It is our first day of a new job. We spent the last week or so worrying about what the dress code is, who we will meet, are we really up to this new challenge, will we make friends, what time do I have to leave home to get there on time and how fulfilled will we be? At the same time, we were probably worrying about the impact the job will have on family and other aspects of our life.
Fresh starts bring a surge of emotions. Some of us grasp them with both hands and go forward boldly while others are more cautious and focus more on the uncertainties. Probably most people experience a mixture of emotions. We may also look back at what we have left behind, possibly with relief and perhaps with regret. New jobs are of course just one example of new beginnings. Spiritually committing our life to following Christ is the biggest step and it is so dramatic that Jesus terms it being born again.
David, in Psalm 40, has just reached the point of a new beginning. He has kept his earlier advice and waited on the Lord. Ps37.7 38.15 The waiting period can be a time of great uncertainty and stress, I think of refugees who are granted the right to stay in the country but then have to begin the process of building an entirely new life, but there are many other examples. David’s first emotion is one of relief and thanksgiving for the new opportunity. ‘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.’ vv1,2 David may have been recalling Joseph’s experience of being placed by his brothers in a pit as they initially plotted to kill him. Later in Judah’s history Jeremiah was literally condemned to a slimy pit. As we progress through our Christian life we can look back and identify our own ‘slimy pits,’ and understand God’s grace even though it was difficult to do so at the time.
Now with his feet set firmly on rock David pauses to praise God. This is such a necessary step it builds the relationship with God. It puts one’s experience in context and refocuses our eyes and direction. The most natural thing for the saved is to celebrate with song. v3 Part of our witness to the community in which we live is to praise God for his work in our lives and there will be those who see and understand that we have trusted in the Lord. ‘Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.’ v3
David goes on to make clear how to continue life in new circumstances. In verse 4 he sets out what to root our life in and that is trust in the Lord. He recognizes that the surrounding world tempts us to trust in many other people and things but he urges us to not turn aside to false gods. To pray for clarity in our lives as to what false gods might grow in our hearts is part of the discipleship path. David also returns to a frequent theme of psalms, to remember all that God has already done as evidence of God’s purposes for us in the future. It leads him to declare, ‘None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.’ v5
David then addresses the issue of the heart. The sacrifice that God requires of us is primarily willing obedience. ‘I desire to do thy will, my God; your law is within my heart.’ v8 Paul described this process as being, ‘transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Romans12.2
To continue with the fresh start and new song David declares it is a public thing. He needs to spend time in the company of the Lord’s people where God’s righteousness, faithfulness, love and saving activity is jointly celebrated. Vv9,10 It is not God’s plan that his people should be lone disciples. We are part of one body and need each other. This is not weakness but strength.
When I was lost – Geraldine Latty