The Psalm 40 Hunting Trip
One of my best friends recently took me traditional hunting in a large patch of isolated mangroves. The rewards were enormous and delicious, but it was hard work. I think I did my exercise for 2015 in one morning. It was straightforward for my friend who easily negotiated the oyster-covered rocks, the thick curtains of mangrove roots, the deep mud and the potential to be bitten, stung or mauled by something at any second. He has been doing it all his life.
While my sole focus needed to be on the reason we were there: finding lunch – instead it was split between that and avoiding pain. My progress was slow, the wounds on my feet and legs were increasing, but nothing hampered me from my focus more than the mud. I kept sinking into the soft and sticky mud and filth, the bog that oozed around my legs and sucked at me like deadly quicksand.
My friend didn’t have this problem at all. I decided to watch what he was doing and try to learn why he wasn’t sinking. Firstly, I walked in his footsteps because I realised he was planning where he walked and choosing a good path. An yet I still sank, not as much, but I was still sinking. The next thing I noticed was that he didn’t have any fear. I was almost consumed by it. Knowing that fear is the opposite of faith, I changed my mind and decided that if he has done this literally hundreds of times unharmed, then I should just trust him and not think about all the things that could potentially kill me or at the very least increase my levels of pain. Hiking with the extra confidence and boldness that comes from trust also helped, but I was still sinking.
Then the realisation came. My friend kept moving. When I felt myself starting to sink, I would look down to consider how deeply I had sunk, then I’d look around to see if there was anything I could hang on to, then I’d look down again and think about how the clay that imprisoned my legs felt. Then I’d notice how far my friend had gone forward while I had been sinking here and I’d think about being left behind and wonder if I would ever be able to catch up. Then I’d look down again to assess if I’d sunk any further and if so to measure how much by. After that, I’d evaluate whether I thought I could heave my feet out of this hole without losing my reef shoes. Eventually I would wrench myself from the horrible pit of death, only to find myself a few steps on sinking into another desolate ditch of destruction.
But my friend kept moving.
That was the secret. I worked out that when you feel your foot slipping and sinking, you shift the weight to the other foot and take another step or two or more quickly until you’re through that patch and onto some more rock. That changed everything for me and I could then move so quickly through the mangroves that I could actually keep my friend within view.
Then I started thinking. What an accurate description this is of my life. You fail, you sin, you get distracted from where your focus is meant to be, and then you start sinking. Maybe when we fail, we shouldn’t wallow in that mud and concentrate on how far we’ve sunk and whether there is any hope for the future. Maybe when we feel ourselves beginning to fail, we should quickly take steps in the right direction – possibly even following somebody who has been there before and is now walking with success.
Psalm 40:2 says that He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure. God does this when He saves us from our sin through Jesus, but He also does this through our life as we strive to lives that are set apart from the world. We as the body of Christ are the hands and feet of God. Part of what we do is to look out for each other. We learn from those who are experienced and those who are wise. My question is this: Is the life I am leading showing people how to walk in such a way that they stay out of the mud pits of life?
What would have happened if I had realised I couldn’t get out of the mud and I cried out to him? He would have heard me and pulled me out and got me to solid rock to stand on. Then I would have been incredibly grateful and told everybody what a hero my friend is how great it is that I can trust him. Just like Psalm 40:1-4. I waited patiently for the LORD. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure. He placed a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see this and worship. They will trust the LORD. Blessed is the person who places his confidence in the LORD.
This is great, but God doesn’t plan for us to then just go off and do our own thing. The rest of the chapter talks about how we spend our days praising God, being happy to do what He wants for us and to walk the way he wants us to walk – fighting off sinking back into the miry clay. The body of Christ around us demonstrate to us where and how to walk through our lives so that we don’t sink down into that horrible pit. And then when we do fall, they are the arms of Jesus under the directions of God, that lift us out of the miry clay and restore us onto better foundations.
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