Psalm 40

To the music director, a song for David

I eagerly wait[i] for the Lord,

he has reached out[ii] to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up from the watery pit,

from the mud and mire.

He has placed my feet on the rock,

he has steadied my steps.

He has given me a new song[iii] to sing,

a praise song for our God.

Many see and fear,

and put their trust in the Lord.

Happy is the mighty man[iv] whose trust is in the Lord.

He does not incline himself towards prideful men

or men who deceive[v].

You have done many wondrous things, Lord my God!

Your wonders and your plans for us are beyond compare.

I will speak and proclaim them,

they are too numerous to count.

You do not desire sacrifices or offerings,

(your words have pierced my deaf ears[vi])

You did not ask for burnt or sin offerings.

Then I said, “I came with the scroll written about me[vii]

My God, I desire to do your will

and your Law is deep within me[viii].

I will proclaim your justice[ix] in the great assembly,

my lips will not be restrained.

Lord you know that I did not conceal you your justice!

I have spoken about Your faithfulness[x] and your salvation that are within my heart.

I will not hide your steadfast love and truth before the great assembly.

You Lord will not restrain your tender love[xi] from me,

your steadfast love[xii] and truth[xiii] continually protect me

Because evil beyond measure surrounds me,

and my transgressions overtake me,

I am unable to see.

There is more evil than there are hairs on my head

and the courage of my heart has left me.

Lord, please deliver me!

Lord, hurry and help me!

Those seeking my life will be ashamed and humiliated;

those desiring to harm me will be driven back and put to shame.                             .

The ones who mock me [xiv] will shudder because of their shame,

but all who seek you will rejoice and be happy in You.

Those who love your salvation

will continually say “The Lord is great!”

I am poor and needy

but the Lord is concerned about me

You are my helper and my deliver,

You are my God,

do not tarry.

[i] The Hebrew verb QVH conveys the meaning of hope as much as it does waiting and it is doubled here for emphasis; the idea is that one eagerly waits with longing like a child waiting for the coming of Christmas morning.

[ii] The Hebrew verb נטה means ‘to stretch out’ is commonly used to describe one stretching out their arm, or stretching out a tent covering when setting up a tent.

[iii] Lit. “given a new song in my mouth.”

[iv] There are three words commonly used for “man” in Hebrew, adam, ish, gever. The latter word is used in this text. It is the word from which we get the name Gabriel (mighty of God) and it is typically used of a warrior or hero. This is the word used in Ge. 6:4 for “mighty men” (ESV) or “Heroes” (NIV).

[v] “men who deceive” is literally “ones who are involved in lies.” The NIV’s “those who turn aside to false gods” is a little too interpretive and I believe artificially limits the meaning of this phrase.

[vi] This idiomatic phrase (lit. “ears you have pierced for me”) is only found here in the OT and the meaning is uncertain. The likely meaning is “you have caused me to hear” and it is sandwiched in between the two declarations about God lack of desire for sacrifices and offerings. There is a sense of hyperbole here i.e. God is not condemning the sacrificial system of the OT but rather showing that a right heart attitude must accompany every sacrifice and offering. We see this same theme in Samuel’s declaration to Saul, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams (1Sa 15:22 NIV)” and in Hosea’s declaration (quoted by Jesus) “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings (Hos 6:6 NIV)”

[vii] This is most likely a reference the scroll of the law that was to be copied by each king according to the command in Deuteronomy:

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. (Deu 17:18-20 NIV)”

[viii] Lit. within my inward parts; most frequently intestines. Many translations use the word ‘heart’ hear but that is not in the text.

[ix] The Hebrew word tsadiq, translated here as “justice,“ carries a sense of both “justice” and “righteousness;” see “Justice and/or righteousness: A Contextualized analysis of Sedeq in the KJV (English) and RVR (Spanish)” by Stevem Voth for a fuller treatment. Some translations translate this word here as “deliverance” with the idea that God’s justice in this case was deliverance; this in my opinion is overly interpretive.

[x] The Hebrew root for “faithfulness” is the same root from which we get the word “Amen.”

[xi] The Hebrew root RHM conveys a sense of the love, mercy, and compassion a mother feels for her children. The noun formed from this root is the word for a Mother’s womb (a place of security, protection, and love). For this reason I have chosen to translate this as “tender love.”

[xii] The Hebrew root HSD is the root most commonly used to convey the idea of God’s covenantal love and is translated here as “steadfast love.” In Hebrew poetry, like this passage, synonyms emphasize sameness rather than draw are attention to the differences. In both of the cases here we should understand the idea of a protective love.

[xiii] In Scripture, the ideas of truth and love are often seen as indivisible. There is a sense conveyed in Scripture that neither can stand apart from the other; truth without love is not really “truth,” and love without truth is not really “love.” Both are seen in perfect balance in Jesus; in John 1:14 we are told that Jesus came “full of grace (love) and truth” and throughout the Gospels he demonstrates this over and over again.  Ultimately culminating in the cross where God’s love and his justice (truth) were displayed in perfect balance.

[xiv] Literally this says, “the ones saying to me “ha’ach, ha’ach;” the Hebrew word “ha’ach” is difficult to translate. It is used in this passage to express malicious joy i.e. the joy of one who is reveling in the distress or downfall of another person.

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