Psalm 40:1-5

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Happy are those who make
    the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
    they would be more than can be counted.

New Revised Standard Version
Photo by Ekaterina Mitkina at

I’m not like King David.

I didn’t battle wild animals while tending sheep as a boy. I did not kill the Philistine champion Goliath by slinging a stone. I don’t play the harp, and I have never performed for a king, but then neither have I had a king try to kill me. I have never led an army, nor would any army ever consider following my commands. All these differences get in my way when I read David’s writings and try to apply them to my life.

That’s what I find so special in this psalm. When David cries out to God in these verses, he was stuck in the mud, unable to free himself, and with no way to get out. His foe was nothing dramatic: no sharp teeth, no chariots, no swords or spears, just plentiful, deep, filthy mud. I can relate to that feeling.

We don’t know the specifics of what David called his “miry bog,” but we can make some smart guesses. Many Biblical scholars believe David’s sins had caught up with him, particularly how he manipulated and killed to gain his wife Bathsheba. Other scholars speculate that David had reached the end of his rope in frustrations and disappointments; he might have been “burned out.” Others point to indications of depression or fatigue. This is the divine timelessness of this psalm, because what David wrote in this psalm applies to any of those things in our lives that bring us down, hold us back, and take away our hope.

Look how God answered David’s prayers! When he gave up the futile effort of fighting the mud himself, God knelt down to help him out. God lifted David out of the swamp and set him on solid ground. God even blessed David with a new song to sing in praise for his divine rescue.

Hold on.

God has lifted me out of some “miry bogs” in my past, and I treasure those feelings of relief and gratitude that remind me of these miracles God worked in my life. I had assurances of my restoration, and of new, undeserved opportunities to honor God and do what was right with my life. But I don’t remember being so ecstatic that I broke into song, and that tells me we need to look closer at what David wrote.

We know David as a king, as a warrior, as the brave, God-fearing young man confronting Goliath, and as a shepherd, but I think David considered himself first of all as a musician. He would play music for the sheep he was tending to keep them together and calm them. He played music for King Saul to calm him from his fits of mental instability. He led his people in worship with songs, many of which we have written for us in the Psalms.

I think what David wrote in this psalm was that God gave him a “new song” as an act of healing. In providing the seeds of a new song in the mind and heart of this musician, God was moving David away from the destructive habits in his life and back toward his true self. God is not a “fixer” that makes problems go away. God is a restorer that nurtures our growth toward what God designed us to be.

This means lifting us out of our “miry bogs” isn’t only a miracle, but an opportunity to open ourselves to more miracles to come. This requires a realism and a commitment on our parts. Not all of us are like David the musician, where lifting us out of the mud leads us to opportunities to sing songs of encouragement to others. God will ask us to commit to being uniquely ourselves, to trust the vision that the One who created us sees in us. God wants to work through the mud stains that our sins have left on us and become the miraculous works of art that God has created us to be.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Stuck in the Mud