SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 13 December 2020
Sermon Text: Psalm 40:1-17
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I. Our patient waiting for the LORD
II. The LORD hears and saves us
III. Our praise and petition to the LORD
In today’s worship service, we’ve sung three hymns so far. Each song was pleasant and joyful, having a unique lyrics and melody as well as a great message and inspiration. We especially love singing hymns in worship as a congregation and doing so uplifts us in the Spirit.
We have total 639 hymns in the Rejoice, our denomination’s hymn book. We’d love to sing all of them if we could. No matter how many songs there are in our hymn book, there’s always space for new additions of biblical and inspiring songs to our great God.
Let us, then, think about this – what is the biblical principle of singing praises to God? What does the Bible teach us and require of us in terms of singing praises to God in worship? Knowing this principle is truly important because this principle tells us what our God expects of us with praising Him. Simply put, the biblical principle of singing praises to God is to ‘sing a new song’ to Him. This is why many psalms, such as Ps. 33:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9 and 149:1, just to name a few, agree unanimously and say, “sing to the LORD a new song.”
Then, a question – ‘what is a new song?’ Does it mean a song with a new tune and new words? Does it mean that every time believers sing in worship, they should pick a new song? Thankfully, that’s not what ‘new song’ means. If it was, then, you and I would’ve been in a big trouble with three things – 1. composing new songs every week, 2. learning them almost instantly and 3. forgetting them instantly also to be ready for learning and forgetting completely ‘new’ ones again. Neither does it mean a new ‘style.’
A ‘new’ song means a ‘fresh’ song, a song that arises fresh from a renewed heart by sincere repentance from sin and deep trust in the Lord Jesus. A ‘fresh’ song reflecting the thankful heart of God’s children is a ‘new’ song God delights to hear and receive. This explains why we have many old hymns in our hymn book which have been loved by numerous believers and churches over many generations.
Some of them are centuries old and there are a few songs sung as ‘new’ songs over millennia. For example, the famous hymn, ‘Amazing grace,’ is 241 years old as it was first published in 1779 and the first two hymns of Isaac Watt we sang earlier this morning, that is, ‘Come, let us join our cheerful songs’ and ‘Joy to the world,’ were written sometime at the end of the 17th C or early of the 18th C. Both of them are about 320 years old. Another hymn called ‘Shepherd of tender youth’ which goes like this, ‘Shepherd of tender youth, guiding in love and truth/Through devious ways; Christ our triumphant King,/We come Thy Name to sing and here our children bring/To join Thy praise,’ is about 1,800 years old. It is known that one of the early church fathers, Clement of Alexandria, authored it in around 200 AD. But Christians still sing this 1,800 year-old song and share the same blessing of the Lord together with its author and those who sang it the very first time as well as all believers after them. How is this possible? Because God-loving people have sung these hymns afresh daily with a penitent and believing heart. They and we sing a ‘new’ song daily to the Lord as His Spirit renews our hearts afresh daily.
In this sense, I’m not wrong to say that we Christians have only one song to sing. Singing with a penitent and believing heart, we sing songs of many different tunes and words, but every song we sing is a ‘new song’ sung with a renewed heart. So, in this new song, we sing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is, in a word, ‘the believer’s song to the Lord.’ Every hymn we sing, we sing of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God. And Ps. 40 – our text for today – gives us typical stanzas of this song of believers. We’ll have a look at each of three stanzas or parts of our song with Ps. 40 and I’d like you to keep your Bible open to follow the contents of the song we sing to the Lord, our God. And I think it’s quite appropriate and timely for us to meditate on this subject in this Christmas season in which we celebrate and sing to God our song of thanks for the first coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
I. OUR PATIENT WAITING FOR THE LORD
This believer’s song begins with ‘our patient waiting for the LORD’ or our diligent expectation of the Saviour God, like the beginning of Ps. 40. When we sing a new song with a renewed heart in the Lord, it always begins with our search for our loving and gracious Lord because He alone is our salvation – every heart renewed in faith knows this truth. So, the psalmist says in v. 1, “I wait patiently for the LORD.” Ps. 62:1 elaborates it further, saying, “God alone my soul waits in silence; [because] from Him comes my salvation.” The same is repeated in Ps. 123:2 but in different words, saying, “our eyes look to the LORD our God, till He has mercy upon us.”
In fact, beginning our song with our patient waiting for the Lord is a great blessing. We sing of the refuge we have, the stronghold in times of trouble. We have a safe haven and we look to that place of joy, rest and renewal. Imagine a life that has no song to sing, a life with no outlook for a haven. Imagine a boat in an ocean with no navigational aids and nowhere to turn its bow. Unlike those cases, you and I who trust in the Lord Jesus have a song to sing that begins with our silent waiting for our gracious Saviour and Lord, our eternal refuge! What a blessed people we are!
V. 6 of our text adds more details and colours to this blessing, telling us that our Saviour God does not require of us empty formalities and vanity. Instead, He delights in our broken and contrite heart – that’s all He requires of us. And He has given us an ‘ear’ to hear His voice. Being able to hear the voice of God, we now know that He is ready to pour His grace and mercy upon all who come to Him, as in v. 11, for example, saying, “O LORD, You will not restrain Your mercy from [us] … Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness will ever preserve [us].” V. 12 tells us that this refuge is our great hope in times of trouble: “For evils have encompassed me beyond number,” says v. 12, “my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.” Yet, no problem, no worries for Christians because we have a Deliverer! So, v. 13 continues, “Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!” No matter what encircles us – even evil doers or enemies too numerous to count encompass us, or sins too many and heavy for us to bear, we have One to whom we can turn our eyes and seek help, and He will surely deliver us! This is the beginning of our song – the song believers sing afresh to God! We begin our song, singing of our patient waiting for the Lord.
Yet, this is not all; the true joy of singing this beginning of our song comes from the fact that Jesus has sung this beginning ahead of us so that we could sing it after Him. Heb. 10:5-6 tell us that when Jesus came, He said the words of Ps. 40, especially of vs. 6-7. He led this song so that we could sing it after Him. And if we were left alone to begin our song, our joy would have not been deep or complete. You’d understand what I mean if you know how frustrating it might be to stand before a group of people, especially you’re there to lead them in singing. Having no musical instrument, you’d have no idea of which note to pick to start, and it’d be a nightmare. Many years ago, one of the evening services at the church I attended, the pianist wasn’t present. So everyone had to sing hymns a cappella. The elder who led the worship service that day wasn’t tone deaf, but he chose the first note of every hymn we sang that night different to the original notes. The first hymn began too high and the next was too low. That evening service was a new experience with singing and, the next Sunday, the pianist of that church wondered why everyone greeted her overwhelmingly.
Jesus did not leave us to begin our song and pick a note of our discretion. Instead, He led us all to sing after Him and together with Him. He did for the believers of both Testaments – with Ps. 40, those of the OT and, with the same words, we of the NT and Heb. 10:5-7 testify to it.
Jesus showed us how He patiently waited for His Father in His life and ministry. He never doubted His Father’s faithfulness, never questioned His Father’s sovereignty, never hesitated in carrying out His Father’s redemption for sinners. That is to enable us to sing after Him and together with Him, and sing of this great blessing of waiting patiently for the Lord, our stronghold in times of trouble!
II. THE LORD HEARS AND SAVES US
The following stanza of our song is about our joy for the amazing truth, that is, our God hears us and saves us. The psalmist says in v. 1, “[The Lord] inclined to me and heard my cry.” Then, v. 2 adds, “[God] drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog [or a ‘horrible pit’], and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” God not only heard us but also rescued us from a pit, so, we sing of the joy as the ones standing firmly on the Rock of our salvation.
This second stanza of our song sings of the Father’s love toward us. We sing of His care for us. He remembers us, knowing that without His saving arm, we’d perish in sin. He does not owe us anything, but His ear is inclined to us, He hears our cry and rescues us. He is a compassionate God, and we sing of His great love and rejoice in His mercy.
There’s more – He adds and puts a new song in our mouths and that is a song of praise to Him, our God! He didn’t leave us to bring up a song to sing of our discretion. HE put a new song in our mouths to sing. What an amazing God He is!
David is the human author of this 40th psalm and his life proves that God does put a new song to His beloved, like David. Many scholars agree and connect this psalm to the moment of David’s flee from his own son, Absalom. If you remember what happened at that lowest moment of his life, what you read from this psalm of David would shock your mind. It’s nothing but a ‘new’ song God put in David’s mouth because no human being could ever find hope, let alone joy, in such a terrible situation. David hurriedly took some of his family and left many behind because Absalom’s army was approaching swiftly toward David’s palace to end his life. David had to flee so quickly that there were not enough animals to carry David’s people on. While they were running away, an enemy of David whose name was Shimei followed him, cursing him and his house. But David remained silent and continued in his flight. A great king like David became a fugitive, coward, running away from his own son. What a deep miry bog he was thrown into!
But, as you read v. 3, David sings of a ‘new song’ in his mouth, a song of praise to his God. His heart broken by the betrayal of his own son sings in v. 3, saying this: “Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” In v. 4, he continues and sings, “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” Come on, David! Aren’t you in a deep trouble? Aren’t your feet stuck in a bog and sinking? How can you sing and even sing of joyful blessing of God for all who trust Him?
Unless it is a new song God has put in his mouth, no one could sing of hope, let alone of joy of blessing!
The situation of those shepherds of Lk. 2 wasn’t different from David’s. They were out in the field in a cold winter night. Shepherds of Jesus’ time were not of high regard, but of low socio-economic class. Each one’s heart was probably filled with various worries of the present and doubts of the uncertain future. I don’t think their clothes were enough to keep them warm at night in the field. My military experience helps me to picture their faces and minds, trying to not lose warmth and avoid chill wind or frost. They were in the field in a deep and long winter night like David’s case of deep agony caused by betrayal of his own son.
Then, suddenly, God’s angel appeared to them and put a new song to their mouths – literally as much as spiritually! V. 20 of Lk. 2 testifies to the joyful song they received and sang on their return from the birthplace of the Saviour, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen”!
The same new song has been put to the mouths of all believers, of yours and mine. God hears us and saves us, and that’s not all, He has put a new song to our mouths! And we sing joyfully of this love and grace of our Father through the Son!
III. OUR PRAISE AND PETITION TO THE LORD
The last part of the believer’s song is of our response to God’s love and salvation. That is, our praise and petition to the Lord.
In v. 5, the psalmist says, “I will proclaim and tell of [God’s wondrous deeds]” as his continuing response to God’s love. He says in vs. 9-10 that he has been doing it in God’s congregation, saying, “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as You know, O LORD.” This might sound to some of you to designate the works of ministers and elders and teachers because those seem to be the ones preaching and applying God’s word in churches. But that’s not what these verses mean. In fact, each and every Christian have been doing the works described in these verses.
Consider the promise made in v. 5, saying “I will proclaim and tell of [God’s wondrous deeds].” I believe that all Christians have made the same promise, haven’t we? We will do it because God’s salvation is too great and awesome to keep it to ourselves. Moreover, you have told others the good news of Jesus’ saving grace; you have not restrained your lips either. You’ve spoken to your family members and friends and many others that you believe in Jesus; you’ve shown to many unknown numbers of people in the world your act of saying grace before your meals, your eyes reading and meditating the very word of God as you open and read the Bible, your coming to church on the Lord’s Days, alongside your verbal invitation of others to Jesus and His church. You’ve been doing it continually as your response to the Lord’s grace and love and salvation! God knows that you’ll continue in doing these.
This is the last part of our song to the Lord, that is, we praise the Lord and seek that all people to whom we testify to Jesus – whether in words or in deeds – may have the Lord’s saving grace and come to Him in repentance and faith! That is what our psalmist says in v. 16, “may those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the LORD!’” This is the third and last part of our song to our great and gracious God!
So, we sing to God a new song with three stanzas. We sing to Him, waiting for Him alone who is our Rock and Refuge; we sing of the joy of His mercy and salvation; and we give our praise to Him, seeking to empower all believers to sing the new song He put to their mouths and say, “Great is the LORD!”
The very last line of this psalm is, therefore, more than appropriate at its place, closing the psalm, saying, “Do not delay, O my God!” Accomplish it all quickly, Father, and bring all who trust in You and Your Son, Jesus our Lord, into the great choir of Yours in Your renewed kingdom and sing in one great and marvellous harmony, and say, “Great is the LORD!”
Looking forward to seeing it with our own eyes, let us sing together our new song daily, especially in this season we celebrate and give thanks to God for the first coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ! ***