Psalm 40 shows us that we can confidently approach God in our time of need, and that we can continue to worship and rejoice in him, even when our circumstances would indicate otherwise. It also sets a clear pattern that God doesn’t always tie things up in a perfect, red bow at the end. It doesn’t promise that “all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion.” That prayer is prayed, but as far as we know, those attempted murderers are still on the prowl. What it does promise is we can go to God as our refuge and strength in the midst of this.
The pain continues but he doesn’t face it alone. It continues but he doesn’t act like it’s his fight to win. Even in the midst of blaming God for his pain, he knows that God is his hope and deliverer. This may not preach well, but there is a deep comfort in it for those who experience deep pain and deep anguish and pray very difficult prayers to God. When we know God could have prevented a horrible thing from happening, but it happened. When we know God can remove a horrible circumstance from our lives, but it continues. Satan’s temptation and our internal anger wants us to abandon God. To blame God and flee our faith. And if we did so, what would we be left with? Who would be left to win the war for us? Who would be our shelter and refuge? If we make that choice, we are then completely and truly alone, with only our feeble fists and beaten down strength to fight off all the evil that Satan and this fallen world bombard us with. The psalms chart out a better path. A path of hope. A path of victory. Even in your darkest hour, even when all hope seems lost, run to God. Cry out to God. Give him all of your emotion. Blame him if you need to, he can handle it. But keep your hope in him. Keep him as your shelter in the storm and refuge in the war. If you die from the bullets, die in his arms. If the storm overwhelms you, be overwhelmed in his arms.
Verse 18 tells us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. It’s important that we recognize how rare this claim is among world religions, both historical and contemporary. Our God cares for the broken. He cares for the oppressed. He cares for the abused. He cares for the impoverished. He cares! This is such a gift to each of us whom he cares for, and sets us on a path to embody his love to a crushed and brokenhearted world.
I wonder what examples a psalmist would use for our epitomes of power today that we look to to deliver us… No businessman is saved by the size of his portfolio; no politician escapes by his great following. Possessions and wealth are vain hopes for deliverance, despite all their momentary comfort, they cannot save. Just as kings, physical strength, and horses were not sinful in the ancient world, I’m not saying portfolios, politics, and possessions are sinful today. But am I saying that we look to these things to deliver us. They are the things we spend most of our worry, anxiety, and stress on.
For the most part, I grew up in church being taught that people in the Old Testament (old covenant) were saved by works and people in the New Testament (once Jesus died and rose–the new covenant) were saved by grace. Psalm 32 shows us that that just isn’t true. People in the Old Testament were also very much saved by grace. The psalmist describes a very Jesus-like salvation here where he talks about his sins being covered and forgiven, the Lord not counting his sins against him, and the act of confessing sin and being forgiven, with guilt being taken away. I could include numerous New Testament verses to each of those phrases. My point here isn’t to get us going down a theological wormhole, which we certainly could do, with some legitimate questions around the old covenant and around Jesus. My point is to stay with the point of the psalm, and that is to bask in the freedom of being forgiven!
One of the most healthy spiritual disciplines for me is to regularly sit before a holy God during my prayer time. I use Exodus 9:9-25 and visualize myself sitting on the holy mountain as one of those original Israelites. I try to feel the emotion that comes with trying to comprehend the vast chasm between God’s holiness and my sinfulness. Then I turn my prayer and meditation time toward Colossians 1:22, Romans 8:15-17, and Matthew 3:16-17. The chasm of separation between me and God gets filled as the floodgates of Jesus’ love, grace, and mercy open. I can only unlock the riches of this gift if I first walk the path of understanding how much I don’t deserve it. When I begin to comprehend that I don’t deserve it, I can begin to experience how beautiful and amazing it is that I get to have it.