Steadfast love and… troubles without number

Today’s Faithful Daily Read is Psalm 40

The psalmist today presents us with what I believe is a great reflection of our reality – recognising the many mercies that God has given us while imploring God for our current (and future) needs. These themes are often repeated throughout God’s word – acknowledging that he calls us to himself and he HAS restored us, that we are in the process of BEING restored and finally we WILL be restored.

I love the way the Psalm uses picture imagery to describe God’s graciousness towards us

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 (v2)

I have often felt the weight and stickiness of the miry bog. Yesterday, as my wife and I were walking the coast track between Bundeena and Otford we found ourselves slightly off the beaten path and suddenly, past our ankles in a miry, black, foul bog that sucked our legs down to ever greater depths the more we struggled. Similarly, sometimes our circumstances or sin cause us to feel weighed down, unable to get traction and sinking ever deeper. What a relief it is to find a ‘firm place to stand’ (v2 NIV) – what mercy that in Christ we have a hope that is ‘a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul’ (Heb 6:19).

The psalmist continues, describing the character of God through a myriad of superlatives… steadfast love, faithfulness, deliverance, salvation, wondrous deeds, mercy…., read that list again, slowly. Oh! What a marvelous, overwhelming view of our creator! And what an appropriate response from the psalmist – bursting forth in song (v3), proclamation (v5, 9, 10) and obedience (v8).

On the framework of this proclamation, the Psalm shifts into another gear in verse 11. The psalmist looks into the world around him and states ‘troubles without number surround me, my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see’. He implores the Lord to ‘come quickly… to help me’. Is this the same person who only a few verses before who was  so filled with the deliverance and salvation of God that he could not help but proclaim God’s faithfulness and mercy to the ‘great assembly’? Indeed it is and I find I resonate with his experience, maybe you do too?

You see, I know the mercy, grace and salvation of God, I rejoice in it and it fills me continually with awe, wonder and thankfulness – yet I also look around me and I cry out for God’s mercy, I find myself back in the miry bog staring at my feet sinking deeper and deeper and, like the psalmist, ‘my heart fails within me’ (v12).

I think it is crucial that we know what authentic Christianity is, and what it is not. Christianity is not a constant smile-fest where everything is easy and every storm of life dissipates without touching us. The bible (including this psalm) point to a different reality – where we walk in the now, but not yet. In this life, we will have trouble, persecution, fear, sickness, suffering, doubts and our heart may fail within us. Yet our eternal hope is Christ, who HAS saved us and WILL save us. His love is steadfast and unfailing, his deeds wondrous and his deliverance and salvation are a rock, a firm place to stand. So, like the psalmist, today let us acknowledge our fears, doubts and struggles (share them with our brothers and sisters in Christ) and wait patiently for the Lord (v1), singing, proclaiming and living obediently, as he is our help and our deliverer.

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