Psalms 40:1-3 Meaning and Commentary

By Faith Way

Psalms 40:1-3 Meaning and Commentary
Psalms 40:1-3 Meaning and Commentary

The book of Psalms contains some of the most beloved passages of scripture, offering comfort, wisdom, and inspiration. Psalms 40:1-3 is one such passage, conveying a beautiful message of waiting patiently on the Lord, His subsequent deliverance, and the praise that flows out from a grateful heart. These verses teach valuable spiritual lessons regarding perseverance through trials, the certainty of God’s salvation, and the worship that comes from experiencing His goodness.

Psalms 40:1-3 Meaning

Psalms 40:1-3 reads:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

In these verses, the psalmist conveys a powerful testimony of trusting in God even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Waiting Patiently on the Lord

The psalmist describes his experience of waiting patiently for God’s deliverance while enduring a period of struggle and despair. The “slimy pit” and “mud and mire” are vivid word pictures depicting what was likely a desperate situation, whether referring to actual physical confinement or a symbolic representation of emotional turmoil.

Regardless of the specifics, the psalmist endured his affliction while waiting expectantly for God’s salvation. This kind of patient waiting demonstrates tremendous faith, believing that deliverance will come in God’s proper timing.

God’s Faithful Deliverance

After patiently enduring the trial, deliverance comes. God turns His attentive ear to listen and then actively reaches down into the psalmist’s pit to lift him out and place him on solid, secure ground.

The visual of being firmly planted on a rock depicts the safety, stability, and strength the Lord provides to those who trust in Him. God does not merely offer temporary relief but rather full and complete salvation.

Transformation Through Deliverance

As a result of God’s dramatic rescue, the psalmist bursts out in heartfelt praise. His circumstance is utterly transformed; where once there was weeping and despair, now there are songs of joy and gratefulness. God has put a “new song” in his mouth through this fresh experience of divine grace.

This passage reminds us that seasons of difficulty, no matter how bleak, do not have the final say. God specializes in bringing beauty from ashes, turning mourning into dancing. Waiting patiently on Him results in merciful deliverance and hearts overflowing with worship.

Psalms 40:1-3 Commentary and Explanation

In studying and reflecting on Psalms 40:1-3, we gain deeper insight into its meaning and relevance in our lives today. A closer look at some of the key details reveals valuable lessons.

The Pit as a Universally Relatable Experience

The idea of being trapped in a pit, unable to escape on our own power, resonates with nearly everyone. We all face situations that leave us feeling stuck, overwhelmed, helpless, or even desperate.

Whether these are literal pits we have fallen into or symbolic ones representing problems in relationships, health issues, financial difficulties, addictions, grief, or other struggles, the emotion is much the same. We feel confined and restrained with no way out.

Just like the psalmist, we may cry out to God from our pit, wondering if He hears or cares. But this passage offers the hope-filled reminder that He does.

Active Patient Waiting

When the psalmist writes “I waited patiently,” this was no passive waiting. The Hebrew word translated “waited” more fully means “waiting longingly, expectantly, and confidently.” The psalmist expected deliverance, longing and hoping for God to come through.

Similarly, waiting patiently on the Lord does not imply inactivity on our part. Rather, it means persevering in prayer, maintaining trust in God’s faithfulness, looking expectantly for His salvation.

We continue laying our requests before Him, believing He hears us and will act. This kind of hopeful waiting sustains us even through prolonged trials.

The All-Sufficient Savior

Unlike human helpers who may try yet fail to pull us from pits or problems too heavy for them, God is perfectly capable of lifting us out of even the slimiest, deepest pits. No situation is beyond the reach of His strong and loving hands.

Not only does He lift us out, but He sets our feet upon an unshakable rock. We do not merely return to the same shaky ground we were on before. God’s salvation plan is more secure than that.

As the hymn “My Hope Is Built” proclaims, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” He alone gives the firm, steady footing we desperately need.

Context of Psalms 40:1-3

In studying any passage of Scripture, understanding its context can bring deeper meaning. Examining Psalms 40 as a whole helps enlighten these opening verses.


The superscription of Psalm 40 attributes its authorship to David. Many scholars concur that David likely wrote this psalm, given connections seen between the psalm’s content and events in David’s life.

Psalm 40’s Messianic Nature

Interestingly, Psalm 40 is cited multiple times in the New Testament and applied to Jesus, indicating its messianic theme.

Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes the passage:

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—

but my ears you have opened — burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll.

This directly correlates with Jesus being the ultimate fulfillment of the sacrificial system that God did not actually desire in and of itself. Rather, it pointed ahead to Christ’s sacrificial death that entirely satisfies God’s righteousness, pays sin’s penalty, and provides full atonement (Romans 3:25).

So in its fuller meaning, Psalm 40 contains prophecy about the coming Messiah who would walk in perfect obedience to the Father and offer Himself as the only truly acceptable sacrifice for sin.

Davidic Parallels

On another layer, Psalm 40 resonates with events in David’s own story. In particular, commentators point to parallels with 2 Samuel 22 when David offers a song of praise after God delivers him from Saul and other enemies.

It is quite plausible that David’s personal experiences of relying on God amidst grave troubles inspired the words of this psalm. The specific nature of the “slimy pit” David endured is unknown, but God’s dramatic salvation was real to him.

This background enriches the intimacy we sense in the psalmist’s outburst of praise. What he wrote flowed from a heart freshly plunged into gratitude after tasting God’s redemption.

Lessons From Psalms 40:1-3

Beyond examining the particulars of meaning and context within Psalms 40:1-3, it is vital we apply these verses to our lives today. This passage teaches many valuable lessons.

Trust in God’s timing

Waiting patiently for the Lord demonstrates our trust in His faithfulness and timing. We live in a world demanding instant responses and solutions. This passage reminds us that though God often works suddenly and swiftly, at other times He moves slowly—from our earthbound perspective—communing with Him requires willingness to wait.

Rely on God’s strength

When we face situations leaving us stuck and helpless, God offers Himself as the only firm rock on which to stand. Just as He lifted the psalmist from his pit, He will lift and carry us (Psalm 68:19). Relying on our own strength is vain; His strength is mighty to save.

Praise God through all seasons

Perhaps most prominently, Psalm 40 models praising God with abandon when He shows Himself faithful. Even if He tarries long past our preferred timing, God is worthy of praise at all times (Psalm 34:1) from the depths of the pit to the heights of the rock.

Share stories of God’s goodness

This psalm stands today as the psalmist’s enduring testimony of God’s rescue and the grateful response it produced in Him. Like David, we must share accounts of God’s goodness for others to see His trustworthiness. Our stories spark faith in other weary sojourners.

Biblical Translations of Psalms 40:1-3

Studying different Bible translations brings fuller understanding of Scripture by offering alternate wording for concepts that can be difficult to grasp. Comparing translations of Psalms 40:1-3 highlights certain aspects.

Psalms 40:1-3 King James Version (KJV)

I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.

Key aspects in this translation include the word pictures of the “horrible pit” and “miry clay” emphasizing the dire circumstances, as well as the psalmist’s feet being firmly “established” on the rock depicting stability. Also noteworthy is the final phrase about others seeing God’s work and turning to trust in Him.

Psalms 40:1-3 English Standard Version (ESV)

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, 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.

The ESV translates the pit vividly as the “pit of destruction,” conveying ruin and hopelessness. God’s firm rescue is described as “making my steps secure,” the psalmist’s feet steadied and stabilized on the rock. Again, the final phrase notes how God’s work inspires renewed faith.

Psalms 40:1-3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the Lord.

Echoing the ESV, the NASB also translates the pit as one of “destruction,” emphasizing despair. But a contrasting note of hope emerges in the phrase “making my footsteps firm.” Though the pit threatened stability, the Lord secures each step.

Psalms 40:1-3 New Living Translation (NLT)

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

The NLT speaks directly to emotion by translating the pit as one “of despair,” communicating the accompanying feelings of discouragement and loss of hope. God’s subsequent deliverance firmly establishes “solid ground” and evokes “amazement” from onlookers.

Psalms 40:1-3 The Message (MSG)

I took my troubles to God; I cried out loud to him, and he answered my prayer. He lifted me out of the miserable pit out of the goo and glop; He set me down on a solid rock and I feel my feet on firm ground He gave me a new song in my heart A song of praise for our God. Many will look on in fear And put their trust in God.

Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase conveys the emotion and grittiness of this passage. Descriptions like “goo and glop” emphasize the messy, stuck nature of the psalmist’s situation and God’s powerful deliverance from it onto unshakable ground. Others stand witness in “fear” and renewed faith.

Psalms 40:1-3 New King James Version (NKJV)

I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord.

The NKJV mirrors the KJV quite closely. Again, we find the idea of God reaching down (“inclined to me”) in response to the psalmist’s waiting and crying out. After lifting him from the dreadful pit, God “established” the psalmist’s steps securing him on solid rock. This prompts renewed awe, fear, and trusting in the Lord.

Final Thoughts

Psalms 40:1-3 beautifully encapsulates the universal human experience of enduring seasons of difficulty and crying out to God for rescue. The great hope these verses offer lies in the psalmist’s confidence that God hears our cries and intervenes in His faithfulness.

This passage reminds us that during trials of swirling chaos, we can stand on Christ the solid rock. He redeems us and steadies our steps. Our heartfelt response ought to be renewed praise and testimony to share of His goodness.

Though we face pits of despair likely different than David’s, the message resonates across time providing comfort and hope. No matter the pit, God is mighty to save. As we wait patiently in trusting prayer, He promises to lift us out in His perfect timing.


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Psalms 40:1-3 distills profound biblical truths about persevering through affliction while awaiting God’s deliverance with hopeful expectation. This passage offers comfort and wisdom for finding stability amidst struggles and giving praise when mercy comes.

Its timeless beauty reminds us that the all-powerful Savior is able to redeem any pit we may find ourselves in, transforming our despair into rejoicing. Though the wait may be long, He remains faithful. God’s people can always trust that our cries are heard and answered. For that wonderful assurance, we give thanks.

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