Psalm 40 is primarily a psalm of thanksgiving, although it does include petition toward the end as well. Additionally, Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes the Septuagint version of Psalm 40:6-8 in reference to Jesus’ incarnation. Whether this psalm is connected to any of the previous psalms where David asked for God’s deliverance is unknown, but it does say that God did deliver him at one time, and David was sure to express his gratitude in the best method he knew: a song of praise. Psalm 40:1-3 have been used by many songwriters over the years as the basis for their own praise because of its imagery of sinking helplessly into a pit of mud.1
Psalm 40:4-6 is a celebration of God’s character. Specifically, David showed how God blesses those who serve him faithfully. He also pointed to God’s desire for a relationship with humans. Although God established the sacrificial system, David knew that it was more than that. The sacrifices meant nothing if they did not connect man to God, so David praised God for the real reason behind the sacrifices.
In Psalm 40:7-10 David shifted to himself, recounting the things that he had done for God. This was not intended to boast or simply inform but to verbalize his loyalty to God in gratitude for God’s loyalty to him. David loved nothing more than to speak and sing of God in “the great assembly.”
The psalm concludes in Psalm 40:11-17 with David’s praise for God’s protection and deliverance. As always, he had enemies who wanted him dead so they could rule. As always, David was weighed down with the knowledge of his own sinfulness. Because he did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, he was genuinely concerned that God could finally reject him, something that Christians never have to fear, so he prayed for God’s grace and mercy to be poured out to him again.
- I wonder if Jeremiah meditated on this passage and found hope when he was literally put into a pit of mud (Jeremiah 38:1-6; Lamentations 3:55-57). ↩