The following comments are my wanderings thru, around and about Psalms 40 in the English bible. If they initiate any durable reflections, then they have been worth the writing. The scriptural text below is taken from a version of the Greek bible, often referred to as a version of the Septuagint – hence, the numbering difference…Psalms 39  For the end, a psalm by David.

     Waiting, I waited upon the Lord, and he paid heed to me and gave ear to my entreaty.

While the scriptures frequently have a dual entendre, this verse can be applied not only to David, but to the Son of David yet to come.  Think of the many times Jesus went off alone to pray.  Was that not Him “waiting on the LORD?”  He had the confidence that the LORD heard Him, giving HIS ear to the requests of Jesus.

     He raised me from the pit of distress and from the muddy clay.
He established my feet upon a rock and directed my steps.

I cannot help but think of Jesus in the garden just prior to Him offering Himself up to the Temple “police”.  Sweating blood.  How much more distress could a man handle?  Could “this cup” be taken from Him?  Was that not the “muddy clay” of Jesus’ humanity?  As He prayed, His LORD set Him on the rock with His feet fully beneath Him, positioned to be directed toward the steps prepared for Him.

     He set into my mouth a new song, a hymn to our God.

Clearly, David was a musician, song-writer and singer.  We recall that Jesus, too, sang hymns as is recorded at the Last Supper, just prior to retreating to the Mount of Olives.  Did He not choose this mount for the purpose of getting His feet set on the “rock?”

Many will see and fear, and they will hope upon the Lord.

Over the past 3000 years, how many have come to “see” what David saw by singing his hymns and psalms?  Subsequent to the record of David, we have the record of Jesus praying in the garden, thus learning from Him how to “see” in prayer, coming to fear the Lord in whom they have gained hope.

     Blessed is the man whose hope is the name of the Lord. He does not look to vanity and false madness.

HOPE – in such limited supply in our generation, evidenced by all the drugs, prescribed and otherwise, to manufacture a haze of dullness and block our feelings of hopelessness.  Are not those temporary “remedies” called upon in vain?  Do they not lead to a false madness, being unfounded on the name of the Lord?

     You, O Lord, my God, made your wondrous things abundant.
And in your thoughts there is no one who will be likened.

The declaration that the LORD (Yahweh) is our GOD…MY GOD of whom David is, as we have done, but unafraid to address.  He has seen the wondrous works that the Lord has done on his behalf.  No one, no other god, nothing can be compared to his GOD.  Who can give the Lord solid counsel of which He was unaware?  There is none.

I reported and spoke. They were increased beyond number.

The Lord’s thoughts and works are too many to be enumerated.  His benefits to those who hope in Him are without end.

     You did not want sacrifice and offering, but you restored a body to me.
You did not ask for whole burnt offerings and an offering concerning sin.

Did not David learn this from Samuel’s admonition to King Saul that the Lord preferred obedience over sacrifice?  The Masoretic text (from the Hebrew) translates this second line, “Mine ears Thou hast opened.”  At first glance, this seems quite different from the Greek translation of the Septuagint.  However,  my unscholastic considerations, drove me to look at the translation of words involved: restored and opened.  These two words are not far afield from each other.  Restored means to equip, correct, make suitable, becoming.  Thinking about Jesus in the tomb in terms of His body being restored, corrected, becoming the new glorified body – these make sense.  In a sense, the focus of Jesus’ death should not be the “sacrifice”, as modern Christianity has done; but rather the new life of the restored body.  The sacrifice was the process through which Jesus could offer the possibility of the new life of a restored body…the goal, the focal point, the hope.  The Masoretic Text can also point to the resurrection.  With Jesus in the tomb, did He not hear the VOICE say ARISE!  It is interesting to me that the Hebrew word for opened means “digged.”  Not only did that VOICE dig deep into the cavity of Jesus’ eternal ear, but it sent Him ”digging” His way to Sheol to bring captivity captive and assault the gates of hell, killing death.  The symbolism of Him being laid in the earthen tomb gave Him access to the underworld of Sheol.  Maybe all of this treatise is unfounded or fantasized; however, it seems to help me connect the Septuagint Greek with the Hebraic Masoretic text.  Either way THE WORD is ONE. David recognized that his obedience was preferred by the Lord over any sacrificial rites prescribed by the Sinai covenant.  Before Moses was Jesus…the son of David who was obedient to His own death.

     Then I said, “Look, I have arrived. In the scroll of the document it has been written concerning me.

Was not David prophesying 1,000 years earlier of the exact occasion where Jesus was presenting to the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:16-21)the revelation that HE was the one spoken of by Isaiah (61:1-2) 700 years earlier?  So, David was prophesying what Isaiah would write 300 years after David’s death which ultimately pointed to his and Isaiah’s fulfillment realized in Yahweh-in-the-flesh (Incarnate God) also known as Son of David and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant.    

     I wish to do your will, O my God, and your law is in the middle of my heart.”

John (6:38) reports that Jesus testified, ”For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  So, the logical question would be, “What is the Father’s Will?”  Jesus answered that question: (verse 39) Of those the Father had given to Jesus, He would lose none of them AND (consequently) would raise them up at the last day.  Then (verse 40) Jesus seems to repeat Himself, but with a variant on the previous verse, as He describes those who He will raise on the last day as being “…everyone who looks at the Son and believes in Him…”  Could it be concluded that the ones whom the Father “gave” to Jesus are the ones who “look at the Son and believe in Him?” Jeremiah (31:33) follows David hundreds of years after him by prophesying the Word of the Lord, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts…”  Once again David proclaims this as being a characteristic of the One who says, “ I have arrived.” 

10    I brought the good news of righteousness in the great assembly.
Look, never ever will I restrain my lips, O Lord, as you know.

This good news (evangelizomai – “gospel”) delivers rightness, setting things right, the administration of justice.  This is great news to the poor, captives, mourners, despondent mentioned in Isaiah 61.  Jesus had just declared Himself to the Nazareth (hometown) congregation as the bearer of that message; indeed, the fulfillment of that Will of God. Declaration of that Truth is something that Jesus would never keep “under wraps”.  Perhaps He might proclaim this Truth in parables, analogies and such, but the declaration of this good news was not only with His lips but also with His actions proven through healing the sick, casting out demons, resurrecting people from the dead.  It is not in His “DNA” to not speak of the righteousness of His coming Kingdom.

11    I did not hide my (Thy) righteousness in my heart. I spoke your truthfulness and your deliverance.
I did not hide your mercy and your truthfulness from the great congregation.

David did not hide the righteousness of the Lord to only be his comfort and for his own consumption.  The Masoretic Text says “Thy” while the Septuagint says “my” righteousness.  Combined with other scriptures that declare that the Lord is our righteousness (Jer. 23:6), we can see that the use of either word conveys the same meaning.  Both Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 61 indicate that the Messiah (Son of David) will be a “proclaimer” who judges with righteousness.  In fact, His girdle of righteousness and faithfulness are out in full view.  While there was a timing involved in Him being revealed to all as the Messiah, Son of God, those closest to Him saw that He poured out mercy (e.g. healing folks, exorcising demons, etc.) and spoke truthfully to the whole congregation, not pandering to the temple leaders nor failing to confront the sins of the poor.

12    And you, O Lord, do not keep away your compassions from me.
Your mercy and your truthfulness support me through everything.

Could this not be a source for the Jesus Prayer so frequently used by our Orthodox brethren, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me?”  Your mercies are new every morning!  Preserve me with your mercy and truth.  Cause them to swirl within me that I may represent you to the congregation. 

13    For evil things that have no number surrounded me.
My lawless acts seized me, and I was not able to see.
They increased beyond the hairs of my head, and my heart forsook me.

This confession smells of an unwilling alliance that we make with the demonic evils that are dedicated to our demise – so many that they cannot be numbered.  Yet, it is my own lawless acts/behavior that grasp me so that I cannot look up to whence my help comes.  This phrase speaks of the hopelessness of our own unrighteousness that overwhelms us when we give deep thought to it, even to the point that our hearts begin to fail.  O to lose heart is such a desperate condition.

14    Be well pleased, O Lord, to rescue me. O Lord, pay attention to help me.

David acknowledges that his rescue can only come by the will of his Lord.  He pleads with the Lord to be “pleased” to help him.  He is screaming for the Lord to pay attention to him – even in the midst of him doing wrong.

15    May they be disgraced and shamed at once, those who seek my life to remove it.
May they be turned backwards, and may they be shamed, those who want evil things for me.

I wonder if Jesus prayed such a prayer regarding the Jews who wanted to kill Him – may they be disgraced and shamed.  This reminds me of Acts 2:36-37 where Peter on Pentecost said to the Jewish audience about Jesus “…whom you crucified…”  “When they heard this, they were cut to the heart…”  It sounds like this prayer of the Son of David (if He spoke it) was answered on that Pentecost day.  When the crowd asked the apostles what they should do, Peter responded “Repent…”.  In the words of the psalmist, the prayer request of “May they be turned backwards…” is summarized by Peter when he told them to REPENT.  There were those in the crowd who had wanted “evil things” for Jesus just 50 days earlier.  Yet, here the psalmist speaking into events to happen 1,000 years later when our Lord prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

16    Let them get their shame paid back immediately, those who say to me, “Good, good!”

This verse carries on the idea that the shame (of those who wanted to kill Jesus) who do a quick work that would bring repentance.  This is the “cutting to the heart” that produced the only reasonable cry for guidance.  They could not undo their sin…so what were they to do?  Can they rectify what they had done via their evil ways.  REPENTANCE is the only appropriate response.  Weird when you think about it.  They just murdered Jesus, then His instruction in the aftermath was to give them a GIFT!  Indeed, be baptized (identify yourself as my disciple) and I will give you the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It was almost like Jesus forgot that they killed Him because He was so intent on giving them a gift – it didn’t matter.  

17    May they rejoice exceedingly and may they be cheerful in you, all who seek you, O Lord.
And let them say continually, “Let the Lord be magnified,” those who continually love your deliverance.

The blessing is for those who seek the Lord and those who continually love His salvation.  The joy and cheerfulness is for those in Him.  Their appropriate response is to magnify the Lord which is similar to Paul telling the Romans (12:1-2) that it is reasonable for them to be living sacrifices.  BUT – what about those who choose NOT to seek the Lord?  Those who put their hope in men and horses, but not the Lord?  At a minimum, it seems that they may not gain a deep-seated joy that is available for the seekers.  Psalms 35:27 extends to those who shout, “May the Lord be magnified” His pleasure in seeing the prosperity of His servant.

18    But I am needy and poor. The Lord will take care of me.
You are my helper and my protector; O my God, do not delay!

It is interesting that David described himself in this manner, as needy and poor.  This is reminiscent of the Lord’s declaration of the Church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:17) as being “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” when the church members described themselves in exactly the opposite terms.  Here, King David identified himself as needy and poor.  Yet, his declaration was that the Lord would take care of him, even in that state.  When the psalmist says that HE is his HELPER, I can only think of Jesus telling His disciples that He would send the HELPER after He left them.  David pled with God to not make him wait for that deliverer.  Between Jesus Ascension and Pentecost, the disciples did have to “tarry in Jerusalem”, but only for 10 days until that HELPER  showed up.  In our states of distress, we cry out that God attend to us immediately, but He had his reasons that he left Lazarus in the tomb for 4 days.  Whatever the delay, David declared these things to “MY” God; you know, the One we should be magnifying.

Rick Brannan, Ken M. Penner et al., The Lexham English Septuagint, Second Edition. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), Ps 39:1–18.

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