Times of deliverance call out for songs of praise and thanksgiving. Such was the origin of the great “song of Moses” in Exodus 15. By ten mighty plagues, the Lord had broken the power and determination of Egypt to hold Israel captive. Then, in his final triumph, he had parted the waters of the sea, allowing Israel to pass through on dry land while destroying the army of Pharaoh as it pursued. All this was narrated in Exodus 6–14. The deliverance accomplished, it was commemorated in song (15:1–12). The song also looked forward, foretelling how the Lord would bring His people to rest in the land He had prepared for His own abode, where He would reign forever and ever (vv. 13–18). The song would sustain faith by the knowledge of what God had done, and it would nourish hope as it pointed forward to what God would do.
In Psalm 40, David has a similar song, or, as we might say, “the same song, second verse.” David had also experienced a great deliverance. He had waited patiently for the Lord, who inclined His ear to David and heard his cry. The Lord drew him up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set his feet on a rock, making his steps secure (vv. 1–2). All this put a new song in David’s mouth, a song of praise to our God (v. 3).
But David’s song was not written while he was fresh from the great deliverance. The closing of the psalm indicates that bad times had recurred: “For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs on my head; my heart fails me” (v. 12). He cries to the Lord again, casting himself on the mercy and steadfast love of the Lord (vv. 13–17). He is broken by the return of miseries, those which came from others who opposed him, and those which came from his own failures and sins. His heart, his hope, is failing; but the new song sustains his faith and hope.
Recurring sins and the problems they bring, as well as problems of unknown origin that others might cause us, seem to mock the newness of our life in Christ. We hear the exclamation of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Yet too often we find ourselves with Paul in Romans 7:19: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” We cry out: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (v. 24).
It is right here that we must join with David in Psalm 40. Where did he go when he found himself once again assailed by foes without and tormented by sins within? He cried out to the Lord. Looking back, he recalled the great deliverances of the past, singing of them (vv. 1–10). Set in poetry and supported by music, the memory of what God had done was preserved in his heart and mind. It provided a foundation on which he could face the problems of the present and deal with the uncertainties of the future.
Hannah’s song does the same thing (1 Sam. 2:1–10). She had known the years of heartache and disappointment. She had been forced to learn “the patience of unanswered prayer.” But at last her prayer was heard and her desire fulfilled. She celebrated the great deliverance with prayer and song. In it, we hear the joy of her heart, and we see that she also knew that what had happened for her was not for her alone. It would testify to the power of God, who works for all who call on Him. So her prayer moves from personal testimony to corporate prophecy. What God had done for her would encourage all who suffer, for this is just who God is and what He does for all His people. As a prophet, she foretells how all this will come through God’s king, His anointed
This song introduces the great scroll of Samuel. (Our 1 and 2 Samuel were once a single scroll.). It serves as the overture to a great oratorio. What God did in the little story of Hannah, He would do again in the big story of Israel, and it would all come to pass through God’s king and anointed one, David. Thus, the book concludes with David’s song (2 Sam. 22), which is really the same as Hannah’s song, just the second verse (though much enlarged, to be sure). The themes of both are the same: how God takes the lowly one to exalt Him and work deliverance for His people. It is a song to encourage us all as we struggle and wait for the new day to come. He has put a new song in our mouths, a song of praise to our God. Thanks be to God.