The Man of Godly Confidence - Psalm 40
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
"Blessed (happy) that man that maketh the Lord his trust", v. 4. This exclamation gives the impression that blessing comes as the outcome of confidence in God. It is a statement that invites inspection, for it suggests a disposition that finds its securities in values greater than the material realm of experience can provide. Trust, confidence in God! Does this mean living in a world of dreams, of make-believe? Is this a state into which we are driven when every other "prop" or "incentive" to life has fallen and failed? Is this condition of mind the possession of a very privileged few, or is it open to all who would enjoy it? These are questions which are pertinent, practical and so often intensely personal in the experiences of life.
We must, then, examine the grounds of our securities, and we could do this in no better company than that of the writer of Psalm 40. For as we read these words, we are made easily conscious that here is no outline of a vague, shadowy feeling after reality. We are not in the sphere of experiments but of vital satisfying experience. What the Psalmist has known of the activity of God has encouraged him to trust.
Personal experience is the best recommendation for any feature of God's activity. A man has patiently waited for God. His need has been desperate. The miry bog holds him down. The danger of being finally engulfed is imminent. Fear and distress possess him until he feels all hope of deliverance has gone. Then, perhaps at the very darkest hour, the Lord hears his cry. He is brought up, established, set upon the right way, given "a new song" to sing. God is at work. Evidence to all is provided in the life of a man delivered. "Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord", v. 3. This character of happiness, derived from a positive experience of God, becomes infectious. Our joyful testimony should invite the confidence of others in our God.
The abundance of God's ability to bless provides encouragement for complete trust. The Psalmist cannot find powers enough to express all that His God has done, v. 5. It is good to feel a sense of wonder when the Lord's work is considered. For it is amazing how much of Himself and His power the Lord will reveal to those who have eyes to see and hearts that are willing to trust. "They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true." Failure to trust does not in any sense diminish God's willingness to bless. But, so often, it shuts the door on God's opportunity to bless, and leaves us without a song of deliverance. We "turn aside" or "go astray", v. 4, and other "gods" occupy our vision. Let us see to it that, in our disposition to trust, we enjoy the blessedness of the unnumbered mercies of our God.
Happiness, born of sincere confidence in the Lord, is found to lead to an example in life of godly submission and obedience. Verses 6-7 are beautifully set in the heart of the Psalmist's thinking. The response of man to the goodness of God must find its expression in more than outward activities of worship. The open ear and the obedient heart are essential as tokens of true devotion to the will of God. Only One, and that One the Messiah Himself, could fully say, "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God", w. 7-8. What beauties of character we find in His devoted life. Yet we can say that the proof to others that I am happy to trust God, is surely seen in my readiness to obey Him. Thus the hymn writer expresses it,
Trust and obey! For there's no other way, To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.
Godly confidence provides a sound foundation for testimony. Expression of the meaning of deliverance must tell upon the lives of others. Verses 9-10 are spoken in such a way as to suggest that the Psalmist felt an overwhelming burden to communicate his joy. "I have not refrained", "I have not hid", "I have not concealed"- these are utterances which tell of the overflow of blessedness. To tell in the company of the saints the wonderful works of the Lord is a most worthwhile activity. How good it is to encourage one another in the Lord. Those whose trust is failing, and whose faith is small, can often be lifted from the "Slough of Despond" by the radiant, joyful testimony of one who has proved that it is "no vain thing" to rely upon the Lord.
Thus the Psalm ends in a climax of exultation and yet with a cry of entreaty. These two ideas mingle together in the blessedness of confidence. While I say continually, "The Lord be magnified" because of times of triumph, I constantly say in my need, "Thou art my help and my deliverer". Confidence because of determination to trust brings the blessedness of glorious triumph. Therefore sincerely we say, "I will trust and not be afraid".