PSALM 40 OVERVIEW
Title. To the Chief Musician. Well might so exceedingly precious a Psalm be specially committed to the most skilled of the sacred musicians. The noblest music should be made tributary to a subject so incomparable. The dedication shows that the song was intended for public worship, and was not a merely personal hymn, as its being in the first person singular might lead us to suppose. A Psalm of David. This is conclusive as to the authorship: lifted by the Holy Spirit into the region of prophecy, David was honoured to write concerning a far greater than himself.
Subject. Jesus is evidently here, and although it might not be a violent wresting of language to see both David and his Lord, both Christ and the church, the double comment might involve itself in obscurity, and therefore we shall let the sun shine even though this should conceal the stars. Even if the New Testament were not so express upon it, we should have concluded that David spoke of our Lord in Psalms 40:6-9 , but the apostle in Heb 10:5-9, puts all conjecture out of court, and confines the meaning to him who came into the world to do the Father's will.
Division. From Psalms 40:1-3 , is a personal thanksgiving, followed by a general declaration of Jehovah's goodness to his saints, Psalms 40:4-5 . In Psalms 40:6-10 , we have an avowal of dedication to the Lord's will; Psalms 40:11-17 , contains a prayer for deliverance from pressing trouble, and for the overthrow of enemies.
Verse 1. I waited patiently for the Lord. Patient waiting upon God was a special characteristic of our Lord Jesus. Impatience never lingered in his heart, much less escaped his lips. All through his agony in the garden, his trial of cruel mockings before Herod and Pilate, and his passion on the tree, he waited in omnipotence of patience. No glance of wrath, no word of murmuring, no deed of vengeance came from God's patient Lamb; he waited and waited on; was patient, and patient to perfection, far excelling all others who have according to their measure glorified God in the fires. Job on the dunghill does not equal Jesus on the cross. The Christ of God wears the imperial crown among the patient. Did the Only Begotten wait, and shall we be petulant and rebellious? And he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. Neither Jesus the head, nor any one of the members of his body, shall ever wait upon the Lord in vain. Mark the figure of inclining, as though the suppliant cried out of the lowest depression, and condescending love stooped to hear his feeble moans. What a marvel is it that our Lord Jesus should have to cry as we do, and wait as we do, and should receive the Father's help after the same process of faith and pleading as must be gone through by ourselves! The Saviour's prayers among the midnight mountains and in Gethsemane expound this verse. The Son of David was brought very low, but he rose to victory; and here he teaches us how to conduct our conflicts so as to succeed after the same glorious pattern of triumph. Let us arm ourselves with the same mind; and panoplied in patience, armed with prayer, and girt with faith, let us maintain the Holy War.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. David's Psalm, or, a Psalm of David; but David's name is here set first, which elsewhere commonly is last: or A Psalm concerning David, that is Christ, who is called David in the prophets: Hosea 3:5 Jeremiah 30:9 Ezekiel 34:23 32:24. Of him this Psalm entreateth as the apostle teacheth, Hebrews 10:5-6 , etc. Henry Ainsworth.
Whole Psalm. It is plain, from Psalms 40:6-8 of this Psalm, compared with Hebrews 10:5 , that the prophet in speaking in the person of Christ, who, Psalms 40:1-5 , celebrates the deliverance wrought for his mystical body, the church, by his resurrection from the grave, effecting that of his members from the guilt and dominion of sin; for the abolition of which he declareth, Psalms 40:6-8 , the inefficacy of the legal sacrifices, and mentions his own inclination to do the will of his Father, and Psalms 40:9-10 , to preach righteousness to the world. Psalms 40:11-13 . He represents himself as praying, while under his sufferings, for his own, and his people's salvation; he foretells, Psalms 40:14-15 , the confusion and desolation of his enemies, and, Psalms 40:16 , the joy and thankfulness of his disciples and servants; for the speedy accomplishment of which, Psalms 40:17 , he prefers a petition. George Horne.
Verse 1. I waited patiently for the Lord: and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. I see that the Lord, suppose he drifts and delays the effect of his servant's prayer, and grants not his desire at the first, yet he hears him. I shall give a certain argument, whereby thou may know that the Lord heareth thee, suppose he delay the effect of thy prayers. Do you continue in prayer? Hast thou his strength given thee to persevere in suiting (petitioning for or praying for) anything? Thou may be assured he heareth; for this is one sure argument that he heareth thee, for naturally our impatience carrieth us to desperation; our suddenness is so great, specially in spiritual troubles, that we cannot continue in suiting. When thou, therefore, continues in suiting, thou may be sure that this strength is furnished of God, and cometh from heaven, and if thou have strength, he letteth thee see that he heareth thy prayer; and suppose he delay the effect and force thereof, yet pray continually. This doctrine is so necessary for the troubled conscience, that I think it is the meetest bridle in the Scripture to refrain our impatience; it is the meetest bit to hold us in continual exercise of patience; for if the heart understand that the Lord hath rejected our prayer altogether, it is not possible to continue in prayer; so when we know that the Lord heareth us, suppose he delay, let us crave patience to abide his good will. Robert Bruce, 1559-1631.
Verse 1. I waited for the Lord. The infinitive (hwq) being placed first brings the action strongly out: I waited. This strong emphasis on the waiting, has the force of an admonition; it suggests to the sufferer that everything depends on waiting. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 1. I waited patiently: rather anxiously; the original has it, waiting I waited; a Hebraism which signifies vehement solicitude. Daniel Cresswell.
Verse 1. I waited. The Saviour endureth his sufferings waitingly, as well as patiently and prayerfully. He "waited for the Lord." He expected help from Jehovah; and he waited for it until it came. James Frame, in "Christ and his Work: an Exposition of Psalm 40." 1869.
Verse 1. Patiently. Our Lord's patience under suffering was an element of perfection in his work. Had he become impatient as we often do, and lost heart, his atonement would have been vitiated. Well may we rejoice that in the midst of all his temptations, and in the thickest of the battle against sin and Satan, he remained patient and willing to finish the work which his Father had given him to do. James Frame.
Verse 1. Heard my cry. Our Saviour endured his sufferings prayerfully as well as patiently. James Frame.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE FORTIETH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
A Sermon upon the Fortieth Psalme, preached in the time of Public Fast; in "Sermons by the Rev. ROBERT BRUCE, Minister of Edinburgh, reprinted from the original edition of 1590, and 1591 ... Edinburgh: printed for the Wodrow Society. 1843."
Christ and his Work: an Exposition of Psalm 40. By JAMES FRAME, 1869.