Psalm 40


This psalm of David is a psalm where he gives a sacrifice of praise, then later he cries out to God for help. This psalm is also partly prophetic as it speaks of Christ. Verses 6-8 are quoted by the Hebrew writer, Hebrews 10:5-10, and verses 12-17 are similar to Psalm 70.


‘For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this is a psalm of David, for the director of music. Some commentators believe that the ‘director of music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

‘I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.’ Psalm 40:1-5

David begins by reminding us that he had to wait patiently for the Lord to answer his prayer, as he had done numerous times before, Psalm 25:5 / Psalm 25:21 / Psalm 27:14 / Psalm 37:7 / Psalm 37:9 / Psalm 39:7.

This tells us that not all of our prayers will be answered as quickly as we would like. On this occasion, God heard his cry and answered him.

After waiting on the Lord to answer his prayer, he praises God for lifting him out of the ‘slimy pit and mud and mire’. When God lifts us from the slippery depths of despair, He always puts our feet back on solid ground.

When He does deliver us from the deep paths of our sin, that is, forgive us for our sins, our response will always be to sing a new song, Jeremiah 31:31-35.

David tells us that many see, fear and trust in God, when he tells others about what God has done for him and he encourages everyone who isn’t proud and put their trust in false gods, to put their trust in the Lord, Isaiah 30:7.

No one compares to God, especially if we were to speak about His many deeds. David realises he’s lost count of the number of times God has come to his aid.

‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—but my ears you have opened—burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly. Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.’ Psalm 40:6-12

God never really desired sacrifices and offerings, that is, He never accepted those sacrifices and offerings that were legalistic, and were given without a sincere heart, Isaiah 1:11-15 / Micah 6:6-8.

David’s ears were open, which is possibly referring to being a slave having their ear pierced, Exodus 21:5-6, but what God really wanted was for His people to listen to Him and obey His will, 1 Samuel 15:22-23.

Notice that verses 6-8 are quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7 in reference to the Messiah. “Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll’, is a reference to the Mosaic Law, but we must note that nowhere in the Pentateuch, that is the first five Books of the Bible, is David mentioned.

However, the Pentateuch does contain many prophecies concerning the Messiah, that is Jesus, Genesis 3:15 / Genesis 49:10 / Deuteronomy 18:15-19.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘As the writer of Hebrews pointed out, the inferences here are tremendous. 1. This means that God’s will had not been done previously. 2. It means that the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant were not effective in removing sin. 3. It means that God would take away the old Law, or the Old Covenant, and 4. That God would establish a New Covenant, Hebrews 10:9.’

David says, ‘I desire to do your will’, God’s commandments aren’t burdensome, especially if we love Him, John 4:34 / 1 John 5:3 / 2 Corinthians 4:15. David was a man after God’s own heart, so doing God’s will was a delight, 1 Samuel 13:14 / Acts 13:22. However, David was once again referring to Jesus, Hebrews 10:9.

David says, ‘your law is within my heart,’ this again is another reference to the New Covenant, which would come into being at the coming of Christ, Jeremiah 31:33.

David says he will proclaim God’s saving acts in the great assembly, in other words, he wants God to be glorified, and he wasn’t going to stop his lips from praising God. This again was fulfilled in Jesus, Psalm 22:22 / Hebrews 2:12.

David doesn’t want to hide God’s righteousness, he wants everyone to know of God’s faithfulness and saving power, Psalms 107:2. David knows he has many troubles, and his sins have become a burden, to the point where his eyes have been affected and his heart.

For David, this would mean that the sorrows from which he pleads for deliverance are the result of his own sins. However, for Christ, this would mean the consequences of the sins of all men that God has laid upon Christ, have begun to catch up with Him, Isaiah 53:5.

‘Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me. May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!” But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.’ Psalm 40:13-17

The verses we read here are almost the same as Psalm 70. David here doesn’t ask God to forgive him his sins, he asks only for God’s help and deliverance, Psalm 22:19.

It’s possible that David was requesting salvation from the guilt in occurred from his sins. However, it’s possible that this refers to the time when Christ was asking for help and salvation from the suffering He’s about to endure, Matthew 36:36-46.

David felt that his enemies sought to take his life and so he asks the Lord to put them to shame, be confused and disgraced. If we apply this to Christ, this would be referring to the times when Christ’s life was in danger, Matthew 26:18 / John 7:6 / John 18:6.

The words, ‘Aha! Aha!, are words of reproach and contempt. They are used when a person rejoices over a fallen enemy, Psalm 35:21 / Psalm 35:25 / Ezekiel 25:3. If we apply these words to Christ, they would be referring to taunts and reproaches of his enemies after He was arrested, Matthew 27:29-31 / Mark 15:29-30.

David now calls all those who seek God, those who long to seek God to rejoice and be glad, he wants them to glorify the Lord together. David felt ‘poor and needy’, these are words which imply poverty and sorrow.

If we apply these words to Christ, we know that He owned nothing, except the clothes He wore. He had nowhere to lay His head, Luke 9:58, He was rich but became poor for our sake, so that we can be rich, 2 Corinthians 8:9. He was certainly a man of sorrows, Isaiah 53:3.

Despite feeling poor and needy, David says, ‘may the Lord think of me’, this should read, ‘yet, the Lord thinks about me’, Jonah 1:6. In other words, he’s not asking God to think about him, he’s acknowledging that the Lord does care for him, and He hasn’t forgotten about him. He’s saying, a man leaves him to poverty and sorrow, but God doesn’t and won’t leave him.

David felt secure in knowing that God cared for him and so he asks God to be his helper and deliverer, Psalm 18:2, he asks God to help him without any delay.

When we think of Christ, these words show a strong confidence in God, the Father, in the midst of His afflictions and sorrows, with earnest pleading, coming from the depth of those sorrows, that God would intervene for Him, Matthew 27:46 / John 19:30 / Luke 23:46.


David spoke words in this psalm which were later quoted by the Hebrew author. According to Hebrews 10:4, the worshipers knew that it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. The Law of Moses was a shadow of a coming sacrifice that would take away sins.

If the Law of Moses could take away sins and cleanse the consciences of the worshipers, then the sacrifices would still be offered. But the sacrifices simply reminded the worshipers of the guilt of their sins and did not take away sins.

The writer of Hebrews goes on to prove the point that sacrifices were insufficient to deal with removing our sins. The illustration comes from Jesus and the quotation of Old Testament Scripture, Psalm 40:5-7 / Hebrews 10:5-7.

Psalm 40 is a song of salvation and deliverance. Rather than quoting these words and attributing them to David, the writer of Hebrews attributes the words as spoken by Christ. This is a conversation between Christ and Father.

When Christ was to come in the flesh, these are the words of the conversation. The Father did not want more animal sacrifices and offerings. The answer was in the body prepared for Christ. The sacrifice of Christ would be the answer for sins, Hebrews 10:8.

God did not take pleasure in the burnt offerings and sin sacrifices. God took pleasure in the perfect obedience of Jesus. This has always been true concerning God and His desire, 1 Samuel 15:22.

Jesus came to do the will of the Father, something no human had ever accomplished previously and would never accomplish later. Only Jesus was able to completely do the will of the Father.

Jesus came to do God’s will, Hebrews 10:9-10. What was God’s will? To take away the first covenant and establish a second covenant through which we can have true cleansing. The writer of Hebrews has spent a lengthy amount of time teaching us that Jesus is the High Priest, which means there must be a new law.

Jesus needed a body why?

1. To be able to communicate with mankind in a personal and unmistakable and uncomplicated manner.

2. To present the ‘signs’ which were to be the authentication and endorsement of His Messiahship.

3. To set the human race the perfect example of obedience to the will of the Father.

4. And above all, by means of that perfect life, to demonstrate His worthiness to become the perfect offering for the sin of the world.

And so The Word must become flesh. John 1:1-3 / John 1:14. This was the divine plan, and it is why we find the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, placing the words of the David, Psalm 40:6-8 into the Lord’s mouth, Hebrews 10:5.

Go To Psalm 41