Past Praise
Through Present Problems
to Future Gratitude
Psalm 40,1-11

William S. Epps, Senior Pastor
Sunday, January 15, 2023
Martin Luther King, Jr., Sunday
(To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.) I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. 2He brought me up also of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my fee upon a rock, and established my goings. 3And 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. 4Blessed is the man that that make the Lord his trust, and respect not the proud, nor such turn aside to lies.  5Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou has done, and thy thoughts which are to us us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. 6Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. 7Then I said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me. 8I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. 9I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. 10I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation. 11Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.  
Psalm 40,1-11

It is presumed that this psalm is composed of two originally independent poems. It has been suggested that this psalm is a merging of two psalms. Life merges the before and the after with what is in between the two. It appears to be a psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from some difficulty. Here is a psalm of distress in which the individual petitions God for help. 
The composer of this psalm shares his experience of the Lord’s presence in his life. He moves through difficulty to deliverance to declaration with a new song. This person endures patiently while waiting for the Lord’s deliverance, which brought him out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay and set him on a rock and established his goings, leaving him with a new song. 
Let me say it another way. The sweet lyricist of Israel makes an affirmation/assertion about going from adversity through a horrible ordeal to being given a song of praise. That is the way life unfolds. We go from difficulty through deliverance to a declaration of praise. 
Consider what it means to go from difficulty through
deliverance to a declaration of praise.  
Monday, January 16, 2023
We commemorate a life and celebrate a legacy left by one who willingly gave of himself in the struggle for equality, justice and liberty. Each January the opportunity is provided to reflect more intentionally on the meaning of a life, though short, that made a difference - a big difference, I might add. 
We pick up where the laborers, whose work benefits us, ends. Life is like a relay race where one generation passes the baton to the next to continue. The labor is always unfinished and calls for us to continue what has begun. 
Martin Luther King, Jr., gave to the world the hope of overcoming what we face with faith while trusting that we can achieve that which we believe. He was born in the sweltering heat of prejudice and white supremacy in an era of discrimination, with the tyranny of injustice and the oppression of economic and political subjugation ruling every aspect of life for African Americans. Consider what he did as he patiently confronted the systemic evil so prevalent in the culture of America. He challenged the conscience of a nation, awakened people to their unrealized potential, critiqued the cultural norms and societal standards that normalized racism and white supremacy, and courageously confronted the practices of discrimination.      
Who would have thought that in this decade of the 21st century we would be retrogressing, addressing what we thought was safe, secure, settled and sure? 
Who would have thought that we would be revisiting the tyranny of injustice, the oppression of systemic corruption, and economic and political subjugation in so many facets of life? 2023 is reminiscence of what the we find in the book of Ecclesiastics, “History repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing is new under the sun.” (New Living Version). This psalm addresses facing difficulty with faith. 

Consider what it means to face difficulty with faith.  
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
First acknowledge the reality of your situation which leads to waiting on the Lord patiently.
I waited patiently on the Lord and the Lord heard my cry. 
Notice the cry to the Lord comes as result of acknowledging you are facing a terrible ordeal. You find yourself between a rock and a hard place, as they say. You can’t see any way out of the dilemma you are facing. You are doomed if you do and doomed if you don’t. You feel constrained in your helplessness. You are vulnerable.
Think of our history with our faith. We’ve come a long way from the year 1619.
We find ourselves caught in the cyclical nature of evolving and devolving, deconstructing and reconstructing, only to have deconstruction of the reconstruction. Imagine! We are facing the same reality in the third decade of the 21st century that we faced during previous centuries. 
W.E. B. Du Bois, sociologist and black rights activist said, “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.” W. E. B. Du Bois meant that both literally and figuratively. Imagine we are still struggling after 400 years - struggling to have the nation rise up and live out its creed, “all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 

We are still struggling to have the words on the Statue of Liberty become a reality, as we recall the most famous phrase associated with it, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." This quote is derived from the poem, "The New Colossus," written by Emma Lazarus. 

And what about our pledge, "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” 
With every advance there has been a set-back. After the civil war followed reconstruction. Then there was deconstruction. Untold massacres: 1898 Willington, North Carolina; 1921 Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma; 1923 Rosewood, Florida; an untold number of lynchings everywhere; police brutality with impunity, systemic racism so prevalent it threatens life everywhere. 
We were patient, continuing to wait on the Lord. Patience is a virtue. It is a good quality to be able to tolerate something that takes a long time. Patience is not the ability to just wait but how you act while you are waiting. There is always something for you do while you wait. You can pray for insight, information, and inspiration to continue to have faith in what you believe about the Lord. The Lord is good, his mercy is everlasting and his truth endure to all generations (Psalm 100:5). When you begin with the faith perspective that God is good and what God does is good, don’t confuse what God does with what people do which is to picture God in their image and after their likeness, as opposed to seeing themselves made in God’s image and God’s likeness. To be made in God’s image means that we have the capacity to love as God loves, treating everyone like you want to be treated. Whatever it means, it means that you are given free will and autonomy to make decisions for either good or not so good. God continues to heighten our awareness of the goodness of the Lord so that we can rise to imitate the goodness, mercy and truth of the Lord. 
Consider what it means to wait patiently on the Lord.
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Winston Churchill reminds us that no success or victory is final and no failure is final. James Russell Lowell. “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide in the strife with truth and falsehood for the good or evil side. And that strife goes on forever twixt that darkness and that light.” (excerpt from the poem, Present Crisis)
Waiting presupposes that that for which you wait has the possibility of happening. Confidence in God has people trusting as they wait on the Lord to fulfill through them God’s intention and purpose for humanity. Waiting requires confidence and conviction about the reality of the possibility of what can be achieved. 
Waiting is always accompanied with belief, faith and virtue. 

Consider what it means to Persevere Always Through Insidious
Experiences that we, Nevertheless, Confidently Endure.  
Thursday, January 19, 2023
Secondly, the deliverance the Lord provides.
2He brought me up also of an horrible pit, (Psalm 40:1)
What does horrible pit mean? He was in a place of dreadful horror that was extraordinarily unpleasant. It was a place of cruelty, harm and pain. The psalmist was crushed and depressed and downtrodden from the circumstances and conditions he was facing. His burden was lifted. He felt energized and empowered to do something more than cry in agony as though defeated by his situation. Something came over him to let him know that the Lord heard him. Now he rises up, out of the miry clay
If you are in a miry clay, a Pit of Despair, a feeling of utter dread, understand that the Lord is inclined to meet you there, and wants to draw you nearer to Himself. 
The Lord meets you in your horrible pit in the miry clay. It has been said that wits end is the favorite place to encounter the reality of the presence of the Lord. 
There is a second truth revealed by David that is of great encouragement to those who are in the pit. David declares there is a way out. Despite the muddy, swampy ground, there is a way out. You may slip and slide and fall down, but there is a way out.  The Lord sets your feet upon a rock and puts you on solid ground, directs the path you take, and guides you all the way.
When I think about the Lord / How he saved, how he raised me
How he filled me with the Holy Ghost / He healed me to the uttermost
When I think about the Lord / How he picked me up / Turned me around
How he set my feet on solid ground / That makes me want to shout
Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus. Lord, You’re worthy of all the glory,
and all the honor.  And all the praise.
Consider what it means to that there is always
a way out of the dilemmas you face. 
Friday, January 20, 2023
Thirdly, the Lord put a new song in his mouth.

The song is a result of experiencing the marvelous works the Lord has done which are many, more than can be numbered. 

Walter Percy in his book, “Message in a Bottle,” makes the distinction between knowledge and news that is available on the island and knowledge and news from another source. The bible is the message in a bottle that we have received from another source. The bible is the record of the testimonies of witnesses who discovered who God is, how God is, and where God is at work in our lives and the world. The bible is a book about ordinary people in ordinary and sometimes extraordinary circumstances, whose lives were transformed by what they discovered in the particularity of the painful predicaments of life. We have in our scared literature a message in a bottle. It is information from a higher source, conversation of a purer source and revelation from an authentic source. 

Faith informs our understanding of our identity; it becomes the interpretive lens through which we view reality. Faith integrates the insights we receive and inspires our involvement. 

Our identity and action is informed by a higher source. We interpret information with conversation from a purer source. We integrate insights with revelation from an authentic source that inspires our involvement from a compelling source. 

Consider what it means that you faith informs your understanding of your identity, becomes the interpretive lens through which you view reality, integrates the insights you receive and inspires your involvement.
Saturday, January 21, 2023
I close with the words of the song that ask the Lord to order our steps.  

Order my steps in your word dear Lord/ Lead me guide me every day
Send you anointing Father I pray / Order my steps in your word
Please order my steps in your word. 
Humbly I ask thee teach me your will / While you are working help me be still
Satan is busy God is real / Order my steps in your word
Please, order my steps in your word
Bridle my tongue, Let my words edify
Let the words of my mouth be acceptable in thy sight
Take charge of my thoughts both day and night
Please order my steps in your word / Please order my steps in your word
I want to walk worthy my calling to fulfill
Please order my steps Lord---and I'll do your blessed will
The world is ever changing but you are still the same
Order my steps in your word / Order my tongue in your word
Guide my feet in your word / Wash my heart in your word
Show me how to walk in your word / Show me how to talk in your word
When I need a brand new song to sing / Show me how to let your praises ring
In your word----- / In your word-----
Please order my steps in your word / Please order my steps in your word
Consider what it means to have the Lord order your steps in the word.  

Lift Every Voice and Sing
Black Violin
2412 Griffith Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90011 
Phone: (213) 748-0318