task, and to be managed

must lie flat on a table. This contains the Pentateuch only, and

is without points, or any other Masoretic distinction. The book

mentioned here must be the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses;

for, in David's time no other part of Divine revelation had been

committed to writing. This whole book speaks about Christ, and his

accomplishing the will of God, not only in "the seed of the woman

shall bruise the head of the serpent," and "in thy seed shall all

the nations of the earth be blessed;" but in all the sacrifices

and sacrificial rites mentioned in the law.

Verse 8. To do thy will] God willed not the sacrifices under the

law, but he willed that a human victim of infinite merit should be

offered for the redemption of mankind. That there might be such a

victim, a body was prepared for the eternal Logos, and in that

body he came to do the will of God; that is, to suffer and die for

the sins of the world.

1. Hence we see that the sovereign WILL of God is that Jesus

should be incarnated; that he should suffer and die; or, in the

apostle's words, taste death for every man; that all should

believe on him, and be saved from their sins; for this is the WILL

of God, our sanctification.

2. And as the apostle grounds this on the words of the Psalm, we

see that it is the WILL of God that that system shall end; for as

the essence of it is contained in its sacrifices, and God says he

will not have these, and has appointed the Messiah to do his

will, i.e., to die for men, hence it necessarily follows, from the

psalmist himself, that the introduction of the Messiah into the

world is the abolition of the law; and that his sacrifice is that

which shall last for ever.

Verse 9. I have preached righteousness] I think it best to refer

these words to Christ and his apostles. In consequence of his

having become a sacrifice for sin, the Jewish sacrificial system

being ended, the middle wall of partition was broken down, and the

door of faith, the doctrine of justification by faith, opened to

the Gentiles. Hence the Gospel was preached in all the world, and

the mercy of God made known to the Gentiles; and thus

righteousness-justification by faith, was preached in the great

congregation-to Jews and Gentiles, throughout the Roman empire.

The great congregation, both in this and the following verse, I

think, means the Gentiles, contradistinguished from the Jews.

The word righteousness means the plan or method of salvation by

Jesus Christ-God's method of justifying sinners by faith, without

the deeds of the law. See Ro 3:25, 26, and the notes there.

Verse 10. Thy faithfulness] This means the exact fulfilment of

the promises made by the prophets relative to the incarnation of

Christ, and the opening of the door of faith to the Gentiles.

Loving-kindness] Shows the gift itself of Jesus Christ, the

highest proof that God could give to a lost world of his mercy,

kindness, and loving-kindness.

Verse 11. Thy tender mercies] rachameycha, such

propensities and feelings as a mother bears to her child; or

animals in general to their young.

Let thy loving-kindness] chasdecha, thy overflowing and

superabundant mercy.

And thy truth] What is revealed in thy word: continually

preserve me. Mercy to help me, truth to direct me; and, by the

operation of both, I shall be continually preserved from sin and

evil.

Verse 12. Innumerable evils have compassed me about] This part

does not comport with the preceding; and either argues a former

experience, or must be considered a part of another Psalm, written

at a different time, and on another occasion, and, were we to

prefix the two first verses of the seventieth Psalm to it we

should find it to be a Psalm as complete in itself as that is.

They are more than the hairs of mine head] This could not be

said by any person who was exulting in the pardoning mercy of God,

as David was at the time he penned the commencement of this Psalm.

Verse 15. That say unto me, Aha, aha.] heach, heach.

See on Ps 35:21.

Verse 16. Let all those that seek thee-be glad] In making prayer

and supplication to thee, let them ever find thee, that they may

magnify thee for the blessings they receive.

Love thy salvation] Who earnestly desire to be saved from sin:

saved in thy own way, and on thy own terms.

The Lord be magnified.] Let God be praised continually for the

continual blessings he pours down.

Verse 17. But I am poor] ani, afflicted, greatly

depressed.

And needy] ebyon, a beggar. One utterly destitute,

and seeking help.

The Lord thinketh upon me] The words are very emphatic;

Adonai, my prop, my support, thinketh, yachshab,

meditateth, upon me. On which he concludes: "Thou art my help and

deliverer." Seeing that my miserable state occupies thy heart, it

will soon employ thy hand. Thou, who meditatest upon me, wilt

deliver me.

Make no tarrying] Seeing thou art disposed to help, and I am in

such great necessity, delay not, but come speedily to my

assistance. The old Psalter speaks to this effect: "Let us not be

so long under distress and misery that we lose our patience, or

our love to thee."

ANALYSIS OF THE FORTIETH PSALM

There are two main parts in this Psalm:-

I. A thanksgiving, Ps 40:1-11.

II. A prayer, from Ps 40:12-17.

Thankfulness consists in the exercise of two virtues, truth and

justice.

1. Truth calls upon us to acknowledge the benefit, and him from

whom we receive it.

2. Justice obliges us to be grateful, and to perform some duties

as evidences of our thankful minds; and both these we meet with in

the first part.

I. David begins with a profession of thankfulness; shows his

confidence: "I waited patiently for the Lord;" then shows the

success, or what God did for him.

1. "He inclined his ear, and heard my cry."

2. "He brought me out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry

clay."

3. "He set my feet upon a rock." Being redeemed from danger, he

set me in a safe place.

4. "He established my goings." He confirmed my steps, so that I

slipped and slided no more.

5. And he hath moved me to be thankful: "He hath put a new song

in my mouth." The deliverance was not common, and therefore the

praise should not be common, but expressed by a new and exquisite

song.

And in this he supposed his example would be a common document.

Many shall see my deliverance and my thanksgiving, and shall fear

God, and acknowledge his grace, his providence, and protection;

and be led thereby to put their trust in him. And then he produces

his form of thanksgiving.

First, He pronounces the man blessed who relies on God. 1.

"Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust." 2. "And

blessed is he who respects not the proud;" men proud of their

wealth and power, or such as turn aside to lies.

Secondly, Then by exclamation admires God's mercies, and

goodness to his people. 1. For their grandeur and multitude:

"Many, O Lord my God, are thy works." 2. For their supernatural

appearance: "Thy wonderful works." 3. For the incomparable wisdom

by which they are ordered: "Many, O Lord, are thy wondrous works;

and thy thoughts to us-ward, they cannot be reckoned up," &c.

And having acknowledged his thankfulness, he speaks of the other

part, his gratitude; to which, in equity, he thought himself

bound, viz., to be obedient to God's voice, which is, indeed, the

best sacrifice, and far beyond all those that are offered by the

law; as is apparent in Christ, to whom these words and the

obedience contained in them are principally attributed: by way of

accommodation, they belong to every one of his members who means

to be thankful for his redemption.

And, first, he tells us that outward worship is of little worth,

if sincerity and true piety be wanting: "Sacrifice and offering

thou didst not require." Not these absolutely, but as subservient

to the true piety, and significative of the obedience of Christ

unto death.

2. To this end "mine ears hast thou opened;" bored, made docile,

and taken me for thy servant.

3. And I will be thy voluntary and obedient servant: "Then said

I, Lo, I come!" I am ready to hear thy commands.

4. He describes his ready obedience:-

1. That he performed it cheerfully: "I delight to do thy will."

2. That he did it heartily: "Thy law is in my heart." The

obedience of eyes, hands, and feet may be hypocritical; that which

is of the heart cannot. The heart thou requirest, and the heart

thou shalt have; and to that purpose "I have put thy law in my

heart."

3. He did this for the benefit of others: he published the

Gospel. 1. "I have preached righteousness in the great

congregation." 2. "I have not refrained my lips; that thou

knowest." 3. "I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart."

4. "I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation." 5. "I

have not concealed thy loving-kindness and truth from the great

congregation."

In this verse we have the commendation of the gospel, that it is

righteousness. Jesus, who is the sum and substance of it,

justifies and sanctifies. It is God's truth and faithfulness,

for in it his promises are performed. It is our salvation, freeing

us from sin, death, the curse of the law, and hell-fire. It must,

as such, be preached in the great congregation. And to it

obedience must be yielded; and to this four things are

necessary:-

1. The help of God's Spirit: "Thou hast opened mine ears."

2. A ready and willing mind: "Then said I, Lo, I come."

3. A ready performance in the work: "I delight to do thy will."

4. That respect be had to God's law: "Thy law is within my

heart."

But all that is here spoken must be considered as resting on the

sacrificial offering which Christ made; for we must be justified

by his blood; and through him alone can we have remission of sins,

the help of God's Spirit, or any power to do any kind of good.

II. This second part of the Psalm appears rather to be a part of

another, or a Psalm of itself, as it relates to a different

subject.

In the first part of the following prayer we have the sorrowful

sighing of a distressed heart, vented in the most earnest

petitions on account of the greatness of its sins, and the evils

by which it was surrounded. A fear of being cut off causes the

penitent to pray, "Withhold not thou thy mercy from me, O Lord."

1. "For innumerable evils have compassed me," &c. 2. "My

iniquities have taken fast hold upon me," &c. 3. "Therefore my

heart faileth me." My agony is great, my vital spirit fails; and

therefore he prays again, 4. "Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!

make haste to help me!"

The second part of his prayer is for the confusion of his wicked

enemies: "Let them be ashamed and confounded together, that say,

Aha! aha! "

The third part of the prayer is for all good men. Let all those

who seek thee be joyful and glad in thee; let them say, "The Lord

be magnified."

In the close he prays for himself; and to move Divine mercy the

sooner:-

1. He puts himself in the number of the poor and afflicted. He

boasts not that he is a king, a prophet, a great man; but "I am

poor and needy."

2. He shows his hope and confidence: "Yet the Lord thinketh upon

me."

3. He casts himself wholly upon God: "Thou art my help and my

deliverer."

4. Therefore delay not: "Make no tarrying, O my God!"

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