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Psalm 40

God cares about the humble poor

Recalling God’s past deliverance can strengthen our faith when facing another crisis. Rededicating ourselves to trust and obey is vital too. David does both while urgently asking for God’s help.

A David psalm. 

I waited and waited for Yahveh
and he bent down and heard my cry.
He pulled me up out of the desolate pit
out of its muck and its mire.
He planted my feet on solid rock
and made my footing sure.
He gave me a brand-new song to sing
a song of praise to our God.
Many looked on, awestruck
and put their trust in Yahveh.

4 How fortunate are those
who put their trust in Yahveh
not in false gods or false guides!
You, Yahveh, my God
have done many miracles for us.
And there’s no one whose plans for us
begin to compare with yours.
I couldn’t begin to list them all
for they’re innumerable.

6 You take no delight
in mere sacrifice or offerings.
No, you’ve opened my ears to hear—
it’s not burnt-offerings
or sin offerings you’re after.
So I said, “Here I am.
I’ve come to do what the scroll[a] asks of me.”
I delight to do your will, O God.
I hold your Torah in my heart
not just my hands.

9 I’ve told the good news of your faithful rescue
to your assembled people.
I’ve held nothing back, as you know, Yahveh.
10 I haven’t kept to myself
word of how you save the helpless.
I’ve spoken of your faithfulness
in rescuing me.
I haven’t hidden
your unfailing love or faithfulness
from the great congregation.
11 You won’t withhold your compassion
from me, Yahveh.
Your unfailing love and faithfulness
will keep me safe forever.

12 But countless troubles have engulfed me!
I can’t see any way out
as my sins have caught up with me.
They outnumber the hairs on my head
and my heart fails me.

13 Rescue me, Yahveh!
Hurry, Yahveh, and help me!
14 Let shame and confusion overtake
all those who seek to destroy me.
Rout in humiliation
all who want to see me hurt.
15 May all who revel in my ruin
be devastated by their own humiliation.
16 But may everyone who seeks you
be glad and rejoice in you.
Let all who love what you’re doing
to save humankind
say, “Yahveh is great!”

17 Poor and needy as I am
the Lord cares about me.
You’re my help and my deliverer.
My God, don’t delay![b]

David celebrates a time when God rescued him and set his feet on solid ground, recalling how he sang a new song because—as with Miriam at the Red Sea—nothing else would do. And after accepting God’s rescue, it would have been unthinkable to pretend it didn’t happen and not publicly praise God.

David is loyal to God alone. He knows worship without the heart doesn’t please God. So he listens with the ears God has opened, obeys and, even more, longs—like a lover—to please his Lord. And in an act of self-offering, he devotes himself wholly to God, assuring him that his law shapes his thoughts and desires.

But David faces wave after wave of opposition and his innumerable sins entangle him. So God’s having set his feet on solid rock one day doesn’t mean he won’t have to cry to him from the watery depths the next.[c] He’s in deep trouble again. Feeling hopeless, his courage failing him, he can turn only to the God who graciously rescues the undeserving. Marveling that the Creator cares for such a poor and needy soul, he once more urges him to help him without delay and puts his hope in him.

Help me turn to you, God, when I’m over my head, weak and failing, opposed by those glad to see me to fail. You don’t want me just going through the motions. You want my ears, my heart. To change me, inside and out. Help me always, Lord, to hope in your unfailing love. Amen.

Whenever you have a free moment today, pray these words:

“I delight to do your will, O God. I hold your instruction in my heart.”


[a] David may be presenting to God his own copy of Deuteronomy—as representing the entire Torah, which was too big for a single scroll—and committing to follow it in obedience to the commandment in Deuteronomy 17:18-20: “When [the king] takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left” (NIV). Besides the instruction for kings (Dt. 17:14-20), Deuteronomy includes the Shema: “You shall love Yahveh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Those passages alone would have been vital to David as king. He sees this whole-hearted presentation of himself as the best offering to accompany his urgent request in vv. 12-17. He may be doing this as he takes the throne in Hebron or later over the entire nation, always aware of his many enemies.

[b] The fact that a slightly redacted version of vv. 13-17 appears as Psalm 70 speaks to the versatility of the passage.

[c] Jacobson (2014) 383.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.