In Danger of Backsliding
(9) I have proclaimed (your) righteousness in the great congregation. I do not restrain my lips, Yahweh, as you, yourself, know. (10) I have not concealed your righteousness within my heart. I have spoken of your faithfulness and deliverance. I have not hidden your steadfast love and faithfulness from the great congregation. (11) You, Yahweh, will not restrain your compassion from me. Your steadfast love and faithfulness will constantly keep watch over me, (12) for evils beyond number have surrounded me. My iniquities have overtaken me, and I am not able to see. They are more numerous than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me. (13) Be pleased, Yahweh, to deliver me. Make haste, Yahweh, to (be) my help. (14) Let those who seek to destroy my life be ashamed and altogether confounded. Let those who delight in my harm be turned back and humiliated. (15) Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, aha!” (16) May all who seek you exult and rejoice in you. May those who love your salvation continually say, “Yahweh be magnified!” (17) But I (am) poor and needy. May the Lord think of me. You (are) my help and my deliverer. My God, do not delay.
Several repetitions including “righteousness...great congregation...faithfulness,” as well as several synonyms including “proclaimed...not shut my lips...not concealed...spoken...not hidden,” are found in the opening two verses. Several of God’s attributes are also mentioned: “righteousness...faithfulness...steadfast love.” With these words David maintains that he has made every effort to bring praise, honor, and glory to Yahweh among Israel’s worshipers.
The remainder of the psalm is devoted to what David was asking Yahweh to do for him (vss. 12-17). Note the repetition of “restrain.” Because he has not restrained his lips from praising Yahweh (vs. 9), he can readily appeal to God not to restrain his compassion (vs. 11) in showing him his “steadfast love and faithfulness,” words that are also emphasized by repetition (vss. 10 & 11).
In the closing segment (vss. 13-17), the psalmist uses thirteen imperatival verb forms including three “lets” and three “mays” to convey the urgency of his prayer. He both begins and concludes this section with two phrases that convey the same message: “make haste” (vs. 13) and “do not delay” (vs. 17).
I. What the psalmist has done for Yahweh (9 & 10)
II. What the psalmist asks Yahweh to do for him (11-17)
As we proclaim Yahweh’s righteousness and steadfast love, we are, in essence, seeking his deliverance from evil.
Most believers recognize the phrase, “deliver us from evil,” as coming from the prayer Jesus gave to his disciples as a model in the Sermon on the Mount. This is precisely the thrust of the second half of Psalm 40. In the first half, David rejoices in Yahweh’s rescuing him from a pit filled with mud and mire and declares that he is fully committed to doing the will of God (vss. 1-8). In the remainder of the psalm, David prays earnestly that Yahweh will protect him from falling back into that pit either through his own sinfulness or because of the malevolence of enemies that surround him (vss. 9-17).
The Scriptures are filled with warnings about “backsliding,” a term that for some has become a worn out cliché. In its literal sense, backsliding can serve as a powerful reminder of what awaits all of us if we fail to guard our steps and walk closely with the Lord. In the King James Version such warnings were phrased, “take heed,” as seen in the following three passages: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you unexpectedly” (Lk. 21:34). “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). We should be constantly asking ourselves, “Are we taking heed,” earnestly looking to God to deliver us from evil, especially from the dangers of slipping back into the same mud hole from which he previously delivered us?