Confidence for deliverance. (1-5) Christ's work of redemption. (6-10) Prayer for mercy and grace. (11-17)
Verses 1-5 Doubts and fears about the eternal state, are a horrible pit and miry clay, and have been so to many a dear child of God. There is power enough in God to help the weakest, and grace enough to help the unworthiest of all that trust in him. The psalmist waited patiently; he continued believing, hoping, and praying. This is applicable to Christ. His agony, in the garden and on the cross, was a horrible pit and miry clay. But those that wait patiently for God do not wait in vain. Those that have been under religious melancholy, and by the grace of God have been relieved, may apply ver. Verse 2 very feelingly to themselves; they are brought up out of a horrible pit. Christ is the Rock on which a poor soul can alone stand fast. Where God has given stedfast hope, he expects there should be a steady, regular walk and conduct. God filled the psalmist with joy, as well as peace in believing. Multitudes, by faith beholding the sufferings and glory of Christ, have learned to fear the justice and trust in the mercy of God through Him. Many are the benefits with which we are daily loaded, both by the providence and by the grace of God.
Verses 6-10 The psalmist foretells that work of wonder, redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ. The Substance must come, which is Christ, who must bring that glory to God, and that grace to man, which it was impossible the sacrifices should ever do. Observe the setting apart of our Lord Jesus to the work and office of Mediator. In the volume, or roll, of the book it was written of him. In the close rolls of the Divine decrees and counsel, the covenant of redemption was recorded. Also, in all the volumes of the Old Testament something was written of him, ( John 19:28 ) . Now the purchase of our salvation is made, the proclamation is sent forth, calling us to come and accept it. It was preached freely and openly. Whoever undertook to preach the gospel of Christ, would be under great temptation to conceal it; but Christ, and those he calls to that work, are carried on in it. May we believe his testimony, trust his promise, and submit to his authority.
Verses 11-17 The best saints see themselves undone, unless continually preserved by the grace of God. But see the frightful view the psalmist had of sin. This made the discovery of a Redeemer so welcome. In all his reflections upon each step of his life, he discovered something amiss. The sight and sense of our sins in their own colours, must distract us, if we have not at the same time some sight of a Saviour. If Christ has triumphed over our spiritual enemies, then we, through him, shall be more than conquerors. This may encourage all that seek God and love his salvation, to rejoice in him, and to praise him. No griefs nor poverty can render those miserable who fear the Lord. Their God, and all that he has or does, is the ground of their joy. The prayer of faith can unlock his fulness, which is adapted to all their wants. The promises are sure, the moment of fulfilment hastens forward. He who once came in great humility, shall come again in glorious majesty.
Psalms 40:1-17. In this Psalm a celebration of God's deliverance is followed by a profession of devotion to His service. Then follows a prayer for relief from imminent dangers, involving the overthrow of enemies and the rejoicing of sympathizing friends. In Hebrews 10:5 , &c., Paul quotes Psalms 40:6-8 as the words of Christ, offering Himself as a better sacrifice. Some suppose Paul thus accommodated David's words to express Christ's sentiments. But the value of his quotation would be thus destroyed, as it would have no force in his argument, unless regarded by his readers as the original sense of the passage in the Old Testament. Others suppose the Psalm describes David's feelings in suffering and joy; but the language quoted by Paul, in the sense given by him, could not apply to David in any of his relations, for as a type the language is not adapted to describe any event or condition of David's career, and as an individual representing the pious generally, neither he nor they could properly use it below). The Psalm must be taken then, as the sixteenth, to express the feelings of Christ's human nature. The difficulties pertinent to this view will be considered as they occur.
1-3. The figures for deep distress are illustrated in Jeremiah's history ( Jeremiah 38:6-12 ). Patience and trust manifested in distress, deliverance in answer to prayer, and the blessed effect of it in eliciting praise from God's true worshippers, teach us that Christ's suffering is our example, and His deliverance our encouragement ( Hebrews 5:7 Hebrews 5:8 , 12:3 , 1 Peter 4:12-16 ). fear, and . . . trust
inclined--(the ear, Psalms 17:6 ), as if to catch the faintest sigh.
--revere with love and faith.
4. Blessed--( Psalms 1:1 , 2:12 ).
respecteth--literally, "turns towards," as an object of confidence.
turn aside--from true God and His law to falsehood in worship and conduct.
5. be reckoned up in order--(compare Psalms 5:3 , 33:14 , Isaiah 44:7 ), too many to be set forth regularly. This is but one instance of many. The use of the plural accords with the union of Christ and His people. In suffering and triumph, they are one with Him.
6-8. In Paul's view this passage has more meaning than the mere expression of grateful devotion to God's service. He represents Christ as declaring that the sacrifices, whether vegetable or animal, general or special expiatory offerings, would not avail to meet the demands of God's law, and that He had come to render the required satisfaction, which he states was effected by "the offering of the body of Christ" [ Hebrews 10:10 ], for that is the "will of God" which Christ came to fulfil or do, in order to effect man's redemption. We thus see that the contrast to the unsatisfactory character assigned the Old Testament offerings in Psalms 40:6 is found in the compliance with God's law (compare Psalms 40:7 Psalms 40:8 ). Of course, as Paul and other New Testament writers explain Christ's work, it consisted in more than being made under the law or obeying its precepts. It required an "obedience unto death" [ Philippians 2:8 ], and that is the compliance here chiefly intended, and which makes the contrast with Psalms 40:6 clear.
mine ears hast thou opened--Whether allusion is made to the custom of boring a servant's ear, in token of voluntary and perpetual enslavement ( Exodus 21:6 ), or that the opening of the ear, as in Isaiah 48:8 , 50:5 (though by a different word in Hebrew) denotes obedience by the common figure of hearing for obeying, it is evident that the clause is designed to express a devotion to God's will as avowed more fully in Psalms 40:8 , and already explained. Paul, however, uses the words, "a body hast thou prepared me" [ Hebrews 10:5 ], which are found in the Septuagint in the place of the words, "mine ears hast thou opened." He does not lay any stress on this clause, and his argument is complete without it. It is, perhaps, to be regarded rather as an interpretation or free translation by the Septuagint, than either an addition or attempt at verbal translation. The Septuagint translators may have had reference to Christ's vicarious sufferings as taught in other Scriptures, as in Isaiah 53:4-11 ; at all events, the sense is substantially the same, as a body was essential to the required obedience (compare Romans 7:4 , 1 Peter 2:24 ).
7. Then--in such case, without necessarily referring to order of time.
Lo, I come--I am prepared to do, &c.
in the volume of the book--roll of the book. Such rolls, resembling maps, are still used in the synagogues.
written of me--or on me, prescribed to me ( 2 Kings 22:13 ). The first is the sense adopted by Paul. In either case, the Pentateuch, or law of Moses, is meant, and while it contains much respecting Christ directly, as Genesis 3:15 , 49:10 , Deuteronomy 18:15 , and, indirectly, in the Levitical ritual, there is nowhere any allusion to David.
9, 10. I have preached--literally, "announced good tidings." Christ's prophetical office is taught. He "preached" the great truths of God's government of sinners.
11. may be rendered as an assertion, that God will not withhold ( Psalms 16:1 ).
12. evils--inflicted by others.
iniquities--or penal afflictions, and sometimes calamities in the wide sense. This meaning of the word is very common. ( Psalms 31:11 , 38:4 ; compare Genesis 4:13 , Cain's punishment; Genesis 19:15 , that of Sodom 1 Samuel 28:10 , of the witch of En-dor; also 2 Samuel 16:12 , Job 19:29 , Isaiah 5:18 , 53:11 ). This meaning of the word is also favored by the clause, "taken hold of me," which follows, which can be said appropriately of sufferings, but not of sins (compare Job 27:20 , Psalms 69:24 ). Thus, the difficulties in referring this Psalm to Christ, arising from the usual reading of this verse, are removed. Of the terrible afflictions, or sufferings, alluded to and endured for us, compare Luke 22:39-44 , and the narrative of the scenes of Calvary.
my heart faileth me--( Matthew 26:38 ), "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."
cannot look up--literally, "I cannot see," not denoting the depression of conscious guilt, as Luke 18:13 , but exhaustion from suffering, as dimness of eyes (compare Psalms 6:7 , 13:3 , 38:10 ). The whole context thus sustains the sense assigned to iniquities.
13. (Compare Psalms 22:19 ).
14, 15. The language is not necessarily imprecatory, but rather a confident expectation ( Psalms 5:11 ), though the former sense is not inconsistent with Christ's prayer for the forgiveness of His murderers, inasmuch as their confusion and shame might be the very means to prepare them for humbly seeking forgiveness (compare Acts 2:37 ).
15. for a reward--literally, "in consequence of."
Aha--(Compare Psalms 35:21 Psalms 35:25 ).
16. (Compare Psalms 35:27 ).
love thy salvation--delight in its bestowal on others as well as themselves.
17. A summary of his condition and hopes.
thinketh upon--or provides for me. "He was heard," "when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save him from death" [ Hebrews 5:7 ].