Theme: Down in the Pit
In this psalm we learn from the life of David what we must do when we find ourselves in pits of various kinds.
Scripture: Psalm 40:1-17
Psalm 40 tells of a man who was stuck in a slimy pit, bogged down in mud and mire, but then was rescued by God, who set his feet on a rock and gave him a firm place to stand. That man was King David.
Perhaps that is the most important thing to say at the beginning of this study. I remind you that David was the beloved king of Israel, who reigned powerfully and well for forty years. He was installed, blessed and approved by God, who called him “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). David was nearly always in close fellowship with God, and he wrote almost half of the psalms. By his writings and by his common speech he regularly and faithfully proclaimed the grace of God to others. Yet in Psalm 40 he describes himself as having been mired down in a pit from which he was unable to escape.
So I begin with the truth that muddy times may be the experience even of the greatest saints and slimy pits the lot even of kings and preachers.
In the thirty-eighth chapter of Jeremiah there is a well-known incident in which Jeremiah is thrown into a cistern because of his unpopular prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. It is a grim story. The cistern was empty of water, or Jeremiah would have drowned. But the bottom was filled with the accumulated mud of centuries so that Jeremiah sank down into it, into the “mud and mire.” He would have perished there if a foreigner from Cush, named Ebed-Melech, had not interceded for him with the king who instructed the friendly Cushite to take thirty men and draw Jeremiah out of the cistern with ropes (Jer. 38:1-13).
Jeremiah was placed in the mud and mire of a pit quite literally, but there is no reason to think of the words “pit,” “mud” and “mire” as anything more than a metaphor in Psalm 40. We do not know what David was describing in this way, but it must picture a period in his life in which circumstances had trapped him so that he was unable to free himself.
It is good that we do not know the literal meaning of this pit, because we can more easily see our own slimy pits in David’s reference. What is your slimy pit? I can think of a number of possible examples.
The pit of sin. Some people are caught in the mud and mire of sin. David himself was an example at one point in his life. He began his descent into this pit by staying home from battle in the season when kings were supposed to be at war. While enjoying himself in Jerusalem, he saw a woman named Bathsheba bathing herself on the roof of a home close to the palace. He asked about her and learned that she was married to a soldier named Uriah. In spite of that, David brought her to the palace, slept with her, and then, when he learned she was pregnant, arranged to have Uriah abandoned in battle so that he was killed by enemy soldiers. David continued nearly a year in this condition.
Maybe you are caught in just such a sin. Perhaps one sin has led to another. You know what is happening, but you can’t get out of it. That is no surprise. Sin is like that. Romans 1 describes the downward pull of sin on all people, picturing it as a pit with no bottom. You are in need of help. Where is your help to come from if not from God?
Why is it better that we do not know the nature of David’s pit he is experiencing?
How does sin become a slimy pit?
Why do Christians experience hard times?