A God Who is Sufficient (Psalm 40)
“A musician is not recommended for playing long, but for playing well; it is obeying God willingly, that is
accepted; the Lord hates that which is forced, it is rather a tax than an offering. Cain served God
grudgingly; he brought his sacrifice, not his heart.” ~ Thomas Watson
Last week we examined messianic psalms. In particular, we focused on Psalm 110–the
most cited Old Testament passage in the New Testament. This week we will look at the
most obscure of the messianic psalms, Psalm 40. This psalm appears only once in the
New Testament—Hebrews 10:5-7. While Psalm 110 clearly contains messianic
phraseology, few messianic clues can be seen in Psalm 40:6-8. Consequently, two
major questions arise:
• Did the writer of Psalm 40 also anticipate the coming of the Messiah and the
abolition of the Mosaic Law?
• On what basis did the writer of Hebrews extrapolate messianic overtones from
Psalm 40? Is this a legitimate and valid method of exegesis?
II. The Content of Psalm 40:6-8
A. The Law and True Worship (v. 6).
Even the Law and the prophets taught the primacy of obedience and a personal
response of faith and love to God as a condition for pleasing God (e.g., Exod 15:26;
Deut 10:12, 20; Jer 7:21-23; Hos 6:6; Micah 6:6-8).
Nestled among the two references to sacrifices is the reference to “ears you have dug
for me.” The reference suggests that it is God, the creator of the ear (cf. Psalm 94:9),
who is able to open the “ear” to obedience (cf. Isa 50:4-5; Matt 11:15). “If God has the
ear, it means the person is listening to God’s instructions” (Ross, Psalms, 1:864).
B. Recognition of Divine Sovereignty (vv. 7-8).
David demonstrates awareness that he was spoken of in the Scriptures. Certainly,
Nathan’s words in 2 Samuel 7 serve as a backdrop.
The details of God’s plan for David are written on his heart. Normally we equate the
writing of God’s law on one’s heart with the New Covenant (cf. Jer 31:33). However, as
reminded by Walter Kaiser, God’s law was to be written on the heart of God’s people
long before the New Covenant (cf. Deut 6:6; Ps 37:31; and Prov 3:3; 7:3). Even in the
Old Testament era, God longs for “a people in whose heart is my law” (Isa 51:7).
III. Hebrews 10:5-10 and Psalm 40:6-8
A. The Abolishing of the Old Order.
The writer of Hebrews highlights the abolishment of the old order with the
establishment of the new covenant.
Noting the treatment of Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10, Kaiser writes, “What has been a
shadow and a type under David became a complete reality finally in Christ’s
incarnation and substitutionary atonement. David was a true model of the final reality
because of the gracious calling and appointment of God. History could reflect this
kind of scheme (shadow and reality) solely because of the ill-embracing divine plan
and divine designation to the office and function of promise . . . .” (The Use of the Old
Testament in the New, 139).
B. Sacrifice and Sin
“By stringing together four different terms for sacrifice along with the two expressions
of disapproval (v. 8), Hebrews highlights the point that God did not want any of the
sacrifices mentioned” (O’Brien, Hebrews, 351).
In fact, nowhere in the Old Testament did animal sacrifice take away sin. Sacrifices
offered out of a heart of repentance and devotion to God did bring relief from the
penalty, but objectively, the sin remained unaddressed or cared for. The sacrifice
required a person, not an animal. The “passing over” of sins (cf. Rom3:25) ceased
with God’s own substitute—His sinless Son.
C. Sufficiency of Christ’s Sacrifice
Christ’s act of perfect obedience to the will of God serves as the permanent and allsurpassing
F. F. Bruce writes, “Our author’s contrast is not between sacrifice and obedience, but
between the involuntary sacrifice of dumb animals and sacrifice into which obedience
enters, the sacrifice of a rational and spiritual being, which is not passive in death, but
in dying makes the will of God its own” (Hebrews, 234).
A. Works, even so-called ministry, neither atones for the past nor wins God’s favor in
Micah 6:6-8 (also, cf. Amos 5:21-25) –
B. False guilt and shame diminishes Christ’s sacrifice. His blood is thorough and
sufficient in covering our sin.
1 John 1:9 –
C. Effective ministry is contingent on a heart that has been transformed by God alone.
Titus 2:11-14 –
“The law works fear and wrath; grace works hope and mercy.”
~ Martin Luther