I’ve been reading Psalm 40 the last few mornings, and here are verses that really struck me the other morning:
9 I have told the glad news of deliverance[b]
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
In case you are wondering the “b” in v9 indicates a footnote in the ESV that correctly informs you that the word “deliverance” can also be translated “righteousness”. Very often in the OT God’s righteousness has the sense of his active deliverance of his people – God’s righteousness is displayed by God acting to put things right for his people in faithfulness to his promises.
The main thing that struck me however was the richness of the language used by the Psalmist to talk about God’s love and care for him. He talks of how he will not be silent about God’s faithfulness and salvation, how he will not hide God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, and then goes on to declare how God will not withold compassion, and how God’s steadfast love and faithfulness will guard him.
Faithfulness, steadfast love and compassion are the marks of God’s name in Exodus 34:5-7. They are at the root of who God is and what he is like. It is easy to talk of God’s love, but love is a word used so cheaply. God’s love is rooted in faithfulness, so it is steadfast and trustworthy and true – and yet it is also compassionate, gracious, merciful – extended to those who do not deserve it. His steadfastness does not become immovability. His truth is not so stern that it crushes. Rather together he is faithful to his promise. And so John writes: “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just (righteous) to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.
No hymn today to finish, but I will leave you with a legacy from a former Archbishop of Cantebury. If Justin Welby’s job is hard (which it is) I think Cranmer can claim to have it harder. He began as a reformer nudging Henry VIII towards favouring reform, before taking the chances offered by Edward VI to move the CofE in a properly reformed direction, only to end up burnt at the stake by Mary. His legacy is the Book of Common Prayer, of which this is a slight paraphrase of the part of the liturgy I love most (and therefore am often sad it gets missed out of communion these days)
We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.
But you are the same Lord, whose nature is always to have mercy:
Grant us therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood,
that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body,
and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.