Exciting phrases, easy acronyms, and memorable lists formed from dense works of systematic theology can be helpful for the everyday Christian. While these reductions of God’s Word and His nature help us understand general frameworks, they are unable to help us understand everything the Bible teaches. It is one thing...
Are you, or is someone you know, in a season of trial this Thanksgiving Day? In times of despair, Scripture is medicine for the soul. God has also gifted the church with worship hymns that are biblically motivated from the hymn writer’s personal experience. Both inspired Scripture and spiritual songs can provide comfort in hardship. They also serve to correct our dependence upon the false assurances of this life.
Psalm 40 provides solace for the hurting soul, recounting David’s deliverance from troubled seasons. David’s song is his thanksgiving declaration from a mud pit of despair. The contemporary hymn, “This is My Father’s World”(Maltbie Babcock) also provides helpful instruction for the hurting soul. Stanza three speaks that we should not forget the graceful hand of God in difficult seasons:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is still the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s World.
Let’s look at how we might apply Scripture and spiritual song to mud pit seasons of despair.
Crafting a Song in the Mud Pit
In Psalm 40, David is delivered from a horrible pit experience in which he is able to praise the God of his deliverance. Other scholars see the Psalm as public worship (vv. 1-10), a cry for help (vv. 11-15, 17), and an exhortation to worship (v. 14). Similar verses of deliverance are also seen in Psalm 70. I am going to focus on the first stanza (vv. 1-10).
A Song That Recounts Our Troubled Circumstances (vv. 1-2)
“Tho the wrong seems oft so strong,” as sung in Babcock’s hymn, can be a difficult statement to swallow. Yet, faith reminds us that troubling circumstances can be a foundation for thankfulness. David waits on the Lord to deliver him from his troubles. Yet, waiting on the Lord and trusting that he will deliver us from our troubled circumstances can be a painful and teary process (v. 1).
David waits on the Lord through difficult surroundings (v. 2). His surroundings were not pleasant. David further describes his predicament as trouble in miry bog (v.2).
Where should we turn in despair, we ask? The victory for me is found in “waiting on the Lord.” However, I feel my troubled circumstances as very strong during times of hardship. While “the wrong seems oft so strong,” the Lord gives me a secure foundation (v. 2). God answers the cry of David and Babcock. Babcock wrote, “Jesus died and shall be satisfied when heaven and earth are one.”
David stated that God heard his cry about his difficult surroundings and became a “refuge” in the time of the storm. “He has set his feet upon a rock, making his steps secure.” God’s secure footing is our refuge from present circumstances.
A Song That Is New (vv. 3-8)
Writing a new song can only come through God’s enabling grace and by trusting his character (vv. 3-4). God’s grace is a window that awakens the senses to behold his beauty. As the hymn writer states, “All nature sings and round me rings, the music of the spheres.” The hymn continues the “morning light, the lily white.” Such praises are similar to David’s song of being delivered from a mud pit and being placed “upon a rock.”
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The new song declares God’s character (v. 5). The psalmist declares God’s work, thoughts, and wonderful works in times when the “wrong feels oft so strong.” David praises God’s wondrous deeds and thoughts (vv. 5-6) of deliverance. The song yields a new perspective about God and himself.
David’s testimony is a song about the coming Messiah who would “save” the world. David speaks prophetically: “Then I said, ‘Behold I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me’” (v. 7). Christ has written in the “scroll of the book.” He is the one who does the will of God, yielding his life as a ransom for many. He is the reason believers are able to sing a new song, even in the pit.
A Song That Declares God’s Character (vv. 9-10)
During seasons when the hymn writer’s phrase is real and “the wrong seems oft so strong,” the believer can meditate on the glad news of the gospel. The glad news reveals God’s salvation through Christ, our true evangelist of redemption.
So, David reveals his sufferings while reflecting on God’s character. A song saturated in God’s character can push us forward to remain vigilant, strong, and faithful during seasons of tumult. The faithful testimony of verse three shows the reader that God delivers David from the pit of despair. His rescue from the pit keeps him from being silenced.
The aspects of God’s character are too numerous and plentiful to count. Spend some writing down a few and meditating on them today.
Mud pits become the tool of God’s grace to awaken our hearts. And when the feelings of the hymn writer’s words emerge in our minds, “the wrong feels oft so strong,” remember that God is the ruler yet. Hold on to God’s character, and he will deliver you from the mud pits of despair.