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A Song Within a Song | Psalm 40

As preached by John Keller.

"What wonders of God have you taken for granted?"

Psalm 40 helps us:

1) See God

2) Fear God

3) Trust in God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 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. 3 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. 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! 5 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. 6 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. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” 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. 10 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. 11 As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! 12 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. 13 Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! 14 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! 15 Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, Aha!” 16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” 17 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!

Let’s pray. Father, you are so good to us. You give us life, you give us our breath. You save us and secure our steps every time we turn to you. Your thoughts are towards us. Jesus, we thank you for this song. A song that you sang when you entered the world to do the Father’s will. We praise you for taking our iniquities as your own for our sake. Holy Spirit, guide my words. Help me to speak truth. Aid us as we seek to be doers of your Word. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Song Within A Song

One of my favorite movies of all time is the Christopher Nolan movie Inception. In this film, the protagonists are specialized criminals who can invade the dreams of another person to steal ideas or even plant new ones. They accomplish this by using the other major premise of the movie, which is that there can be dreams within dreams, thereby going deeper into the person’s subconscious. Waking from a deeper dream may only take you back to where you were dreaming before and not reality. In order to keep themselves grounded, these dream specialists have a secret totem that will tell them if they are awake or still dreaming. This guide would prove to be controversial as the movie ends without conclusively stating whether the protagonist is awake or still dreaming. When we study scripture, we can have this same feeling. Is this idea really here or am I imagining things? Even in our text this morning, we can ask, Is David really writing about Jesus in Psalm 40 or am I putting him into the text?

This analogy from Inception, of dreams within dreams and the need for stable guideposts, is helpful for our Psalm today. Psalm 40 is a difficult song. We know from its heading that it was given to the choirmaster, so we know this was a corporate song for Israel to sing together. In verses 1-3, we see that David says that God has given to him this song of praise after he was delivered from great peril. At the end of Psalm 40, however, we see that the person singing is in need of salvation again. Verses 12-15, and 17 all speak of the singer needing salvation from God urgently. Because Psalm 40 ends with a plea for deliverance, it seems odd that it begins by noting how the Lord has just saved and secured David. How do we make sense of this? The answer is simple, there is a song within a song in Psalm 40. Verses 1-3 introduce this song to us and verses 4-17 are the contents of this new song from God. What is the purpose of this song of praise? We see the answer in verse 3 where, through the parallel structure of poetry, David proclaims that it is from this song that people will see and fear God. It is from this song that people will trust in the Lord. If you suspect that this song from God is about Jesus, you would be correct.

It should not be surprising then that it is this new song within Psalm 40 that is quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7 with regards to Christ. Notice how Hebrews quotes this passage of Psalm 40:5-7 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings

you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

Hebrews not only applies this song to Jesus but says that he sang it when he entered the world. David in Psalm 40:3 says he received this song from God, and Hebrews tells us that it is Jesus’ song. These are firm guideposts for us when examining Psalm 40. But how can this be? Did David really knowingly write about Jesus in this way 1000 years before he came to earth? Or was David simply writing about his own life and God used his words to mean something far more, unbeknownst to David? To answer this question, we must go to the text in Psalm 40 and see how David interweaves the Torah, the Law of Moses, the first book of the Bible, into his song. You see, this song is not just a forward-looking promise to the Messiah but also a backward-looking meditation of the prophecies and images of the Messiah from Moses’ book. Just as the Bible is a guidepost for us, it was a guidepost for David. As David received images, promises, and prophecies of the Messiah from God, he interpreted them through Scripture, namely, the Law of Moses.

We see in the first three verses that David had recently experienced the Lord’s salvation. In verse 2 we see that God has drawn him up from the pit of destruction. Out of the dark hole, David is now on a firm rock with sure steps. This experience parallels Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, who was also thrown into the pit by his own kin and was later given salvation by God. From this deliverance, God has given David a new song. It is a song of praise to God for his wondrous deeds, just as Moses gives a song of praise after Israel sees deliverance from Pharaoh and his armies and beholds God’s wondrous deeds. We even see a scroll from the Torah referenced in verse 7, saying that the singer has arrived, as promised in the book of Moses. The Law of Moses serves as another guidepost for Psalm 40. In verse 3 David claims that many will see and fear the Lord and that they will put their trust in the Lord because of this song. That is the purpose of Psalm 40.

It is a song that, when sung, will lead people to see God, fear God, and put their trust in God.

This is why Hebrews tells us that Jesus sang this song when he entered the world. He is the focus and fulfillment of Psalm 40. That being said, it is also a Psalm that references and alludes to the Torah in many ways. It is a song that points one back to the Law of Moses to see God, fear God, and trust in God. Psalm 40 also serves as a meditation of how David’s own present circumstances fit into God’s redemptive plan. Past, Present, Future are all in view in this one Psalm. You now see why I said this was a hard song. But just as those dream specialists from Inception had their guideposts so do we. By staying grounded in the text, we can look at the portraits of Joseph, David, and Jesus and see how Psalm 40 brings to light aspects of their life that we may have never considered or connected before. Going through these connections helps us see God, fear God, and Trust in God. That is the purpose of this song and will be our points this morning.

Psalm 40 helps us to See God, Fear God, and Trust in God.

See God How can a song help us to see God? In the same way that my glasses help me to see the world more clearly. Psalm 40 gives us perspective to see God in his Word and in his salvation.

Where do we see God in Psalm 40? We see him in the salvation and deliverance of David in verses 1-2 (I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 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). When we are saved, we are saved by God, even when he uses natural means. When was the last time you were saved by God?

We see God in his giving a new song in verse 3 (He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God). The Lord is still at work making things, even new songs to praise him. When was the last time God gave you an idea or inspiration? What did you do with it?

We see the Lord as he multiplies his wondrous deeds towards his people in verse 5 (You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;). What wonders have you taken for granted? Have you forgotten that the Lord thinks about you?

We see God in his mercy and love in verse 11 (As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!). Are you confident in the Lord’s mercy for you? Do you have such faith?

We see God as we again call to him for deliverance in verse 13 (Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!). Are we seeking the Lord in our times of trouble? Or are we turning to numbing pleasures for escape?

As we noted earlier, we can see that the words David uses draw upon images and ideas from the Law of Moses. This makes sense not only because David loved the Lord, but because the first book of the Bible had an instruction for the kings of Israel. They were to read it, make a copy of it for themselves, and obey it throughout their life, see Deut. 17:18-20. Therefore, what image would come to mind for David as he was in a pit of destruction? What example could David cling to as he placed his faith in the Lord for his salvation? What person could David look up to when his own people sought his life, but David knew he needed to forgive? What role model existed for David as he sought to be an example to Israel of walking in righteousness and telling people about God? The answer lies in Joseph, who is the first full-fledged picture of what the Messiah would be like.

Joseph How does Joseph connect in Psalm 40? First, we can see a connection in verse 2 of Psalm 40 between Joseph and David. God drew both up from pits of destruction and made their steps secure. Second, we know David is conscious of this story by referencing the Torah itself in verse 7, “the scroll of the book.” The Torah was a book composed of five scrolls, often called the Pentateuch. Third, as we will see, Joseph models the words of this song just as David and ultimately Jesus models the words of this song. Fourth, we know from Hebrews that this Psalm is Messianic, it would therefore make sense that what David says about the promised Messiah would fit and match with the story of Joseph, who is also a portrait of the Messiah.

Who then was Joseph? Joseph was the favored son of Jacob. We all know about the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. But did you know that Joseph was also seen as the firstborn of Jacob? He received this blessing from his Father not just because he was the favorite but also because he was given the birthright of the firstborn. Listen to 1 Chronicles 5:1-2, “The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so that he could not be enrolled as the oldest son; 2 though Judah became strong among his brothers and a chief came from him, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph)” (1 Chron. 5:1-2). While the birthright is not the same as the blessing, which Jacob gives at the end of his life, they do seem to be connected. This is why whenever we see Joseph, everything he does prospers. He has a blessing like his fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Joseph was also a man of integrity. He would not only report to his father the bad things his brothers did (Gen. 37:2) but would also flee away from sexual temptation while his brothers did not. Both when reunited with his brother and later at the end of Jacob’s life, Joseph chose forgiveness rather than vengeance.

He also was a prophet, being given visions from God in his dreams of what was to happen to him (Gen. 37:5-11). Notice in Gen. 37:8 how his brothers hated him more both for his dreams and for his words, Joseph was not just reporting the dreams but telling what they meant. However, his brothers, his own people, cast him out and seek to end his life. The same would later happen to David and Jesus.

From Jacob’s perspective, after his sons return with spoils from Egypt and tell him about Joseph, his beloved son, who walked in righteousness and yet seemingly died, was somehow raised to life and power. This story of Joseph’s life was given to David and to us in order to show what the life of the Messiah would look like. In other words, it helps us to see God in his Word.

How do we see God through Joseph? Through God’s deliverance and providence in Joseph’s life, Joseph was saved several times. From the pit and from the prison. From the sadistic brothers and from the seductive mistress. Wherever Joseph ended up, God not only protected him but made him prosper, just as with his fathers before him. God is the one behind Joseph’s salvation and is the one Joseph credits when he tells his brothers he forgives them.

How many times does this happen to us? We get in bind, trouble is at our doorstep, and we somehow get through it. Do we see God in that? Do we see God both in the salvation and in the trouble? Joseph did.

After Jacob’s death, his brothers are afraid that Joseph will take vengeance against them. Joseph does not do this. Instead, he says this to them,

19 “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:19-21)

After Jacob’s death, Joseph not just forgave God’s people but committed to be a shepherd over them.

So to sum up Joseph, he was a prophet, lived a righteous life, was cast out at the hands of his own people, but was given new life at the right hand of the most powerful figure in the land. He took care of God’s chosen people and told them of all that God had done for him and for them. Do you see God in the life of Joseph? Do you see Jesus in the life of Joseph?

David How do we see God through David? David was a mighty warrior, but mightier prophet. Consider what Peter says in Acts 2 “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:30-31).

Just as God sent Joseph ahead to Egypt to prepare food and a place for God’s people during a great famine, God sent David to prepare songs and prophecies for God’s people as they waited on the Messiah.

David faced many trials in his life. Dozens of Psalms by David recall back to these times of great peril. From David’s flights from Saul and Absalom to his own sin and regret, David faced many hardships. Over and over, David credits the Lord for his salvation and deliverance. He saw God through these experiences. When we are saved, we too see the hand of God. That was the lesson Joseph learned and it is the lesson David learned.

Jesus How do we see God through Jesus? Well, Jesus is the Son of God. He tells us in John 14:9 that all who see him see the Father. We cannot see Jesus physically, but we can see him in God’s word. Yes, we can see him in the gospels, but also in the Old Testament. When Jesus was raised from the dead and visited the disciples, he showed them where he was in the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-48).

As God sent Joseph to prepare food and a refuge and sent David to prepare songs and prophecies, God sent Jesus to prepare a house for his children. Jesus tells his disciples in John 14:2-3, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” It is through Jesus that we can see God, and see him forever.

See God through his word being fulfilled. See God in his salvation.

Fear God

How does Psalm 40 point us to fear God? It points us to his wondrous deeds in verse 5. We serve a God who turned a river into blood. Who made darkness fall upon the land for 3 continuous days. Who parted the Red Sea for the salvation of his people and closed it for the judgment of their enemies. What wonders do you praise God for? Do you think about his wondrous deeds? Psalm 40 points us to seeking to do God’s will and having his Law within our hearts in verse 8 (I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart). Do you delight in obeying the Lord? Do you seek to do God’s will with your life? Is your hope in doing this yourself, or in the one who will accomplish this desire for you? Psalm 40 points us to proclaim the good news of God’s deliverance, faithfulness, and steadfast love in verses 9-10 (I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. 10 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). Do you talk about God? Do you tell others how God has saved you? Do you share praises in addition to requests? Do you share the good news of God’s deliverance? There are many stories and examples in the Torah that help us understand what it means to fear God. When David mentions God’s wondrous deeds in verse 5, it calls to mind the wonders God performed in Egypt in Exodus, culminating in Moses singing “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11)” When we have a God as great as our God, it should lead us to fear him. That fear should lead us to sing songs of praise, but also much more. To see what that looks like, we can again look at Joseph, David, and Jesus.

Joseph When confronted with the wickedness of his brothers, Joseph reported to his Father. When confronted with a forward woman, Joseph fled from temptation and chose righteousness. When confronted with the opportunity for revenge, Joseph gave forgiveness to his brothers. These are pictures of what fearing God and delighting to do His will looks like. We obey God because we fear him. We tell others about God and what he has done because we fear him.

We know what happened to Joseph because he told God’s people. He proclaimed to the congregation all that the Lord had done for him. As with Joseph, David proclaimed to the people of Israel all that the Lord had done for him as well.

David David was a man who feared God and lived a life following God. Hear how Paul summarizes how God called David in Acts 13:22 “ And . . . he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ (Acts 13:22) Paul is referencing both 1 Sam 13:14 and Psalm 89:20 but adding “who will do all my will” to these references to David. Being a man after God’s own heart also means doing the Lord’s will.

Furthermore, verse 8 of Psalm 40 connects doing God’s will with God’s law being on one’s heart. This sounds very similar to Jeremiah 31:33, where the prophet says “ For 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. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Jeremiah lived 400 years after David, how is David referencing this new covenant idea of God’s law being within one’s heart? It is because this idea is not new but in the Torah, the Law of Moses. Listen to Moses’ words about the last days when Israel is in exile for their sins, in Deuteronomy 30:4-6, 8: 4

If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. 5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. ... 8 And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today.

Moses connected having a changed heart from God with obeying God’s law and loving him. And it is God who changes the heart, not the people. Additionally, the timing of this event would be after the exile of God’s people, which David had not experienced. This is new covenantal language that David is alluding to in this promised figure in Psalm 40:6-8. David is not just looking forward to the coming Messiah, but also the day when the Lord will circumcise the hearts of all his people so that his Law will be in them and they will do his will. God will do this through a Messiah who already has the Law of God in his heart. He will proclaim to God’s people the good news of salvation. Yet this promised one from the Torah cries out to God because of the threats of his enemies and his iniquities. Can this really be a song sung by Jesus? The answer as we will see is still yes. To fear God means to do his will, even to the point of death and loss. Which takes us to Jesus.

Jesus Jesus says in John 4:34 “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Jesus did not come with armies or weapons. Jesus came with signs and a mission. Near the end of Jesus's ministry, Jesus went to a garden to pray with his disciples. In the garden, Jesus said to the Father, “Not my will, but let your will be done.” Jesus submitted to the Father, even unto death.

As Isaiah tells us, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isa 53:2-3).

Paul says this with regard to God’s will for Jesus on the cross, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

Jesus preached the same message as John the Baptist. Jesus came with a message of deliverance, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. When he appeared after his resurrection, it was to proclaim the Lord’s vindication and deliverance. Jesus feared God and showed us how we can as well.

Trust in God

How does Psalm 40 show us how to trust in God? We are to cry out to God and wait for him in verse 1. When was the last time you cried out to God? When was the last time God heard your prayers?

God is the one who not just rescues but sets us on the right path in verse 2. How has the Lord set your path? Is not your sure footing in life from him?

The one who turns to the Lord as his trust is blessed in verse 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!). It is so easy to turn to the proud because they act and believe that they have all the answers. But we are called to make the Lord our trust, we turn to him.

God will not restrain his mercy from us but will preserve us in verse 11. How has the Lord preserved you? How has the Lord lavished his mercy upon you?

God takes thought of us in verse 17 (As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me). Do you think about how the Lord thinks about you? His thoughts are towards you, you are not forgotten.

Joseph trusted the Lord. Even when Pharaoh's baker forgot about Joseph after his release from prison, God did not. Even when in the hands of his enemies such as Potiphar’s wife, God protected Joseph in Egypt.

When David was exiled away from Israel and lived amongst its enemies, God preserved David and made him king over His people. Even when cast out by his own son, David still trusted in the Lord. God would then use David to write songs for and about His Son, Jesus.

In Acts 13:34-38, Paul speaks about David and his Psalms, connecting them to Jesus. He notes,

34 And as for the fact that [God] raised [Jesus] from the dead, no more to return to corruption, [David] has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you, therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, David’s hope was not in himself or his anointing from Samuel, but in the coming anointed one who would be Holy and righteous, who God would not let see corruption. David trusted in the Lord, not just for his own life, but for his soul. It is through this Holy one, Jesus Christ, that there is forgiveness of sins and a newness of heart. This is how David can pray “ Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa 51:10). David trusted in God even for the forgiveness of his sins.

Jesus Jesus trusted in the Father. He regularly secluded himself in prayer to talk with His Father. He trusted Him even on the cross, where Jesus said to the Father, “Into your hands, I commit my Spirit.” Jesus trusted the Father before his sufferings, throughout his sufferings, and at the end of his sufferings. Jesus trusted the Father as he took on all our sins and all God’s wrath meant for us.

Some may say Amen to this, for they too have a deep trust in God. They have been through affliction and reached the other side. If that is you, take heart and do not let the Lord’s steadfast love for you be hidden from others. Tell your family, your neighbors, your co-workers what the Lord has done for you! Proclaim the good news of God’s deliverance.

Others may stay silent because you feel as if you do not have the same trust in God as Joseph, David, or Jesus. If that is you, know that it is God who gives faith and puts his law in our hearts. For those who profess Jesus as Lord and place their faith in Him, to them is given the Holy Spirit. He is at work right now helping to trust in God. This is how the Lord circumcises our hearts to love him with all our heart and soul, through faith in his promised Son. This is the promise David believed, and it is a promise for you.


Psalm 40 is a song within a song. This is a song by David from God for Jesus and for us. It is for us to see God in his word and in his salvation. To see him through his Son and the many types that God inspired people to paint for us to see. This song is for us to fear God, praise his wondrous deeds, obey his will, and tell others of his salvation. This song is for us to trust in God and his promises. God keeps his word, and his promises are good and true. God’s thoughts are towards you, put your trust in him. Let us continue to meditate on this song of praise to our God as we live out our days this week.


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