Psalm 40:11 – As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me
During my quiet time this morning, I was just in a particularly low place, and Psalm 40 was the chapter for my quiet time, and this verse just hit me so hard.
The context is that the Psalmist has been speaking about how great a deliverance God has granted to him so far, and how that is part of the foundation for the Psalmist’s continued trust in God for the future. In verse 11, he speaks of God’s commitment to continue to extend mercy, and so in verse 12 he says:
Psalm 40:12 – For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my own iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; there are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me.
That pretty much sums up how I was feeling this morning, just weighed down by my own sin. I know that Paul was wrong when he said that he was the chief of sinners, because he hadn’t met me. Sometimes, the weight of my own sin is so much that I can barely breathe, or think. As the David says here – my heart fails me, and I cannot see.
Sometimes, our sin weighs so heavy on us that we can’t see anything else. We can’t imagine how we could go on throughout the day. That’s how it was for me today – I was so burdened by my prideful, despairing, lustful, resentful, angry, bitter, doubting heart that I could barely pray. I felt so low I didn’t even want to read my bible. I began reading Psalm 40, and when it spoke in verse 4 of the man who makes the Lord his trust, I felt so crushed, because I am someone who so often doesn’t make the Lord my trust. When David wrote after that about the man who turns to the proud, I knew he was referring to me. I am the man who turns away from God to my own selfish, prideful heart to find joy and comfort.
And I was so broken that I was about to just close my bible and turn even further away from God. Because that’s what we do, right? When we feel the law bearing down on us with the massive weight of our sin, we don’t want to turn to God, we want to turn away from him. Our natural desire is to run from that. Our normal response is to act according to the “old man” who was under God’s judgment and wrath.
But, by God’s miraculous grace, I was moved to finish reading the chapter today. And I’m so thankful that I did, because verse 11 broke through the cloud of my despair and depression.
As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me.
That is good news, fellow Christian. That is the gospel. And praise God that his whole Word is saturated with the good news of his unrestrained mercy toward broken, needy sinners.
David finishes out this Psalm so perfectly. In verse 17, he says:
As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me….
We are so poor, so destitute of anything good in and of ourselves, and we so desperately need grace. Yet, even our desperate need of grace does not make us worthy of receiving it, and in spite of that, God abundantly grants it.
God will not restrain his mercy toward you. He will not hold back the fountain of grace from you. His mercy is unrestrainable! No matter how much you have sinned, and no matter how much your sin has caused you to flee from the God who loves you, you will not escape his merciful hands. You are a forgetful free-man. You remember what slavery to sin and subjection to wrath was like, and you are often prone to living toward God as if he still counts your sin against you, but he doesn’t. He can’t. Because your sin has been cancelled. It cannot be counted against you because it cannot be found! It has already been punished and the record has been wiped clean. At the cross, Jesus, the only man who did not need mercy, and who did not deserve wrath, was denied God’s kindness and was given God’s anger and judgement so that we poor and needy sinners might never be given anything but God’s grace.
The reason that God’s mercy toward you is unstrainable is because Christ’s sacrifice for you is unshakeable. God’s commitment to show you mercy, no matter how you fall, is as firm as Christ’s resurrection. If Christ has been raised, then he has made payment for your sin, and no matter how you stumble and fall, Christ’s life, death and vindicating resurrection is the foundation for God’s mercy to you. Your sin is not the foundation upon which you stand. Even your repentance of your sin, or your hatred for your sin, cannot be a firm foundation upon which God could ground his unrestrainable mercy to you. It is Christ, and Christ alone, that provides the solid rock upon which Gods sets his commitment to you.
God will not restrain his mercy toward you, because he did not restrain his wrath from Christ. And God will not waver in his commitment to you, because Christ did not waver in his commitment to you.
When God raised Jesus from the dead, it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was nothing left to be counted against us. You are poor and needy, but God has taken thought for you, and now, in Christ, you are rich, and God promises that you will never lack anything that is good for you. To doubt that, is to doubt the resurrection itself.
God’s unrestrainable mercy is sure. And oh how great a comfort this is to us. But not only is it a comfort, it is also a great motivation.
When we see the greatness of God’s mercy toward us in not getting what we so rightly deserve, it frees us to be extravagantly merciful to others as well. We are sinned against often – children sin against parents, parents sin against children, friends and loved ones hurt us, and it is so easy to be unmerciful. But in the gospel we have the freedom to show unrestrained mercy. When someone has been given much mercy, it makes it easier to give much mercy to others.
So, may God’s mercy in Christ toward us not only comfort us greatly, but then may it move us to show mercy to those who have sinned against us.