Sunday, February 17, 2008

40

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 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.
3 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.
4 Blessed are those
who make the LORD their trust,
who do not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods. [b]
5 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.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened [c]—
burnt offerings and sin offerings [d] you did not require.
7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll. [e]
8 I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart."
9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, LORD,
as you know.
10 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.
11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 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.
13 Be pleased to save me, LORD;
come quickly, LORD, to help me.
14 May all who seek to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
be appalled at their own shame.
16 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!"
17 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.

I was first introduced to Psalm 40 by my favorite rock group, U2, in 1984 when a dear friend made me aware of the album Under a Blood Red Sky. I was 16 at the time. Today I turned 40, and I’m thinking of that number. When I first heard the song I did not understand the significance of 40, but was enchanted nonetheless with Bono poignantly offering, “I will sing/Sing a new song…how long, to sing this song…how long.”

Later, as I came to study the Bible, I learned more significant things about 40. Moses, that liberator of captive Israel from oppressive Egypt, wandered across the wilderness with his fickle countrymen for 40 years. He arrived at the edge of the promised land, and there he died before the next generation was allowed to cross into the land of milk and honey. David, king of Israel in a later era, reigned for a total of 40 years; he composed Psalm 40, along with many others.

Jesus, upon baptism by the Spirit, was led into the desert where he fasted for 40 days and nights. There the devil tempted him to cast aside his identity and succumb to the desires of humankind. Jesus was at his weakest physically but his strongest spiritually.

I will sing, sing a new song. I wonder where I am at physically and spiritually at this milestone birthday, a day in a lifespan that is merely a faint chord in the melodies of eternity but held up symbolically by our western culture. I wonder what song I proclaim today. For the most part I have worked hard and tried to grow as a person and professional. I have paid attention to my health. I’ve also made my share of mistakes, have let my temper and fear and passions at times hinder relationships and spiritual growth and the best use of time. I have been blessed with a little family I adore, and a few good friends who are scattered across the miles.

There have been many, many times when the Lord has turned to me and heard my cry. For some time I’ve been grappling with a deeper realization that God hears many pleas from many languages in many contexts. I can’t fully figure him out, and I don’t think I’m meant to. I’ve noticed, however, that when I draw near to him he draws near to me.

Last night I was wondering about the enduring purposes of my life, and whether I would fulfill them. Today, early in the morning while everyone else in my house seems to still be asleep, I hope to no longer be psyched out by a fear of not fulfilling them—I mean, I’m not entirely sure what they are—but simply seek to use words to help others, and myself, thrive and grow in timeless truths.

And in doing so, I pray the Lord would continue to turn to me…to rest me upon solid rock, and lift me out of the pit when I fall. I long for his renewing song to always be upon my lips, and that the words might emanate from my heart.

1 Comments:

At 7:05 AM , Blogger Rebecca said...

John,

I wish you the very happiest of birthdays and you continue to contemplate the journey. I have little doubt that the next 40 years will bring you even more soul-growth as you continue to bring joy and help to other lives.

They say that by the time you find greener pastures, you can't climb the fence! I don't think that's true in your case, John. You are a pastor in your writing and have helped foster the most vernal and wonderful landscapes.

Happy Birthday!

 

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