Posted by: arieliondotcom | September 29, 2013

Layers of Grace (Psalm 40)

Layers of Grace (Psalm 40)

Psalm 40 is a mysterious song because it has several layers. On the plain reading of it, it is much like many other songs by David. A sinner cries out to GOD to be saved from sin and circumstances. Nothing new there. Moses predicted in Deuteronomy that Israel would sin, then be punished, then cry out to GOD and be rescued only to sin again.

But that’s where the mystery comes in, because that’s the second layer. Jewish people know that David didn’t write Psalm 40 about an individual. It’s about the entire people of Israel. As we said when we began the Psalms we can see history in them. They are the music of history. And this layer is the history of the people of Israel realizing GOD is saving them. It begins with Israel enslaved in Egypt. They say GOD has freed them from slavery and from the deadly mud that threatened to kill them. This was the the mud pits in Egypt where they were forced to make bricks and the mud that trapped the Egyptian army in the Red Sea so they drowned while Israel walked through on dry ground.

The new song of verse 4 is Miriam’s song of salvation. But remember that idea for another layer to come.

The great things GOD did for Israel included rescuing them from the Egyptians, leading them, giving them food & water in the desert without their clothing wearing out, and giving them the promised land. But as verse 6 says, this is just a few of too many blessings to be counted.

But with verse 7 we hit more mystery because there’s another layer of meaning here. The Jewish interpretation is about having and obeying Torah. But there’s a twist.

Christians often think (as the Jewish people thought by the Apostle Paul’s time) that keeping the Law was a requirement to be saved by GOD for the Jewish people of the Old Testament. Christians think we suddenly had Grace in the New Testament but that isn’t true. The difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is that the Old Covenant was a way for those who were made GOD’s people to outwardly show a hope for the future and belief in GOD’s promises. The sacrifices were never meant to save but were an outward sign of belief and a desire to obey. They weren’t to get saved but a symbol of trust and belief. That’s what made them so abominable when mixed with idol worship.

Think of a boy playing with toy tools or a girl with a play kitchen set. They play with them in the belief they’ll be able to build and cook “for real” some day. It’s practice in faith of what they believe will come.

Believers in the Old Testament were told a Redeemer was coming. GOD was their Redeemer and sacrifices were their toy tool kits and kitchen sets to show they believed that. They knew that their Redeemer, Messiah, would build and cook “for real” for them some day and it would be counted as if they’d done it though they knew they couldn’t.

This is significant because JESUS Himself will apply verses 7 and 8 to Himself during His time on earth. The psalm has a twist showing GOD has always saved by Grace, in the Old Testament looking forward to the fulfillment in the New Testament. In the Old Testament to those who trusted GOD for the future and showed it by keeping the Law and in the New Testament by those who know JESUS fulfills the Law. The Law was to show GOD they trusted the fulfillment of Messiah, JESUS, to come.

The image of opened ears in verse 7 is a double word picture. It has the image of a child poking fingers in clay to make holes for ears. GOD dug out the ears of those in the Old Testament to hear and obey. Ears were dug for JESUS in Mary’s womb as He came, fully man as well as fully GOD, as the Savior the Old Covenant promised and the New Covenant fulfills.

In the following verses we see the difference, JESUS from the womb and Believers from the moment of rebirth (being “born again”) have the desire to do GOD’s will. They have the Law in their hearts, a sort of scar where JESUS fulfilled it for us. JESUS shared the Good News of the Gospel and those who believe in Him do the same. JESUS had no sin but saves those who are drowning in it (verse 13), whether their own or the effects of others.

Note in verse 17 the emphasis on Grace. Being saved by GOD just because He desires to do it is all the impetus we need to praise Him to others so that they can seek rescue from Him, too.

GOD never plays games. He didn’t have one set of rules for the Old Testament and another in the New Testament. Rather, there are layers of Grace. Before Christ Believers looked forward to His coming. Since His arrival, Believers look back to His finished work. But it has never been about what we can do, because we can do nothing buried as we are by sin. It is not, as David teaches the choir to sing, about our sacrifices. But it is always about GOD’s sacrifice for us, in Christ, and layer upon layer of Grace.


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