“Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
5 You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.”
That is the English Standard Version’s rendering of Psalm 40:4-5. I first read the passage in The Message. Verses four and five read:
“Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,”
ignore what the world worships;
The world’s a huge stockpile
of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one
comes close to you!
I start talking about you, telling what I know,
and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words
account for you.”
I like some of the paraphrase above, including “turn your backs on the world’s ‘sure thing'” and ‘I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words.” Good sentiments! The world is nothing compared to God. Nothing “comes close” to Him!
At first, I found myself appreciating the line, “The world’s a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts.” That is truly a reality. This week at the beach has me meditating about God’s wonders. This morning I was sipping coffee on the patio, watching the waves hit the shore and thinking about how amazing it was and then Cascade–my five-year-old–came over to talk to me and sing a song. I was reminded at that moment that human beings are the crowning achievement within creation, and that Cascade makes the ocean seem boring. And who can argue with the concept that the “world’s a huge stockpile of…God-thoughts?” His Word is broadcast from the heavens above to the earth below. The hills of Tennessee and the shores of Alabama all declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1,2). Furthermore, the written Word proclaims the excellencies of the Creator and Sustainer of all that there is–Jesus Christ (Col. 1:16,17). The Triune God has clearly communicated and we often ponder His thoughts. And yet–as true as all of this is–I am convinced that Eugene Peterson failed to offer an appropriate understanding in this verse. His “Message” seems to indicate that believers ought to worship God for what might be described as “common grace,” the general blessings experienced by us all. This, of course, is genuine fuel for our worship. However, that is not what is being exhorted in this passage. Two words–accurately rendered in the ESV–do not make it into the text of The Message–“toward us.”
All of the literal translations of the Bible are careful to include the identity of the recipients of God’s “special grace.” The “us” utilized in this passage is not a designation for all of humanity. Rather, it is employed to denote the people of God. And while we are all God’s creation, we are not all His children. But if you are a child of God, please remember the wondrous deeds and thoughts multiplied toward YOU!
God has accomplished great things on behalf of His people.
Please allow me to illustrate from within this particular Psalm:
“You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your loving-kindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
For evils beyond number have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see;
They are more numerous than the hairs of my head,
And my heart has failed me.”
That’s verses eleven and twelve (NASB). Munch on these blessings today. God’s loving-kindness and truth preserve us. Although we are faced from opposition outward (“evils beyond number have surrounded me”) and opposition inward (“My iniquities have overtaken me”), we are blessed! God has not withheld His compassion.
Now that is high octane fuel for worship!
Beloved, it is easy for us to become discouraged. If we ponder the world’s opposition to Christ and the enemies of the Christ-followers, or if we pause to consider our numerous sins and sinful habits, we quickly become demoralized. What we must do, instead, is ponder God’s loving-kindness, His truth, His compassion toward us.
He has not treated us as our sins deserve.
“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust.”