Devotions on Psalm 40:1-10
June 22-28, 2015
Monday, June 22, 2015
“I wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 40:1a);
Patience appears to be a key element in one’s spiritual life. The Apostle Paul lists it as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Prophet Isaiah counsels the people of Israel to be patient as they wait for the Lord to act. He proclaims, “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). Anyone who walks with the Lord knows what it is like to wait for a prayer to be answered, a door to be opened, an adversary vanquished or for God to speak.
The question before us is not, “Will we wait?” but rather, “How will we wait?” Most of us, being people of the instant now, don’t wait well. When stuck in traffic waiting for it to clear, Max pounds the horn and swears under his breath. Carlota paces back and forth when she waits for her children’s activities to be finished. Nigel and Gwen pull out their cell phones and play games to pass the time. These are effective ways to pass the time, but perhaps we can be more creative in our waiting.
Waiting could be a time of silence and stillness—a time to hold hands with the Lord while not having to say a word. We could develop patience by reading the Bible or meditating on a verse of scripture. Waiting is an invitation to pray. If waiting is an important part of being disciples of Jesus Christ it behooves us to grow in it like we would any other spiritual discipline.
Lord of time, you have said that those who wait upon you will renew their strength, mount up with wings like the eagles and run and not grow weary. Lord teach us to wait. Amen.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
“He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1b).
Put a newspaper or a football game in front of Carl and he was dead to the world. His wife could yell, his children could scream and the dog could bark and Carl would hear none of it. It wasn’t that Carl was deaf but rather Carl was practicing selective listening. Selective listening is an acquired talent of which most of us become proficient.
The Psalmist celebrates the truth that God is not a selective listener. God is an active listener. God inclines toward us; God indicates that we have God’s attention and that God is listening to us. God hears us. Out of the din of billions of prayers, God hears our cry.
Humans have another listening talent that we share with most mammals—it’s intuitive rather than acquired. That talent is the ability for parents to hear the cry of their offspring among the cacophony of others. If the nursery is too close to the sanctuary every mother knows when her child cries. When we cry out to the Lord, God’s ears perk up and God says, “That one’s mine! I’m listening.”
Attentive Lord, we cry out to you not only for ourselves but for all those in need. We are yours, Lord. We cannot live without your breath of life and the strength of your Spirit. Amen.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
“He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock” (Psalm 40:2).
Last fall the hills around the small town had been decimated by a wildfire. The town had been spared from the fire, but there was no vegetation on the hills to hold the soil in place. When a torrential storm roared through the area it created a mudslide. The town was inundated with mud. Parts of the town had over a foot of the thick, black muck. Driving through the goo was impossible, and walking nearly so. The mud sucked on people’s boots and they were exhausted after a short distance.
Sometimes a mudslide engulfs our lives. The mud doesn’t destroy, but we find ourselves slogging through life, slip-sliding one way and then another and totally exhausted in a short amount of time. Try as we might, we can’t dig ourselves out of the mud. So, we trudge through one day after another.
Such was the situation in which the Psalmist found himself. God, though, moved in his life, lifted him out of the miry bog and set him upon a rock. God accomplishes the very same thing in our lives—everyday. Usually God doesn’t wave a magic wand and plop us on the rock. Sometimes a helping hand reaches out and pulls us up on the rock. A kind word, a smile, a pat on the back, or a kick in the pants are at times all we need to get us on the rock. The important truth is that God moves in our lives to bring us to a place of safety and security—God’s presence.
Beautiful Savior, rescue us from the bogs, swamps and quicksand of life. Renew our strength and empower us so that we may in turn help others journey through the mud of their lives. Amen.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
“Happy are those who make the Lord their trust” (Psalm 40:4).
Daniel traveled to Tanzania with several members of his congregation. The trip was part of an exchange program that allowed Christians from both Tanzania and the United States to see different parts of the church and experience different cultures. When Daniel arrived, he was struck by the lush beauty of the land, by the poverty of the people and by the people’s joy. The Christians that Daniel met had very little, but they were happy and they celebrated life.
Daniel ruminated on what he thought were two opposing facts—the poverty of the Tanzanians and their joy. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that the Tanzanians had very little in which they could place their trust. IRA’s and 403b’s were virtually unheard of. Few people own cars. Their homes were the simplest of structures and, for most of the people, their clothes were second-hand from people in other countries. The only place to put their trust was in the Lord—in the Lord’s presence, protection and provision. Placing their trust in God enabled them to experience a happiness and joy that was rare even in the abundance of the United States. It is true—those who place their trust in the Lord are happy, and it is a happiness that cannot be taken away from them.
Faithful Lord, help us to see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly day by day. Amen.
Friday, June 26, 2015
“Sacrifice and offering you do not desire” (Psalm 40:6).
What a surprise—a God who did not require sacrifices and offerings! All the other gods demanded such things. Some gods even demanded the sacrifice of the first-born child. It was a quid pro quo arrangement. If the person’s sacrifice pleased the god, then the god would bless the gift giver. This type of worship didn’t require any lifestyle changes, speech modifications or “cleaning-up-one’s-act.”
Israel’s God was different. Their God, Yahweh, wasn’t interested in sacrifices, burnt offerings or displays of religiosity. Yahweh asked the people of Israel to “Love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves.” Such a request required change from being self-centered to being God-centered and neighbor-centered.
The Psalmist reminds us that God is a God of relationships. God’s primary interest is not in how often we attend worship services, how many committees we are on or if we use God’s name in vain only when we hit our thumb with a hammer. Our God of love and grace intends for us to be a new people—people who work for peace, seek justice and care for their neighbors.
Loving God, forgive us when we get so caught up in doing religious things that we don’t allow your Spirit to change us and flow through us to touch the lives of others. Amen.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
“I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8).
We all have an independent streak in us. We don’t like to be told what to do. Teenagers ignore their parents request for them to clean their room. “Take out the trash,” usually falls on deaf ears. We sometimes even ignore our supervisor’s specific instructions if we can reach the goal by doing it our way. A sense of joy flows through our veins when enlightened people around us realize that our way really is THE way to do it.
A fundamental change takes place in our beings that allows us to echo the words of the Psalmist, “We delight to do your will.” It is necessary for us to give up control. Faith is expressed in a trust that the Holy Spirit is leading us, God knows what God is doing and God only wants the very best for us. Our hope is that God’s love and grace will flow through us and be a reality in the lives of others.
Independence, though prized in the United States and other parts of the world, is never spoken of in a positive light in scripture. Freedom, however, is a gift from God. Perhaps there is no greater freedom than that experienced by young children. The relationship that they have with their parents are their delight. The children are free from worries and cares. Their parents provide all their needs and protect them from every danger—even boogey men at night. The children are free to explore and celebrate life. We experience that same freedom as we delight in the Lord.
Wonderful Lord, when we pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done,” we ask that this might happen in our lives. Amen.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
“I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation” (Psalm 40:9).
Ken had great news to tell his wife and family. He had received a huge promotion at his work along with a significant increase in pay. The moment he walked through the door he called for the family to gather for an important announcement. College sophomore Cathy Hines couldn’t wait to tell her parents that she had been selected to study in England for a semester. Carla Chavez waited anxiously for her husband to arrive home. The moment he walked in the house Carla ran to him, threw her arms around him and announced, “We’re going to have a baby!”
It’s hard for us to keep a secret when we have good news to share. Certainly the Psalmist had good news. The Lord had heard his cry, lifted him out of the miry bog and place him on a rock. The Lord had moved mightily in his life and he couldn’t stop telling others what God had done for him.
We have good news to share. We can let others know what God has done for us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. At the appropriate time we can tell how God has answered our prayers, how God has walked with us through difficult times and how our faith has made a difference in our lives. People are tired of theological arguments or self-righteous judgments. They do like a good, true story, however, along with sharing the excitement of life.
Almighty God, you have touched our lives in many ways. Give us the boldness to share what you have done with those who are seeking to know you better. Amen.