|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Out of the Pit|
|Text||Psalm 40 vv.1-8 |
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"I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and shall fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart" (Psalm 40, 1-8).
I wish to draw your attention to three things in this Psalm.
The first one is - what it is we are saved from when we come to the knowledge of Christ. That is what the Psalmist does, he tells us what he is saved from.
In the second place, we are to look at what we are saved to or for. You notice that that too is what the Psalmist speaks about; having told us what we are saved from in the negative side in the past part of the experience, he then comes secondly to tell us what we are saved to, unto or for. That is the positive side.
Then thirdly, later on in this Psalm, -in words that I will point out shortly - we are told about the Saviour Himself.
1. WHAT GOD HAS SAVED US FROM
2. WHAT WE ARE SAVED UNTO
3. THE SAVIOUR
One of the remarkable truths that we discover in this Psalm is that there is more than one voice speaking. It is remarkable because, if you look at the title of the Psalm, we are informed that it is a Psalm of David. The writer of the Psalm is King David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel. David, as we know, wrote most of the Psalms and this is one of them. David is telling us early in this Psalm about his experience of God's dealing with him. You could say that these early verses are David's own testimony - how God saved him and brought him to the knowledge of Christ. But then a second voice occurs, even a greater voice than that of David's begins to be heard a little later on in this Psalm, especially you see it at v. 7-8: "Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God..." (verse 7-8). That is not David speaking, that is great David's greater Son - it is the Lord Himself speaking as the Saviour of David and as the Saviour of all those who come to know God for themselves. There are therefore two voices here, not only in this Psalm but also in many other Psalms.
The Psalmist begins to speak and then it is as though the Inspirer of the Book of God lifts up His finger and says to the Psalmist, "Now, quiet, I will speak at this point." David puts his hand over his mouth, as it were. When he comes to verse five he stops speaking and at verse six and following we have the Lord speaking - Jesus Christ, the Inspirer of David, the One Who gave David all his understanding and Who gave the Spirit of inspiration to David. The Lord, as it were, lifts up His finger and says, "Now, quiet, you have given your testimony, now I am going to give my testimony." Therefore, two voices are heard in the Psalm. The first voice is David's own testimony as to what he is saved from and what he is saved to. Then we have the second speaker Who is the Saviour Himself, not only of David, of course, but of all those who come to an experience of the grace of God, all those who come to enjoy deliverance from sin and death and have the Gospel hope within them, like David. It is Christ's voice that is heard saying - "Lo, I come" (v.7).
In the Old Testament, Christ had not fully come; He had only come through types and Old Testament sacrifices. He had come, as it were, only in symbols, prophecies and promises; but for us in the New Testament age, He has come. Two millennia ago, He came into this world, the Saviour of us all. So then, we have a third division in our consideration of these words in the Psalm - not only what we are saved from and what we are saved to, but the One Who did the saving Himself, Who comes to announce His glorious intention and His gracious work.
At verses one and two David says, "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay..." (text). David is telling us out of his own personal experience, of being saved from sin and having been brought out of a state of condemnation and under the wrath and curse of God. He tells us how he was saved.
My dear friends, it is a good thing to talk about how we have been saved. It is an idea in danger of being forgotten in Christian circles today and yet it is the most important idea. The Gospel is not to make us healthy or wealthy - although sometimes it does that, indirectly, as a by-product of something more - but the Gospel was not given to do that. The Gospel was not given to make us happy even, in the first instance, although it does make us happy. The Gospel is not given to teach us the power of positive thinking and so forth. The Gospel was given to save us and yet this word 'save' is in danger of being lost. Let's bring it back. Let's bring back this whole idea that David is speaking about - that God is the Saviour of His people; that God has delivered us from a terrible condition and He has saved us. That is why Christ came, not just to be a good example, although that certainly is true; not just to give us wonderful teaching and sermons the like of which have never been heard since the world began, that is true; but He came primarily to save us from our sins. Isn't that the name given to Him? The Angel said to Joseph, Christ's earthly father, "Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1, 21). That is why He got the name JESUS.
The Apostle Paul says the same thing. He says, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation," what is it? "that Christ Jesus came into the world", why? "to save sinners", that is why He came (1 Timothy 1, 15). This is the heart of the message. If he is not my Saviour then really Christ is nothing at all. He has got to be our Saviour, personally, or else we are still in the dark.
What are we saved from and how does this happen? It begins with prayer - that is how the Psalm begins:
"I waited for the Lord my God,and patiently did bear." (Metrical)
Why does he say that? Because when God begins to deal with us in the Gospel, He teaches us to pray. Before that we just simply say our prayers - I guess we all did that more or less. I used to remember as a boy lying in bed and saying my prayers. I am not saying that is a bad thing all together, of course not, far better to do that than not to do it. However, there is a better way and that is to pray for our own soul and that is what David is doing, praying for his soul to be saved by God. God heard him - not perhaps all at once. We have to wait until God is disposed to hear us. We have to wait God's time.
Some of you have been seeking the Lord for a long while. Don't give up! David said, "I waited patiently for the Lord" (text). Don't go into an impatient mode, after all we kept the Lord waiting a long time, didn't we? The purpose of keeping us waiting on God's part is to remind us that we are but poor fallen sinners and that He is the Lord. It is His prerogative to listen to us in His own time and not at the beck and call of such poor, frail sinners such as we are.
Then says David - I was saved "out of an horrible pit" and "out of the miry clay" (text). What is he talking about? He is describing what it is to be a lost sinner in this world. It is a picture of this world. It is a divinely inspired photograph of this world without God and without Christ and without the understanding of salvation. What is it - "an horrible pit," a "miry clay" (text)? Nothing could be more expressive could it, than that picture? A pit is a deep hole, so deep you can't get out. It is a terrible thing to be imprisoned in a position or a room or a situation you can't get out of. Have you ever had that experience? I don't suppose any of us has been in a hijacked aeroplane. It must be a nightmare. You can't do anything except as men with guns allow you. You sit there hour after hour, day after day. If you make a false move, that's you finished, you're shot. What a nightmare.
I remember once as a younger man being in a lift in a big building. The lift door closed behind me but the lift didn't move. I couldn't get the door open. I shouted and shouted for someone to hear but no one heard. I was there a good long time. It wasn't a nice experience. That is what God brings a sinner to see - that this world is fearful pit. We don't see that do we, until the Lord opens our eyes? Why is it that people don't see that this world is a filthy pit from which they can't get out? It is because the devil keeps on throwing tit-bits to them - little bits of pleasures. Of course, he keeps the music very loud so you have no time to think. Thump, thump, thump, thump - you can hear them going up and down the road, car windows wound down. No time to think says the devil. If only they had enough sense to turn the music down and start to think, they would realise that this world is a filthy, miry pit and that they can't get out. "Miry clay" is what he says.
There are many different kinds of soil but the dirtiest kind you can get is clay. If it is sand, you can just wash it off but you can't wash off clay so easily - it sticks to you, your skin, your clothes and you can't readily get it off; it's like tar, it has that adhesive quality. That is what this world is like - it's ideas stick to you, filthy suggestions stick to you, all the references they make about God and the unkind things they say about Him, stick to you. That is a picture of this world. No wonder the Bible says about this world that it is 'lost' and the men and women who are in the pit, poor things, are lost in a sea of mud.
Do you remember something that happened in South Wales many years ago, in the nineteen sixties? It was a place called Aberfan - a Welsh name. There was this 'slurry', or 'pit bing' I think we would call it - many tonnes of what had been dug out of mines over the years. There are many mines in South Wales and all this stuff had been heaped up probably for a hundred years. There it was perched on the brow of a hill with a school at the bottom. Do you remember how this 'slurry' began to move down the hill and cover the school? These precious little boys and girls learning their arithmetic and doing their ABC's and singing their hymns were suddenly enveloped in this mire and filth. That is the way the world is and our children are being swallowed up by the mire and filth of this world. We are all being swallowed up by it unless we cry to the Lord for deliverance. No wonder the Bible says, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2, 15) because the things of the world are not of God but are the very things God hates.
My dear friend, have you been taken out of the pit by God?
David, having told us of his experience of deliverance, secondly tells us what we are saved unto. He puts it like this - He "set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord" (text).
Beware of some peoples' testimonies when they speak about Jesus Christ and their own lives. Some people make their testimony like this - "I went to a meeting. I listened to the preacher. I enjoyed the sermon. I decided for Christ. I began to live the Christian life. I started to go to church. "I" this, "I" that and "I" the next thing. The trouble with that kind of testimony is that it is very ignorant. We don't talk about ourselves in our testimony - that is a man-centred, not a biblical way of speaking. A biblical testimony goes like this: "The Lord delivered me. I was lost in the pit and the Lord took me out of it." If you were literally in a deep pit and somebody threw you a rope and pulled you out, you wouldn't spend the rest of your life telling people how clever you were at climbing ropes. You would say how kind this neighbour was that took pity upon me. Let our testimony not be to anything in us - as though we have done anything to save ourselves. Let our testimony be to the Lord and what He has done.
"You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2, 1). That is the way Paul describes this transformation. It is not that we decided, or chose, or changed and turned over a new leaf and started to go to church and read the Bible. No, no, that is a man-centred testimony and David has nothing to do with it here. He says it was the Lord Who took me out of this horrible place. What did He do? He set my feet upon a rock. What else? He established my goings. What else? He put a new song in my mouth. Three things.
This 'rock' - why does he describe salvation as having his feet set upon a rock? Well, a rock is a place where you have a foundation. You try running about in mud and see what happens, you slither and slip and slide and fall - any child knows that. However, if you are on a rock, you are on a firm footing and you can move with confidence; you know that your next step will be sure. That is the difference between the world's movements and the movements of a Christian. We are on a rock in the sense that we know the truth, we know what we should believe. What should we believe but the things of the Bible. We don't need to speculate how many millions of years ago this wonderful universe began. We don't need to speculate as foolish philosophers do - we have the answers in this Book - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1, 1). We don't need to be very clever and say, "That is only poetry. We must take away the poetical fragments. We must get to the kernel of the truth." Nonsense! When God tells us that He made the world, He made the world as He told us He made it. He is not trying to confound us with conundrums and enigmas; He is revealing to us the fact of creation.
What else? He is revealing to us the history of the world. God saved the Jews and then since Pentecost, He has been saving the Gentiles. Then the judgement is going to come in the end. We are moving towards a Day of Judgement. Christ will be the Judge of the world. Somebody said, "How do you know all these things?" The answer is simple - we are standing upon a rock; the Bible is the Rock of Ages, the Rock of truth. God has revealed it to us - solid standing ground.
There is a lot of slipping taking place in the world today isn't there - slipping and sliding all about the place. What is the explanation for all this slippery collapsing of standards? It is not difficult to analyse. It is not because we have not got enough people going to universities and colleges of higher education. The reason why our nation is slipping is because we are not standing on the Rock, we are in the mire! Some people don't know why things are going wrong and yet the Bible tells us we have got to get out of the mire and on to the Rock and then we will be on sure ground - in other words, in plain language, getting back to the Bible - that is the simple message. When we keep to the teaching of the Bible, we know where we are; we know where we are going and we know what we are standing on - we are safe. If, however, we leave the Bible we are on quicksand and where quicksand is, people go down in all sorts of ways. We have to watch ourselves, you and I. We are all the same - if we don't stand on the Rock, we begin to slip. Therefore, David says thank God I got out of that fearful "pit" and "miry clay" and I am standing on the "Rock" and God "established my goings." In other words, I know now how to live, I know where I've come from, I know where I am, I know where I'm going. I am on the King's "highway" (Isaiah 35, 8). I am on the way to heaven, to glory and to God. Everything in the Psalmists mind was the right way up.
It is very interesting the way he puts it in verse four - listen. "Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust" (text). That is very easy to understand. Then what - "and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies" (text). Why does he put that bit in? Because that is what people always do when they are not on the Rock but in the slime: they start to praise the wrong people, they have the wrong heroes. Instead of praising those that fear the Lord and walk in His ways, they praise those who don't fear the Lord and don't walk in His ways. They praise the proud; they praise the blasphemer, the persecutor, the injurious, the Sabbath-breaker and those whose lives are scummy - they get the praise. Why? Because people do not know what is right and what is wrong. So, says David, when your goings are established what will happen is that you will not praise those who go against God's ways - "...respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies" (text) - there are many doing that, aren't there? All kinds of lies: lies of false religion, lies of things that we never heard about before - all kinds of lies and people getting praise for following these things. The man of God doesn't, he is old-fashioned in a true sense and he doesn't care what people say about him. My friend, have you been delivered from the pit? Are your feet on the Rock? Then don't praise those who go against God. Don't praise those who follow lies and deception, follow those who walk in the truth.
What else did God give him - "a new song in my mouth" (text). There is a great deal of emphasis these days on music, singing, groups and so forth. He is not talking about that. He is not telling us that he has joined some pop group. That is not what he meant. It is not that he became the lead singer in some beat group somewhere. He is not talking about joining some organisation for entertaining. "A new song" - no, the Psalmist is not making records here. He is not making a fortune out of peoples gullible listening in to what he has to say with a guitar in one hand. No, He is singing the praises of God! That is all that matters to a Christian - singing the praises of God: the glories of His grace. Why is it called a 'new' song? Because he has a new heart and he has a new spirit. God has recreated him so that everything about him is new. He sees the world with new eyes and, whereas before he lived for the world and for the slime and for the filth and the pit, now he is delivered and he is on his way to the glorious Kingdom of God. No wonder he has got something to sing about. Let us sing with all our hearts, when we sing to God let us excel in pouring our songs out to Him. Let us fill the place with our praise - the "new song" of grace.
Thirdly, at verse six we have a second speaker who comes in with these words - "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart" (text). So far, David has told us what he is saved from and what he is saved to; I hope you have had that experience. Now, better than all that put together, we have the Saviour Himself coming on stage. David stands aside. David has been standing on a platform as it were, speaking of what Christ has done for him. Low and behold, as he speaks, down comes the Saviour Himself. David hurriedly moves to one side to make way for this Great One Who is the Saviour in Person, "Lo, I come" (text). The Psalmist then, brings the sinner and the Saviour together.
What does Christ mean when he says at verse six, "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire" (text)? He cannot mean that God in the Old Testament did not appoint the sacrificial system, which we know to consist of the blood of bulls and goats. It does not mean, as some people have foolishly thought, that God never required us to kill bulls and goats, He never asked for it - that was man's invention. No, no, that is not what Christ means here. It was God Who appointed the sacrifices of the Old Testament: the Tabernacle, temples, bulls, goats and other animals of sacrifice. What Christ means is that although God appointed those bulls and goats in the Old Testament, yet, God didn't regard their blood as being of sufficient value to save our souls; they were just a sort of picture book of the cross of Calvary. So Christ says, "Because these offerings of Old Testament times are not sufficiently valuable to save you, in My love for you," says Christ, "I am coming to do it Myself."
There is a lesson there of course; it means that we mustn't trust in anything, not in anything but only in Christ. We mustn't trust in Baptism, the Lord's Supper or any outward thing. In the Old Testament, those who were truly saved saw Christ through the blood of the sacrifices. In other words, those who were truly the Lord's people in the Old Testament, they knew very well that the animals themselves were only a picture and a shadow and a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. How much they saw we may never know in this world but they looked beyond these things to God's gracious provision. They saw that the Messiah was coming and it was the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, Whom they had really trusted in. Those who were hypocrites among the Jews saw nothing more than the ceremonies, just as hypocrites in the Christian church see nothing more than Baptism and the Lord's Supper - they don't see Christ in these things. You and I must see Christ in the Lord's Supper and in all the sacraments - we must see Christ as the only Saviour.
Then, says the Lord, "Lo, I come" (text). That is a prophecy of the fact that Jesus was going to come into the world. He was going to be born at Bethlehem. Friends, what a miracle this was, a miracle of miracles, that God Himself, seeing our predicament in the pit the mire and the clay, in the filthiness said, "I am going to come down to deliver you out of this at an immense expense to Myself, even the blood of my dear Son, Jesus Christ." "Lo, I come: ...it is written of me" - where - "in the volume of the book." What an amazing statement; what is the "volume of the book"? I offer you my explanation. I wouldn't be argumentative but I offer this explanation. It has in mind two things. First of all, the eternal predestination of God - the book of His eternal decree. Because that is the case, secondly, it refers to the Holy Scriptures, which are a sort of micropaedia of the decrees of God: they are the decrees of God, at least in part, shrunk to a little book called the Bible that we can read. They describe for us the things that are written in heaven in the macropaedia. These things, which are written in the Bible, are absolutely reliable because they reflect the eternal predestination and purpose of God. "In the volume of the book, I come" and, of course, God said to Adam and Eve in the very beginning, that of the seed of the woman would come One Who would bruise the serpent's head (Genesis 3, 15) - Christ, and He came to do the will of God, "yea", He says, "thy law is within my heart" (text).
What is that 'law'? It is what we refer to as the Mediatorial Law. Not just the Ten Commandments, which is for men and women, but the Mediatorial Law was that special law for Christ. What did God require of Christ - far more than He requires of you and me. You and I are required to be perfect, Christ is required to be both perfect and to give Himself a Sacrifice for sinners, which nobody else was ever required to do. Even from His earliest childhood, our Lord knew He was born to die. Whenever Jesus read the Scriptures, Bible Study for Him was a reminder that He was going to the cross to die for sinners. He knew that very clearly by the age of twelve when His mother and His foster-father sought Him at the temple. They didn't see Him for three days then they found Him asking questions in the temple of the learned doctors of the law. His mother expostulated with Him and said, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing" (Luke 2, 48). What did this twelve-year old say to His mother? "Wist ye not (did you not know) that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2, 49). She had no idea what He meant. "I have come into the world," He meant, "to die for the world. Do ye not know that? I was born to suffer on the cross. I come to do Thy will, O My God, to remove the blood of bulls and goats and to give you blood of My own." This blood alone has value to take away all sin and all guilt because the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin - nothing else does.
My dear believer, are you remembering to give your testimony? Not every one is called to preach but every Christian is called upon to be a witness and to give a testimony to Christ. I know it's not easy but dear Christian you have got something to say that the world needs to hear - how God delivered you from the pit. Others are still in the pit but, by the grace of God, you have been brought out of it. Pray that God will help you to be a good witness and a good testimony-giver to those poor sinners who need to hear what God can do.
What about those of you, finally, who are still seeking this salvation, what has the passage before us to say to you? It reminds you of this - Jesus really does say He can do it for you. It may be you are looking upon others and saying it is all very well for them, they have been Christians for so many years but I am just struggling at the gate to try to get in. My dear friend, if you are still struggling at the gate - wait patiently on the Lord as David did. Keep on knocking until the door opens. Keep on pressing against the grace of God until it yields. When you get inside you will be able to say what he said, "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth" (text).
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