Heartbeat (Psalm 40)

MOTIVATE

If you watch or are any sort of fan of Orioles baseball, then you know what it is like to feel endless hopelessness. You think the Orioles cannot possibly get any worse, and then you see a next game and next game, and next season, and begin to realize there may be an endless bottom. The question arises: “Is this more of the same, or is this part of the process of becoming something new?”

This is an important question not just for sport teams but for organization, nations, and individuals. I will trust the Holy Spirit give any further necessary insight or reflections on those topics. In terms of our sermon series on Heartbeat Psalms, we continue in the Psalms but we’re also beginning a turning point. Today’s message will reflect upon the meaning of Psalm 40 with an additional emphasis upon the importance of intentional involvement in spiritual community – small groups. This is part 1 of why groups are important and next week will be part 2 for what we do in groups that make a God-ordained difference.

EXAMINE           Psalm 40

Intro

  • “A psalm of David”
  • A song “To the choirmaster”
    • Psalmist is writing his personal worship diary to the LORD.
    • God is the chief choirmaster. He receives and gives song.
    • “40” is sung by Irish rock band U2.
      • When we were making our third record, the War LP, we were being thrown out of the studio by the studio manager because we had overrun or something and we had one more song to do. We wrote this song in about ten minutes, we recorded it in about ten minutes, we mixed it in about ten minutes and we played it, then, for another ten minutes and that’s nothing to do with why it’s called ’40’.[1]
  • Psalm 40:6-8 is quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7 in reference to Jesus Christ.
  • Psalm 40 presents us with 3 realities:

Life is messy.

One of the reasons why many value the psalms is that they present us with reality. The psalms do not pretend that life is perfect. There are patterns and seasons of life that all of us endure – even the godly. And one of the patterns of life that Christians know first-hand is despair.

Psalm 40 does not describe a short exposure to sorrow but a sustained endurance of mess and misery.

  • “I waited patiently” is literally “waited and waited.” Other psalms rephrase with “How long?”
    • Beyond a pathetic professional baseball team, have you ever waited for something that you felt would never change? Have you prayed with sincerity and worked with fervency, yet feel like nothing makes a difference? The psalmist has and God wants us to not give up hope and trust His hidden purposes and work beneath the surface.
  •  “heard my cry”
    • God called David a man after His heart because he had the toughness of a soldier and the tenderness of a servant. David cried for things that broke the heart of God.
      • Psalm 5:2 “Give attention to the sound of my cry, for to you do I pray.”
      • Psalm 6:6 “I am weary with my moaning, every night I flood my bed with tears, I drench my couch with weeping.”
      • Psalm 22:2 “O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night but I find no rest.”
      • Psalm 42:3 “My tears have been my food day and night”
      • Psalm 69:2-4 “I sink in deep mire…I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim waiting for my God.”
      • Psalm 56:8 “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”
  • “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… O LORD, deliver me [and] make haste to help me!”
    •  Sin has a high price. And even if you have repented of sinful decisions, the consequences still have a heavy weight. David feels burdened and blinded of outward wickedness and inward iniquity.

Maybe you can identify with David’s feeling of being overwhelmed that life is messy. While no one desires to dwell in the messiness of life, it does teach us perspective and priorities. When faced with hardship or suffering, we learn what truly satisfies and what matters above all else. We learn what we can live without and what we require for sustaining day-to-day, and we are in incalculable debt to the grace of God which carries us. David concludes, “I am poor and needy, but the LORD takes thought for me. The Lord is my help and deliverer” (40:17).

  • Vulnerability is key to processing the messiness of life to result into maturity. When we allow others to see our hang-ups and hear our hurts, then we invite them to speak freely in ways that can help us to grow.  Speaking truth in love toward vulnerability does not aim to recklessly offend or tear down but seeks to add value and build up.
    • “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.” (Ps 40:6) Resist pretending with God or self-pity among others.
      – Why would God love me?
      – How could anyone accept me or be my friend?
      – I’m such failure and lack knowledge, ability, or worth.
    • Vulnerability starts with availability. Don’t let the excuses hinder you from being present with God or others.
      > What will your time with God look like if you were fully vulnerable and available, rather than formulaic or rushed?
      > Who is someone that you could practice being present – available and vulnerable?[2] What if we started with our exchanges before and after church without looking for a next person to speak or subsequent event?

Vulnerability is key to processing the messiness of life to result into maturity.

The LORD is near.

The value of the psalms is they teach and remind us (again and again) that the LORD is in the middle of our mess. While David sought God, the LORD responds with several actions

  • v.1) inclined[3] to me (visited, stretched out to touch, pitched a tent to dwell)
  • v.1) heard his cry
  • v.2) drew me up from the pit of destruction and miry bog
  • v.2) set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure
  • v.2) put a new song in my mouth
  • v.5) multiplied wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us
  • v.6) given an open ear
  • v.10-11) acted with steadfast love

The psalms help us to praise the LORD not because life is without problems but because our problems are not without God’s presence. The Lord is near and His very name is near (Ps 75:1). In Jesus, God is not only “the God up there in heaven” but also “the God down here on earth.” Like the psalmist says elsewhere,

  • “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to the heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there… [If I wake to the morning… or sleepless night] your right hand shall hold me.” (Ps 139:7-12)


David understood there was no circumstance that could hide or hinder God’s nearness; even in sin, God’s hand is visible to convict and correct.

Ultimately, God’s nearness is full in Christ – who came to earth to complete the will and law of God; living as the perfect sacrifice and dying as the perfect substitute to do away with sin and bring us near to God (Ps 40:5-7; Heb 10:5-25).

2 ways to recognize the Lord’s nearness

  • > Sing.
    cf Ps 40:3, 16 “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God… may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you… and say continually, ‘Great is the LORD!”
    Undoubtedly, there are seasons of suffering that are too painful for singing (cf. Prov 25:20; Ps 137:1-4; James 5:13). Yet, we know God’s song is with us in the dark of night (cf Ps 42:7-9).
    • It Is Well (Horatio Spafford)

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

  • Spirituals were a means of counter-cultural resistance and source of sustaining grace and future hope. Singing in suffering is not about rejoicing as it is finding relief in expressing the true self.


*Identify a heartbeat song to remind yourself that even when darkness lingers it will never be the end.

  • > Pray.
    cf Ps 40:4 “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!”
    Like all of us, David’s suffering tempted him to turn to cheap substitutes that promise to please. Yet, David knew only the Lord is worthy of trust. Similarly, for the apostle Paul, his troubles and the Lord’s nearness motivated prayer, “The Lord is at hand; do not 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, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Php 4:6-7)

*Pause to invite the LORD’s help.

The psalms help us to praise the LORD not because life is without problems but because our problems are not without God’s presence. The Lord is near and His very name is near (Ps 75:1).

Life is better together.

The psalmist’s action helps us understand what it means to wait on the LORD. His waiting was not passive to sit back and do nothing. Instead, the psalmist worships in his waiting: He prays. He sings. He trusts. He hopes. He testifies.

Psalm 40 challenges us to endure our challenges and express our faith in community with others.

  • 40:3 “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD”
  • 40:5 “I will proclaim and tell of God’s wondrous deeds”
  • 40:9 “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord.”
  • 40:10 “I have not hidden your deliverance… I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.”
  • 40:16 “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the LORD!”

APPLY/THINK

7 Reasons why together is better in small groups:

  1. Church attendance is a group. The core of the church is the gathered body not a fractioned part of the whole. We must not forsake gathering with the local church and submitting ourselves to one another (Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:24-27; Ephesians 4:1-16; Hebrews 13:17).

  2. Jesus gathered in a group. The majority of His public ministry was spent among the disciples (Mark 3:14). One of the ways we can be more like Jesus is by being in a group who are also intentionally committed to follow Jesus.  

  3. Groups authenticate externally what God has started internally. We cannot obey the one-anothers in isolation. Obedience to all that God has called us to be and do must be lived in community of other Christ-followers. Groups help us to take a next step of commitment to God and the spiritual growth that happens with other believers. Summed up in a word: accountability.

  4. Groups increase our education and experience. No one has all the answers but God’s word. Regardless of where you are in the spiritual journey, we can learn from one another. Further, God gives each person gifts and experiences that we can all benefit to sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17, 19). The aim is not mere program participation but maturity in Christ, where each person and family flourish in love for the Lord and one another. The micro-expressions of small groups and the macro-culture of the church will have synergetic influence toward making disciples, developing leaders, and growing godly generations.

  5. Groups facilitate friendship and shepherding care. Being in a group helps you to know others and be known by others. Just as Jesus lived among a group of people, and Paul lived among believers (Acts 20:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:8), so we are able cultivate community and care for one another. Spiritual community is not discovered but developed; it takes investments of time and actions of support. We must remember that friendship and fellowship are not morality neutral but spiritually important and sacred. In a disconnected age, spiritual community gives us a place to believe and belong. Further, when members of a group are hospitable to connect and care for one another, it becomes a contagious dynamic that God uses to draw others to Himself.

  6. Groups mobilize us to God’s mission. Jesus’s Great Commission was not given to individuals but to the disciples, and all believers. The early church is a testament to the power of plurality with gathered believers, mission partners, and elder teams. When God’s people focused on gospel unity and missional urgency, the lost were saved, the kingdom expanded, and satan thwarted. The church should continue its aim to depopulate hell and fill heaven.

  7. Groups help us to pray. The early church functioned in harmony not because they were all alike and got along, but because they aligned their agenda to the Holy Spirit. When God’s people prayed, places were shaken, people were healed, problems were solved, challenges were overcome, sickness were healed, struggles were delivered, and God’s power was displayed. We learn to pray best by being in God’s word and being with other believers who cry out and call upon the Heavenly Father.  
  • 40 days after today will be October 1. Will you commit to being a meaningful member of our church and small groups before this date?

Psalms remind us of three realities: Life is messy. The Lord is near. Life is better together.


[1] Bono, Concert April 29, 1987 quoted in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40_(song)

[2] https://renovare.org/articles/practicing-availability-and-vulnerability, https://renovare.org/articles/practicing-availability-and-vulnerability-part-2

[3] https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5186.htm

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