Psalm 40:11
O LORD, do not withhold Your mercy from me; Your loving devotion and truth will always guard me.
Sermons
Grace and GratitudeW. Forsyth Psalm 40:1-17
Patient WaitingCanon Liddon.Psalm 40:1-17
Reminiscences of a Godly LifeHomilistPsalm 40:1-17
The Christian's PatiencePsalm 40:1-17
Waiting for the LordMonday Club SermonsPsalm 40:1-17
Waiting for the LordM. D. Hoge, D. D.Psalm 40:1-17
Discipline LifelongC. Short Psalm 40:11-17
Poor and Needy: a Prayer and a PleaC. Clemance Psalm 40:11-17


There are many psalms which begin in a sigh and end with a song, showing us that even in the act of waiting before God, and of waiting on God, the darkness often passes away. We find our burden rolling off in the very act and energy of prayer. In this psalm, however, matters are reversed; and immediately following on a song of triumph and a vow of surrender, there is a piteous wail. This dissimilarity, nay, almost discordance, has led to a very general opinion that what here seems to be the latter part of this psalm is actually another psalm, which has somehow or other come to be attached to this one. The probability of this is confirmed by the fact that Psalm 70. is the same as the close of Psalm 40. But, of course, at this distance of time, data which would fully explain that cannot be expected to be available. Still, it is a great comfort to be permitted to think of this paragraph as being penned at a different time and under different circumstances from those which called forth the preceding ten verses. It would be discouraging, indeed, if we found that in one and the same breath the psalmist was triumphantly set upon a rock, and then in a minute or two bowed down with a weight of woe! We are not called on to entertain such a doleful supposition; and are glad, therefore, to deal with this piteous prayer and plea as standing by itself. It is not difficult to seize the progress of the thought.

I. HERE IS A SOUL IN DEEP DISTRESS. (Ver. 12.) Whether the "evils" are the iniquities themselves, or the form in which those iniquities are brought home to him, is not absolutely clear. Probably the latter is the case. Very often surrounding circumstances may bring to us bitterly painful reminders of past sin. And this may be one of God's means of bringing a soul to repentance through the avenue of remorse and shame.

II. HERE IS AN UTTER ABSENCE OF SYMPATHY FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD. Yea, something more than a lack of sympathy; for there is ridicule (ver. 15), there is joy over his sorrow (ver. 14, latter part); there is even an effort to destroy his peace, and perchance to further a plot against his life. Note: In the moments of deepest distress, when we look for succour from man, we find that the greater part are so engrossed in their own affairs, that they have never a tear to shed over another's sorrows, nor a hand to help in another's needs. This is hard. But it is a part of the discipline of life; and it is made use of by God to drive us to himself.

III. THE PSALMIST IS SHUT UP TO GOD. (Vers. 11, 13, 17.) It is not for nought that we are sometimes shut off from the sympathies of man. However trying, it is an infinite mercy when we are left with God alone. There, however, we have a perpetual Refuge. There are no fewer than four comforting thoughts specified here.

(1) There is the name - Jehovah;

(2) there is the assurance of having a share in the thoughts of God (ver. 17); there is in God

(3) loving-kindness; and

(4) faithfulness. "Thy truth," i.e. thy fidelity to thy promises. Note: Whoever has such a Refuge to which to flee, is well prepared for the worst of times.

IV. TO GOD HE UTTERS A FERVENT, PLEADING PRAYER.

1. One part of his prayer, and a prominent part too, is against his enemies. (Ver. 15.) We need not imitate David here" (see our homily on Psalm 35.). Let us leave our enemies in the hands of God; or, rather, let us pray for them.

2. A second part of his prayer is on behalf of the godly. (Ver. 16.) Note: This indicates that the psalmist was not moved by private feeling only, but by a pious public spirit.

3. A third part of his prayer is for himself. (Vers. 13 and 17.) Note: It will be very selfish of us if we pray only for ourselves, and very unnatural if we do not include ourselves. - C.









I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.
In the text are two subjects. David's privilege or happiness itself. The ground or foundation of this his happiness. In the letter and proposition of it, we have the comfortableness and advantage of natural rest. In the scope and drift of it, we have the comfortableness and advantage of God's favour. The security and fearlessness of a godly person, who is in the love and favour of God, and hath this evidenced and made good to his soul. He is one that is free from all inordinate disturbance, and disquietness of spirit. Those who are reconciled to God, and in His love, have privileges beyond others, so as "in patience to possess their souls,' in the midst of the greatest outward trouble. This is grounded upon that persuasion which they have of God Himself, and of His affections towards them. It is implied, that none can well thus compose themselves, but those which are thus affected. None can lie down in peace and sleep securely, but those who have made their peace with God, and are in favour with Him. A guilty conscience can never lie down in quiet. Great estates in the world are, for the most part, occasions of great distraction and disquietness of spirit, and such as are subject to break men of their natural rest. Why could David sleep with his estate, rather than his enemies with theirs? Because his was sanctified and sweetened to him by the love of God. Note the ground of the godly man's composure. "Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." The blessing itself — a safe and secure habitation. As we desire to dwell safely, let us be careful to dwell holily: and that includes piety and religion; justice, honesty, and righteousness; peace, friendship, love and quietness of spirit; charity and giving to the poor. This blessing flows from God Himself. It is not a business of mere casualty, there's a providence in it. Not a business of mere endeavour, it comes by the blessing of God.

(T. Horton, D. D.)

This may be understood, either figuratively, of the repose of the soul, in the assurance of God's grace, or literally, of the repose of the body, under the protection of His providence. The Psalmist having given the preference to God's favour above any good, having chosen that, and portioned himself in that, here expresses his great complacency in the choice he had made. Those who have the assurances of God's favour toward them, may enjoy, and should labour after, a holy serenity and security of mind. It is the privilege of good people that they may be thus easy and satisfied; and it is their duty to use the means appointed for the obtaining it. The Psalmist, after an anxious day, now retires to his chamber with the words, "I will lay me down in peace, and sleep." Here we have David's pious thoughts when he was going to bed. Observe his confidence in God, his composedness in himself Doctrine: As we must begin the day with God, and wait upon Him all the day, so we must endeavour to close it with Him. Let us retire to lay us down. Some sit up to do mischief to their neighbours; others sit up in pursuit of the world and the wealth of it; others sit up in the indulgence of their pleasures. But let us lay down with thankfulness to God, and with thoughts of dying; with penitent reflections upon the sins of the day, and with humble supplications for the mercies of the night. We should be convinced of it that we are still contracting guilt. We should examine our consciences, that we may find out our particular transgressions of the day past. We should renew our repentance, for whatever we find has been amiss in us. We should make a fresh application of the blood of Christ to our souls, for the remission of our sins, and the gracious acceptance of our repentance. We should apply ourselves to the throne of grace for peace and pardon. Let us also lie down with humble supplication for the mercies of the night. We must pray, that our outward man may be under the care of God's holy angels, who are the ministers of His providence. We must pray, that our inward man may be under the influences of His Holy Spirit, who is the author and fountain of His grace. And when we lay down, our care and endeavour must be to lay us down in peace. Let us lie down in peace with God; for without this there can be no peace at all. Let us lie down in peace with all men: we are concerned to go to sleep, as well as to die, in charity. Let us lie down at peace with ourselves. But when may we lie down in peace at night? If we have, by the grace of God, in some measure done the work of the day, and filled it up with duty. If we have by faith, and patience, and submission to the Divine will, reconciled ourselves to all the events of the day so as to be uneasy at nothing that God has done. If we have renewed our repentance for sin. If we have put ourselves under the Divine protection. If we have cast all our cares for the day following upon God. Having laid ourselves down in peace, we must compose ourselves to sleep. It is by the power of God's providence that we are kept safe in the night.

(Matthew Henry.)

Sleep is the image of death. Jesus Christ abolished the terrors of the first death, the death of the body. In the text is not a prayer of David, but a determination on his part. To a certain extent, peaceful sleep depends upon ourselves. A peaceful state of mind has a great deal to do with the power of enjoying God's gift of sleep. And, similarly, a peaceful death depends on ourselves. There is such a thing as the quietness of a stupefied conscience. How may we, as far as conscience is concerned, carry out the resolution that we will lie down in peace?

1. By doing all that in us lies to preserve a peaceful conscience during the day. Begin the day with earnest prayer. Our morning prayers may show us what we wish to be, but the temptations of the day show us what we are. Our consciences cannot but be injured, if we are guilty of faults and errors during the day, and take no account of them at the dose of the day. Self-examination gives an earnestness and a reality to the prayer for pardon. If it be true that the last sleep of all makes the sleep of each night more solemn, it is also true that each night's sleep makes the last sleep of all less strange. What is each day but a picture of the whole life, and each night but a picture of death? Then we must do all that in us lies to preserve a peaceful conscience during the years of life.

(W. H. Ranken, M. A.)

Contributors to, Tracts for the Times.
This is one of the many verses in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, which, must come home to every heart of man, if read with any degree of simple faith. It sets full before us the most comfortable and refreshing picture or a devout, sober, honest person, after his day's work is ended, his passions kept in order, his sins repented of, and his prayers seriously said, laying himself down to his night's rest, in the full consciousness that he is neither alone nor unguarded; that as there has. been a merciful Eye watching over him, a mighty Hand stretched out to guard him, through the dangers and temptations of the day, so it will be with him in the night also. This entire rest and tranquillity of God's faithful servants, when they lay them down on their bed at night, is beautifully expressed in the text, "I will lay me down 'all together'"; all my powers of mind and body agreeing, as it were, one with another; not torn by violent passions, by desire on the one hand, and remorse on the other. How catholic, how universal is the thought expressed by the Psalmist. There is no one condition of life that it suits better than another. The need of taking rest is an universal law of God's providence over men here in this lower world. As death, so sleep may be truly called a great leveller. As sleep is the image of death, and as the slumber of every night is a kind of sacramental token of that last long sleep, these words may be used for a dying Christian also. Only a Christian has a warrant from Holy Scripture to regard death as no more than a quiet sleep. The Father, acknowledging them as His children, receives them at their death into the everlasting arms. As all the blessings which we have or hope for depend on the Passion of our Lord and Saviour, so this blessing of taking our rest, whether in our bed or in the grave, seems to bear an especial relation to the mystery of the burial of Jesus Christ. Our warrant for our hope is that the Son of God died for us, bought us to be His own in such sort, that we should be really joined to Him, mystically made members of His body. As members, inseparable members, of the Man Christ Jesus, we hope to have our bodies buried with Him; and for our souls, our true selves, we hope that when they pass away from our bodies they may be with Him that day in Paradise. Except we have this hope in us, we cannot apply to ourselves the comfortable words of this Psalm. How is it that in sleep, and still more in death, Christian men may humbly depend on a peculiar presence of our Lord Jesus Christ to guard them?

1. Because He is King, who has promised, "He that keepeth thee will not sleep."

2. In this act of lying down comes in the remembrance and the power of our Lord's sacrifice. That deep sleep of His, on the Cross and in the grave, has sanctified and blessed the sleep of all penitent Christians for all time to come, whether in their beds or in the bosom of the earth. Sin and its punishment, disease and misery, is the great disturber of sleep. Then to have a reasonable hope, grounded on a good conscience, that blemished as you are with many infirmities, you have not forfeited the blessing of Christ's death; this is the secret of good nights, and a comfortable death time. Again, we are taught in Holy Scripture to regard the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ as one very especial safeguard for the sleeping, until they wake, and for the dead, until they rise again.

(Contributors to "Tracts for the Times.)

I have noticed in the books of travellers, this observation, "We found it exceedingly difficult to obtain a tent keeper who could keep awake at night." One gentleman speaks of discovering a thief in his tent, and when he went outside to call the watchman he found that the man had gone so soundly to sleep that he could only be aroused by one or two gentle kicks. When a man has been travelling with you all day, it is unreasonable to expect him to keep awake through the night to, take care of you. Hence the beauty of the words, "Behold He that keepeth Israel." etc.

( C. H. Spurgeon.).

Give ear to my words, O Lord.
The Psalm falls into two main parts — vers. 1-7, and vers. 8-12. The inward comes first; for communion with God in the secret place of the Most High must precede all walking in His way, and all blessed experience of His protection, with the joy that springs from it. The Psalm is a prayerful meditation on the inexhaustible theme of the contrasted blessedness of the righteous, and misery of the sinner, as shown in the two great halves of life: the inward of communion, and the outward of action. A Psalmist who has grasped the idea that the true sacrifice is prayer, is not likely to have missed the cognate thought that the "house of the Lord, of which he will presently speak, is something other than any material shrine. But to offer sacrifice is not all which he rejoices to resolve. He will "keep watch"; that can only mean that he will be on the outlook for the answer to his prayer, or, if we may retain the allusion to sacrifice, for the downward flash of the Divine fire, which tells his prayer's acceptance. The confidence and resolve ground themselves on God's holiness, through which the necessary condition of approach to Him comes to be purity. God's holiness shuts out the impure. The Psalmist's vocabulary is full of synonyms for sin, which witness to the profound consciousness of it that law and ritual had evoked in devout hearts. In ver. 7 the Psalmist comes back to the personal reference, contrasting his own access to God with the separation of evil-doers from His presence. But he does not assert that he has the right of entrance because he is pure. The second part may be taken as his prayer when in the temple, whether that be the outward sanctuary or no. The whole of the devout man's desires for himself are summed up in the prayer for guidance. He breaks into prayer which is also prophecy. We come into the sunshine again at the close of the Psalm, and hear the contrasted prayer, which thrills with gladness and hope.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

This Psalm hath two parts —

1. The prophet prayeth the Lord to hear his prayer; which thing the wicked cannot, or may not hope for.

2. He beseecheth the Lord to direct him, that the enemies might take no advantage of him; whose nature he describeth, praying God to overthrow them; comforting, on the other side, the godly with excellent promises. Ver. 1 teacheth that God's children many times use words in their prayers, many times not. So did Moses, and Anna the mother of Samuel. God's children should strive to earnestness in prayer, and should pray unto none but to Him alone. Ver. 3 teacheth that we should break our sleep in the morning, to the end we might pray unto the Lord. Seeing God cannot away with wickedness, His children should abhor it likewise. In ver. 6 are comprehended judgments against the ungodly, namely, against liars, cruel persons, and deceitful men. We may not appear before God in the trust of our own merits, which indeed we have not, but of His mercies only. Also that with reverence we should repair to the places of God's service, and reverently also there behave ourselves. Unless God guide us, we shall go out of the way; the strength of our corrupted nature carrying us headlong thereto. Also we should pray for a holy life, and to this end, that the mouths of our enemies may be stopped from evil speech. Ver. 9 is a lively description of the qualities of the ungodly: they are inconstant, they imagine mischief, they are given to cruelty and to flattery. It is lawful to pray against the enemies of the Church, that their counsels and desires may be scattered. The faithful may rejoice at the overthrow of God's enemies. From ver. 12 we learn in what assuredness they are, whom the Lord defendeth; those who repose themselves upon the rock of His almighty protection cannot miscarry.

(Thomas Wilcocks.)

Homilist.
I. IN RELATION TO GOD. Here are revealed —

1. His beliefs of God. In His omniscience the Eternal knows our "meditation." In God's moral holiness, God's being is the foundation, God's will the standard, and God's influence the fountain, of all moral excellence in the universe. In the administrative rectitude of God. The holy God must punish unrepenting sinners, wherever they are found. There is administrative justice in the universe which will righteously balance the affairs of humanity one day.

2. His feelings towards God. The feeling of personal interest. My King. He felt that the Guardian of the universe was in a high sense his; his Guardian, his Father, and his Friend. A feeling of earnest supplication. And the feeling of practical expectancy. David "looked up" expecting.

3. His purpose in relation to God. He purposed early prayer; orderly prayer; there is a becoming order in worship.

II. IN RELATION TO SOCIETY.

1. He regards all who are his enemies as enemies to God. See in David's conduct the common mistake of bigots, and the persecuting spirit of bigots.

2. He regards all who were God's friends as his own. God's friends should be our friends, His people our people.

(Homilist.)

I. THE ADDRESS AND MANNER OF PRAYER (1-3). Uttered words tell not all the heart meditates. These meditations are the groanings which cannot be uttered, but which the Spirit understands (Romans 8:26, 27). As soon as we awake at early dawn let Us speak to God, "direct," set in order, our prayer. We are not to pray without method; and having prayed, look out for the answer (Habakkuk 2:1). We miss many answers, because we get tired of waiting on the Quays for the returning ships.

II. CONTRASTED CHARACTERS (4-7). There are here severe expressions for the ungodly. They may not even "sojourn" with God, as a wayfaring man (2 John 10). They speak leasing, an old English word for lying. Not in the spirit of boasting, but of humble gratitude does David turn to himself (1 Corinthians 15:10). "Thy holy temple" (Daniel 6:10; 1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 3:3).

III. THE PRAYER (8-12). We may appeal to God's righteousness to vindicate His righteous ones. Because He is what He is, we may count on Him (2 Chronicles 16:9). How terrible is the description of the ungodly (9), yet it is almost entirely concerned with the sins of the tongue. Wicked men are like sepulchres, fair without, corruption within, and exhaling pestilential vapours. Ver. 11. "Trust," and with it goes joy and love (Deuteronomy 33:23).

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

This Psalm is a prayer. And while the subject matter is of great interest, the Psalm is peculiar in setting forth the characteristics of prayer in general.A suggestion of the VARIETY OF PRAYER (vers. 1, 2). Prayer is a provision for a universal need, and must therefore be capable of a large variety of adaptations. If a man is to pray without ceasing, he must pray under an endless variety of circumstances. That is prayer which is denoted by the word "meditation"; that which lies in the heart as unexpressed desire or aspiration; which indicates a state or habit of mind quite as much as an act. "Meditation," says Gurnall, "is prayer in bullion; prayer in the ore — soon melted and run into holy desires." The soul's unexpressed aspiration is often more truly prayer than the well-rounded formula. Distinguish between the spirit and the habit of prayer. The spirit can be the result only of the life of God in the soul; the habit of prayer may be the result of education merely. Another variety of prayer is suggested by the word "cry" — the passionate outburst of a soul in distress, or dejection, or danger; throwing out a prayer like a strongly-shot dart, which gives to such prayer the name of "ejaculatory." "These darts may be shot to heaven without using the tongue's bow." Such prayer as this links itself closely with meditation. Ver. 2 directs thought to THE APPROPRIATING POWER OF PRAYER. God is addressed as "my King," "my God." Our Lord's model of prayer strikes at all unselfishness in our petitions. But it does not exclude the personal element. Ver. 3 points out THE STATEDNESS AND DECENCY OF PRAYER. It is well that prayer should be spontaneous; but also well that it should be properly regulated. A rich soil is a good thing; but its richness is no reason why its fruits and grasses should be allowed to grow up in confusion. The suggestion of decency in the act of prayer is furnished by the Word "direct. The original word is used of arranging the wood and the sacrifice upon the altar day by day. Read, "I will pray, setting forth my supplication in order." In this there is nothing to repress spontaneity or to fetter liberty. It merely teaches that prayer should be decorous and well pondered and marked by an intelligent purpose. We should do well to cover less ground in our prayers, and to ponder their details more carefully. Ver. 3 gives another characteristic of prayer — EXPECTANCY. "I will watch, or look up." He who has thoughtfully and reverently set forth his prayer before God, should expect the answer. We are to watch unto prayer — with reference to prayer. Someone has pithily said that the man who does not look after the prayers he has put up, is like the ostrich, which lays her eggs and looks not for her young. Ver. 7 gives another characteristic — CONFIDENCE. The Psalmist speaks as one who has a right to come into God's house. It is his house because it is God's. This confidence by no means excludes humble reverence. It is of free grace, of undeserved compassion, of abounding love, that I am permitted to come. And such an approach to God must involve the last element of prayer suggested by the Psalm — JOY. On earth, the intercourse of love is often marred by danger; but he who talks with God in His own house, always communes in safety. Thus this Psalm is a great lesson on prayer.

(Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)

"The power of language has been gradually enlarging for a great length of time, and I venture to say that the English language at the present time can express more, and is more subtle, flexible, and at the same time vigorous, than any of which we possess a record." So writes Richard Jefferies in one of his latest essays. But, notwithstanding all this, he recognises that we have still thoughts and feelings beyond expression. "How many have said of the sea," he exclaims, it makes me feel something I cannot say. And how much more does this feeling possess us as we commune with Him who made the sea. Words fail to express the thoughts, and thoughts fail to fathom the truth.

Consider my meditation.
And not only must his tongue be listened to, his thought must be interpreted as well. He implores, "Understand my meditation." This is the old Prayer Book rendering, and seems to come nearest the Hebrew (bin). A parallel passage is, "Thou understandest my thought afar off; for there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether." The petition "Understand my meditation" coming after "Give ear unto my words" is deeply suggestive. It implies that there was a voiceless meaning in his prayer which was not only more than he could express, but more than he himself could, even to himself, perfectly explain. In the profoundest prayer not only more is meant than meets the ear, but more is meant than the mind itself can quite decipher. And expansion in Romans 8 is very wonderful, very touching, and encouraging: "We know not how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit."

(B. Gregory, D. D.)

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