My Feet Upon a Rock

Sermon by Billy Dempsey on February 11, 2018

Psalms 40

Our text this morning is Psalm 40. We’ll be turning there. I want to say thank you to our musicians gathered here this morning. Our choir richly blesses us, leads us, enhances our worship every Lord’s Day, and you have significantly added to that this day. So, thank you so much for sharing your God-given talent with us today. Psalm 40. Let’s go to the Lord before we look at the psalm.


Father, open our hearts to receive Your Word. Teach us. Speak to us, Good Shepherd. We know Your voice; we long to hear it this day. Draw near to us as we open Your Word. Let every distraction flee away. Give our hearts hungry and thirsty attitudes toward what You say to us this day. We make our prayer, Father, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


“To the choirmaster. A psalm of David.


I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.


Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.


In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’


I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.


As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life; let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt! Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, ‘Aha, Aha!’ But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’

As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!”


The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.


David’s Past Deliverance

I think Psalm 40 shows us something. Psalm 40 shows us David reflecting on God’s past deliverance and drawing conclusions that help him trust God in his present troubles. I think the psalm breaks that way. Around verse 11, David begins to talk about the present. Up until that time, he’s talking about the past. Let’s remember, with David, God’s past deliverance.


His Experience

First of all, he relates his experience. Look at what he says. “I waited patiently for the LORD.” Calvin’s translation of that Hebrew section – “In waiting, I waited.” “In waiting, I waited.” God’s timing was not David’s. He waited for the Lord to move, believing that He would do so in the right time. God provided David an opportunity to give evidence and proof of his faith as he endured delay and deliverance with calmness. Let me say that again. David endured delay in deliverance with calmness. That was the opportunity God gave him to give evidence and proof of his faith, to demonstrate his faith.



Psalm 131 says something interesting. David, there, says, “I do not occupy myself with things too great for me, but I have calmed my soul like a weaned child with its mother.” That image of the weaned child we need to pay attention to. It’s the weaned child who is old enough and has enough experience with his mother to know that she will provide food for him when it’s time to eat. He may be hungry, but rather than wail like the infant he once was, he waits. He has learned the meal will come in due time. And so, in the pit of destruction, in the miry bog, whatever those experiences were for David, he waits. And he waits patiently. In waiting, he waited.


Crying Out

He cries out for God’s help. That’s part of waiting, isn’t it? Isn’t it part of waiting to cry out? Maybe you’ve had the experience of being separated from your companions in the woods at night. I have. Maybe you would say along with me, “They were the lost ones!” You knew exactly where you were! But you were separated. And you recognize, unless you know that little plot of woods very well, everything in the woods looks the same once the sun goes down. You get turned around very quickly. And so you maintain your position, and every now and then you call out; you holler, “Hey! Where are you? You’re lost! Come find me and I’ll tell you where you are!” You do that, and guess what? You get found. Calling out is part of the strategy of waiting and being found.



Or, in David’s case, in trouble, calling out is part of the strategy of waiting patiently for God’s help and deliverance. We pray. We pray every time that pernicious worry muscle twitches. We remember what Paul says to the church at Philippi. “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Long endurance provides testing, provides proof, provides opportunity to demonstrate faith, confidence, trust in God.


Look at what David says. "In waiting, I waited. He inclined to me and heard my cry." "He inclined" – the Hebrew that that translates means that literally, God bent down. He stretched Himself out to attend to David as you and I would bend down to take care of a needy child. "He heard my cry." Well God was always hearing David's cry, wasn't He? Of course He was. David knows He was always hearing. But he knows also that God heard his cry because eventually He did something about David’s situation. He brought David deliverance. He’s knowing that God is hearing his cry, but there was a moment when David was certain, “God heard me. And look what He’s doing for me now as I’ve waited and called out and now He’s acting. He heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog; set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” David’s remembering that he was in a pit he could never get himself out of. He was in a place where there was no sure footing for him. But God pulled David out, out of the pit, out of the bog. He set his feet on a rock and He made his steps move forward securely.


The Gospel

David, in describing his experience, is describing to us the Gospel. Isn’t he? Isn’t that what sin has done to us – trapped us in a pit of destruction where we were already dead, as Paul says, in our sins, in our trespasses? God brought our hearts to life and we called out to Him. He saved us, and in terms of our souls, He set our feet upon a rock, and that Rock was Christ. We are secure and the way of our soul is secure because we are connected to Him. We are set upon Him. That’s what David is describing to us. That’s the Gospel signature. There’s rescue that we need every day. It may not be soul rescue; it may be rescue from some other pit in which we’ve found ourselves, in some other bog in which we’ve found ourselves, but we’re always calling out for a Savior. We’re always looking for a Savior. David points us to the Savior. He anticipates the work of Christ. He anticipates the Gospel. He anticipates the healing of our souls and our soul’s deliverance from destruction and death and decay. But he’s pointing us toward the Gospel of God and we need not miss that this morning.


Songs of Praise

What’s our response to such great work on our behalf that God does? David says to us in verse 3, “He put a new song in my mouth; a song of praise to our God.” There is no better response that we can make to the deliverance that God offers, the deliverance of our souls, the deliverance of us at other times in times of trouble. Our crying out is replaced by songs of praise and thanksgiving in our deliverance. We love God more because He has delivered us. That’s what David is saying. We love God more because we experience deliverance. That leads me to ask a bad question. “Could it be that our love for the Lord grows cold because we forget, because we fail to remember His great deliverances in our past? Have we forgotten what it was like to be dead and lost in our sin? Have we forgotten those times we felt so alone and so helpless and so hopeless and then God showed up? Do we remember those failures that we were able to overcome, precisely because He helped us?”


As we do the work of remembering our sin and how Jesus saved us from it, our need and how Jesus met us in it and helped us, our racking failures and His amazing grace to us, we love Him more. We praise Him more deeply. We sing the song of praise that He’s put in our mouth. Peter says, “We declare the excellencies of Him who brought us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” Let’s hold onto that point. Let’s remember that point – that our love grows cold as we fail to take time to remember the great deliverances, the great blessings, the great times that God has rescued us, beginning with the salvation of our own souls.


Corporate Aspect to Life

David says this. It’s very interesting and we need to give some thought to it. “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” David is tapping into something that we kind of tend not to think about or tend to overlook. That among the people of God there is a corporate aspect to life. Most of us here this morning are Americans and as Americans, the rest of the world will tell us we have an individual bent by nature. We think and act and operate as individuals. We think individually first and conceive of things individually first. That’s just our nature. That’s who we are. And our griefs and our troubles isolate us from one another further. That individualism isolates us; griefs and troubles compounding with that isolate us from one another even further.


David says – hear his language again – that because of what God is doing with him, “many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” David is saying life in the church is life together. Life in the church is life together. People grow in their own trust and confidence in God, in their own relationship with God and their own understanding of His goodness as they learn from watching our experience with God and His deliverances and His goodness. People grow in their faith and are fortified in their faith as they pray for us in our need, in our struggle, in our grief, in our toil, in our pit, and they find God answering their prayers and our own as well in bringing deliverance. That fortifies people’s faith! That encourages people! “I can trust God. Look what He did for that guy! I was praying for that guy and look what He did for that guy! Maybe when I’m in that kind of trouble He’ll do the same for me.” “Many,” David says, “will see and fear and put their trust in God because of what they see God doing with me.”


Talk About It

Moreover, David’s going to talk about it. Look at verses 9 and 10. “I’ve told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; I’ve not restrained my lips. As you know, O Lord, I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart.” David’s telling everybody everything. “Look what God did for me! Look at the mess I was in! Look at the pit I was in! Look at the despair that I knew! And look how God drew me up and brought me out and set my feet on a rock!” David’s telling everybody about the deliverance that he’s enjoyed. Life in the church is life together. We share our pits. We share our bogs. And we share the great joy of deliverance as God shows up and draws us out and sets our feet on a rock.



Now there are some conclusions that David draws that we need to pay attention to. He’s still working in the past now; we haven’t gotten to his present yet. He’s drawing some conclusions from this past deliverance. The first one is this – “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie.” Blessed. Happy. Full. Full is the man, happy is the man, happy is the woman who makes the Lord his trust. The proud – who are the brought? Several scholars translated that label, “proud,” as “the great ones on the earth” – the mighty ones; those who trust in their own strength; those who have plenty of resources of their own. Those who are cunning enough; those who are capable enough; those who have the ability and the connections that they don’t have to trust the Lord. “We can trust in all these things, all these resources. We’ve got it; we’ve got it covered.” David says, “Blessed is the man who trusts the LORD” and doesn’t turn aside to the proud, who doesn’t turn aside to their resources, who doesn’t turn aside to their abilities, who doesn’t turn aside to their cunning. “Blessed is the one who trusts the LORD” because that’s where deliverance will be found. “The great ones of the earth” – they’re the ones who go astray after a lie! “I’ve got this! I can do this for myself. I’ve got it covered!” They go astray after a lie. They don’t know their need so they don’t reckon to look for a Savior.


Remind People

Another conclusion that David draws. “You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!” You know what David is doing? He is reflecting, not just now on his own experience but he’s reflecting on all the ways of God’s dealing with and caring for His people. He’s pulling on the history of redemption. He’s pulling on God’s redeeming acts in the history of Israel, throughout the history of His people. David makes a pledge. He says, “I’ll proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” David is reminding God’s people of their history and how their history is a history of deliverance after deliverance and rescue after rescue and saving after saving. He’s reminding his people because we need reminders.


How many times have you been in that pit? How many times have you been in that bog? And you thought it, "God is not good to me. God is good to everybody else, but He's not good to me." I've been there. And my crooked mind runs to that conclusion – that God is not good to me. He's good to all those nice people out there, but He's not good to me. Look at what's going on with me. If God were good to me, this wouldn't be happening to me right now. That's who we are by nature. We are those by nature who find fault with God. It started in the garden and we've been finding fault with God ever since. And David is saying, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You have multiplied your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I can't say enough. They are more than I can tell, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts!” But David is reminding his people.


You and I, as we live life together in the church, from time to time have to remind one another, despite what our experience or our feelings may tell us God is good and He bends His thoughts to us for our good and intends to accomplish good out of the pit of destruction and good out of the miry bog. There will be good to come from those places we don’t want to be because God is a God of wondrous deeds and thoughts towards His people. He intends and He works good. We don’t see that in the midst of griefs and toils and woes and pain. We have to be reminded. That’s where our life in the body is so important. That’s where David’s insight here is so important. Because he’s going to pledge himself to remind his people, “Look at your history.” In fact, it’s a great study to look through the psalms of David and see how many times he pulls in that history, that history of the exodus, that history of the parting of the sea, that history of his peoples’ deliverance from slavery. Look at how many times that’s mentioned in the psalms of David as he's pulling on the history of his people to remind himself and to remind the great congregation how good God is.


Psalm 139 – he says it again in a different way. “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God; how vast is the sum of them. If I were to count them, they are more than the sand.” Or hear from John in the concluding verses of his gospel. “Now there are many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Exhausting the record of God’s wondrous works and His thoughts towards His people is not the point. Reminding one another of His wondrous works and His wonderful thoughts and intentions for His people is the point. That’s the point that David is making.



A third conclusion. I’m going to pull from 1 Samuel in making this conclusion. Samuel’s words to Saul as Saul, one more time and for the last time, demonstrates disobedience toward God’s commands, Samuel says this. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than the fat of rams.” David says it this way. “Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but you have given me an open ear. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” David would say God desires obedience and not ceremony. “You’ve given me an open ear.” That is, “You’ve given me an ear to hear Your will expressed in Your law that I might do it, that I might hear it and that I might do it.” He says, “Your law is within my heart.” You know, that’s a new covenant reality that David is speaking right there. He’s anticipating the new covenant that Jesus would inaugurate; where the law, we can say, is within our hearts. Let me quote from Jeremiah who describes the new covenant that God promises this way. “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people.”


The writer of Hebrews tells us that David is looking ahead to the work of Jesus with these words. They describe Jesus’ commitment to obey His Father’s will and to love His Father’s Word and His redeeming and sanctifying work within His people. It is what Jesus is doing with all of us who belong to Him – conforming us to His own image so that we will love His Father’s will and love His Father’s Word. His law is within our hearts. Our delight is to do the will of God. That is the people that Jesus is making of us as we now relate to Him in the context of that new covenant that He inaugurated that David is foreseeing right here.


David’s Present

Well if those are the things that David pulls from his past, let’s spend a couple of minutes talking about David’s present. David shifts his attention from his past to his present right here around verse 11 and he begins with a conclusion. Before he ever starts describing his experience, his current experience, he begins with a conclusion. “As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me.” Remember several verses ago he said, “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust”? He’s telling us what that means to him. What that means to him is that God will not withhold His mercy. He’ll trust God for His mercy, His covenant mercies, His steadfast love; the love that comes to him because of the covenant that God has made with him and with all the rest of His people. And His faithfulness – they will preserve David. That’s David’s confidence as he is assessing his current experience and reality.


Struggle with Sin

And then he goes on to describe that experience for us having drawn that conclusion. “Evils have encompassed me beyond number, my iniquities have overtaken me; I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head. My heart fails me.” David is talking about his sin. David is grappling with his sin and what his sin has done to him, what it’s done to those around him; what it’s done in terms of his relationship with God. It’s separated him from God. He’s enduring that judgment of separation from God because of his sin. David takes his sin seriously. David takes his sin seriously. O, that you and I would take our sin as seriously as David takes it. Evil has encompassed him, his iniquities – it’s like biting flies. I think of that vision of biting flies. He can’t even see; he can’t even open his eyes. His sin is so much in his face. He can’t even see past it. He feels the weight and the misery of his sin. He describes an accumulation of evils pressing upon him. The displeasure of God. The dust. The just recompense of his sin is rendered to him.


Humble Confession

What we're seeing here is a humble confession. David is showing us how to confess sin. He's enduring the misery of his sin, he's you some frightening aspects, perhaps, of God's judgment, yet his past experience with God and His Word, God’s Word, teach him that the Lord will not hold His mercy back from him. We hear it when David writes in Psalm 51, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” That’s what we’re seeing from David here – a broken and contrite heart. Making a profoundly personal, deep, real confession of his own sin before Him.



Then, having done that, you know what he does the rest of the psalm? You know what David is doing? He’s praying. He’s calling out. As he was talking about calling out earlier, he’s calling out – pointedly; he’s not reserved, he’s not being polite. He’s saying, “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me. Make haste to help me!” He’s calling out in his need and it’s personal. It’s raw. It’s unnerving. “Don’t wait. Don’t delay. I have no margins here! This is more than I can handle. I need Your mercy. I need Your deliverance. I’ve made ruin here. Give help to me. Make haste to help me!” And as he’s praying so pointedly about himself, he looks and he finds that ring of enemies and detractors; people who, as he says, desire to snatch away his life. People who desire his hurt; people who rejoice at his suffering. And rather than undertake to deal with those enemies, he asks God to deal with those enemies on his behalf, putting them to shame, disappointing them, bringing them dishonor.


And then beyond that ring of enemies, he sees another group of people and so he makes another petition; he makes another prayer. “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you,” he says. “May those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’” Again, the great congregation can benefit even as David grapples with his sin and as God deals with him in his sin. And he prays that God’s people would be encouraged to look to Him for mercy even as they see mercy extended to David.



Finally, one more petition. Look at how raw and real David is here. "As for me, I am poor and needy. But the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God." David is not one of the great ones of the earth. He's needy. He is insufficient for his circumstances. He is bankrupt. He has no resources that he can rely on to give him help now. And that knowledge fuels his cry. "You are my help. You are my deliverer. O my God, do not delay!" That fuels his cry because he has no other upon whom he can call. David's recognition needs to be ours, that wherever we are, whatever the pit we may be in, whatever the bog may be entangling us, that we have a resource, that we have a secure and sufficient source. It's not us. It's the One who shows Himself to be our Savior; the One who shows Himself as the One who draws us out and sets us on a rock. David doesn't turn away from his poverty or his neediness; he embraces it. He holds it. He says, "This is who I am! This is who I am! I'm not the great king. I'm a man who's needy and empty-handed and poor and I need the help, not of man; I need the help of a Savior who can come to me and find me and pull me out and deal with my sin and deal with my circumstances, my situation."



And he’s comforted. Did you hear that comfort? “The Lord takes thought of me.” He knows the Lord has not forgotten him. Even though his problem is a sin problem, “The Lord takes thought of me,” because the Lord delights to show mercy. The Lord is careful with the broken and contrite heart. That’s the sacrifice He desires. David needs a Savior and he looks to the only One who can set his feet on a rock. What about you and me? My contention is every day we need saving. I'm not saying that every day your soul needs to be saved. If you've trusted Christ as your Savior and you've repented of your sin and repented of your efforts to clean yourself up and make yourself pretty before God, if you've trusted Christ then that's not the saving you need every day. But all of us find ourselves dealing with sin. All of us find ourselves dealing with circumstances that we can't unravel and we can't make right; we don't know what to do with. We need a Savior. All of us step into things that are too big for us to handle. We need a Savior. Who do we look to? Who do we look to? We look to the One who can really save us and set our feet on a rock. And that Rock is Christ. We look to God the Father almighty who made heaven and earth, who remembers us, who takes thought of us and will save us and set our feet on a secure place. And that Rock is Christ.


Let’s pray.


Father, we give You thanks that David’s confidence can be ours. We give You thanks that You’ve sent Your Son to be our Savior. He solves the problem with our souls, our problem with sin and righteousness. Father, we call out to Him every day for bog after bog and pit after pit, for sin after sin, and we find indeed that He is a Savior who saves to the uttermost. So hear our plea and hear our cry and let us see You answer. And let the body, the great congregation, see You answer as well and be fortified, that all of us may be fortified in our faith and our confidence in You. Hear us, as we make our prayer in Jesus’ name and for His sake, amen.

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