Out of the Slimy Pit (Psalm 40:1-11)

He Lifted Me by Nate Owens

I put all my hope in the Lord.
    He leaned down to me;
    he listened to my cry for help.
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
    out of the mud and filth,
    and set my feet on solid rock.
        He steadied my legs.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise for our God.
Many people will learn of this and be amazed;
    they will trust the Lord.
Those who put their trust in the Lord,
    who pay no attention to the proud
    or to those who follow lies,
    are truly happy!

You, Lord my God!
    You’ve done so many things—
    your wonderful deeds and your plans for us—
        no one can compare with you!
    If I were to proclaim and talk about all of them,
        they would be too numerous to count!
You don’t relish sacrifices or offerings;
    you don’t require entirely burned offerings or compensation offerings—
    but you have given me ears!
So I said, “Here I come!
    I’m inscribed in the written scroll.
    I want to do your will, my God.
    Your Instruction is deep within me.”
I’ve told the good news of your righteousness
    in the great assembly.
    I didn’t hold anything back—
        as you well know, Lord!
I didn’t keep your righteousness only to myself.
    I declared your faithfulness and your salvation.
I didn’t hide your loyal love and trustworthiness
    from the great assembly.

So now you, Lord—
    don’t hold back any of your compassion from me.
Let your loyal love and faithfulness always protect me. (Common English Bible)

Every follower of the Lord has a powerful story of God’s grace in lifting them out of a slimy pit experience. 

We live in a profoundly broken world; and no one is exempt from its effects upon us. Whether physical problems, emotional trials, or relational hardships, there is always something going on in our lives – with the added pull toward trusting in things other than God. 

The temptation to say unjust words and do unjust actions is always over-promised and under-delivered. 

It’s easy to get sucked-in to poor decisions and be stuck in an empty hole with seemingly no way out. We often find ourselves slipping into a slimy pit because of our own bad decisions, as well as by no fault of our own. 

Living in a fallen world means that we inevitably experience troubles and hardships.

So, what do we do if we find ourselves in a slimy pit?

Look for Hope

David, the psalmist, waited patiently for the Lord. With great expectation, he fully anticipated God to act on his behalf. The sort of patience he practiced was an intense waiting – a waiting filled with longing and expectant hope, a patience that kept looking and praying and seeking.

The reason believers in Jesus keep hoping beyond hope is that we know that God is ultimately the One who delivers from the pit. 

But what if you have been looking for deliverance from the slimy pit experience and you have not seen it come to pass? 

Expectantly expect God to act. Wait patiently. Do not give up. Keep praying and watching. Like the father in the story of the prodigal son, keep looking out the window, waiting for the son to return, and picture the deliverance coming – because our waiting is not in vain.

flickr.com/photos/joshtinpowers

The psalmist, David, was eventually delivered. The Lord leaned down to him. God listened and lifted him. The Lord God set him on a firm place to stand and put a new song in his mouth. 

This was not only a personal matter for David; it was also an occasion that other people needed to know about.

Look for God

We all must finally come to the end of ourselves and look up. Whenever the deliverance doesn’t come quickly, we may look to other people or things to give us the freedom we long for. It’s easy to become impatient and begin searching for answers in everything else but God. 

Yet, if we will let patient hope have its way, we are blessed when we trust in the Lord.

In all my years of churchgoing as a kid, I had never read my Bible. But God was gracious to me. I remembered all those sermons I heard about Jesus. I gained a newfound sense of my own inner darkness, as well as the desire to read God’s Word. And God saved me. 

My circumstances did not change, but I did. My loneliness turned to joy; my aimlessness turned into purpose; and my selfishness became a deep concern for others. My heart had been black, and what God did to change it was nothing less than miraculous.

Look Within

The person who looks for hope and seeks God is also a person who looks into their own heart and there finds the attitude which God will bless. 

Blessing does not come from great sacrifice, but by syncing one’s heart with the heart of God. 

The Lord cares little about how much money or stuff you have, or how many sacrifices were made for God; that’s because God wants your heart, your mind, your will, and your emotions. In other words, God wants you! 

And God desires you because the Lord made you with a heart that beats for the same things God cares about: justice, mercy, and humility.

If you and I will but look within at the very spirit God has put within us, we shall find resources beyond what we can ask or think.

Look to Bless Others

We possess more than a personal faith which is to benefit ourselves; we also have an equal responsibility to bless the community with our experiences of what God has done in our lives. 

The telling of stories about what God has done for us is a necessary part of building up the church and helping others move forward in faith, hope, and love.

The psalmist proclaimed his testimony in the great assembly, that is, publicly. This isn’t about standing behind a microphone in front of lots of people; it’s about being so touched by God that we cannot keep our mouths shut about the Lord’s deliverance on our behalf.

So, let’s not shelve the idea of giving testimony to others as if it were only for pastors, missionaries, or other very religious people. 

When a person decides to play hockey in -20 degrees below zero weather, we might think that person is a little crazy;  but, hey, we reason, if they love hockey that much, more power to them. 

We must not think about Christianity in the same way, that if a person is passionate about Jesus and desires to tell others about what God has done for them, more power to them; just don’t expect me to go out in the cold and do that because it isn’t my thing. 

Christianity is a life, not a hobby; it’s about humble service, and not a means to look respectable; it cannot be reduced to a few practices, such as church attendance or putting money in an offering plate.

Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus. Try looking at marriage as simply showing up for supper and paying the bills and see how far that gets you.

Look to Get Lost to Get Found

We may become obsessed with getting out of our slimy pit of illness, infirmity, pain, adversity, hardship, or discord. If that happens, we will likely lose our proper focus.

Instead, get lost in the wonder of God. The Lord does wondrous things when we are immersed in God’s wonders.

“Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for me will find true life.” Jesus (Matthew 16:25, ERV)

New life comes from a change of heart, not a change of circumstances. Wherever there is a firm reliance on God; a glad obedience to God; and a readiness to give testimony to God’s actions, then we are living into the spirit of today’s psalm.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us your peace. Amen.

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