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Discover the Book - July 24, 2008

  • 2008 Jul 24

The Pits that God Rescues Us From

Psalm 40 can reflect any of the pits that David had lived through, and there were many. So it is possible to see him speaking of any era of his life—and maybe even of all of them! David was painfully aware of his own failures, weaknesses, shortcomings, and sins. He likens them to a pit. Salvation as well as sanctification was likened to being lifted out of those pits all through life.

David was nearly always in close fellowship with God, and he wrote almost half of the Psalms.  By his writings and by his common speech he regularly and faithfully proclaimed the grace of God to others.  Yet in Psalm 40 he describes himself as having been mired down in a pit from which he was unable to escape.

Psalm 40 communicates the truth that muddy times may be the experience even of the greatest saints and slimy pits may be the lot even of kings and preachers.

What are the pits David was talking about? There are four possibilities drawn from various eras of David’s life. Remember, David wrote this after the events took place. He is looking back with an inspired view of life. God’s Spirit within him opened his mind and guided his words. Everything in this Psalm is exactly what the Spirit of God wanted him to say about these times in the pits. Here are the various pits that may be alluded to: 

The pit of defeat: This could be Saul in David’s mind. It was so hard. Saul could never be pleased no matter how hard David tried. Or maybe it was Saul’s bitter hatred and jealousy at David’s success that defeated David, or even the bitter agony and defeat of David’s own son’s betrayal, and attempt to destroy his father which left David in despair. Whatever pulled David into the pit of defeat—God could rescue him. 

The pit of sin: This could be on David’s mind as he remembered Bathsheba. Remember how David decided to stay home while he as King was supposed to be leading the army. While enjoying his palace in Jerusalem he looked down into the courtyard of a nearby house where the grand daughter of his aged counselor Ahithophel the Gilonite (II Samuel 15:12) lived were her husband the great warrior of King David, Uriah the Hittite. David had noticed her beauty at other occasions but this evening seeing her unclothed drew him to allow his lusts to plunge him into sin. The rest is so sadly known from 2nd Samuel 11.

The pit of bad habits: We must mortify our proud flesh.  When David didn’t, he may have thought of his pride that lured him into the sin of numbering the people. William James, in his classic “Principles of Psychology”, put it this way:

Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state.  We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone.  Every smallest stroke or virtue or vice leaves its ever so little scar. 

The pit of circumstances: If anyone could wallow in the despair of having all the worst of circumstances, David sure could. When he wasn’t running from Saul, he was fleeing his own country men, or the Philistines and everything in between. But whenever we think of hard circumstances look at Paul’s in 2nd Corinthians 11:24-28; 1st Corinthians 4:9-13; 2nd Corinthians 6:4-10.

God has the power to rescue even the most hopeless out of a pit.

Mel Trotter (1870 – 1940)

"I was there when it happened, January 19, 1897, 10 minutes past 9, Central time, Pacific Garden Mission, Chicago, Illinois, USA."—Mel Trotter's response when asked how he knew he was saved.

Mel Trotter's father was a drunkard who owned a saloon. His son followed in his footsteps, becoming an alcoholic before he was twenty. His mother was a godly woman, but Mel followed his father's example.

Trotter married, and he and his wife had a baby, but his appetite for alcohol continued. He would go weeks at a time without a drink, but then he would go on drunken binges again. Once he "drank up" the family horse and buggy, leaving them without any means of transportation. He returned home from a ten-day drinking spree to find his only child dead in his wife's arms. Bitter and broken, he left home and went to Chicago.

During the brutal winter he was reduced to selling his own shoes to finance his drinking. Finally even the saloons kicked him out. On his way to Lake Michigan, intending to drown himself, he passed by the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission. He was pulled inside and sat slumped through the testimony of Harry Monroe, a converted alcoholic, then superintendent of the mission. At the invitation, Trotter went forward and accepted Christ as his Savior.

Mel and his wife moved to Chicago, and he spent nearly every night working at the mission. With Monroe he traveled to area churches seeking support.

In 1900 a new rescue mission was established in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Trotter was asked to come and lead the new work. The Lord prospered the work there, and it grew and expanded until facilities were purchased which could handle 750 men.

One of Trotter's greatest victories was when the saloon next door to the mission was forced to close for lack of business. Trotter carried a burden for rescue missions in other cities as well. He helped found more than 65 other rescue missions during his life. It was not unusual for Trotter to be asked to fill in for R. A. Torrey or Billy Sunday in one of their great revival campaigns. The power of his personal testimony gave great weight to his preaching.

Mel was not spared from the affects of alcohol on his body from those years of life in the pits of sin. Ill health marked the last few years of his life. He suffered from cancer which required repeated surgeries.

He last preached at his mission in Grand Rapids in January 1940 for the 40th anniversary celebration of that great work. His favorite verse was II Corinthians 5:17. God truly made him a new creature.

John Newton

Who am I? My godly mother died when I was a young child.  Reared by a sea-captain father, taken to sea at age eleven, I soon forgot the Scriptures she had taught me.

Several years later, I was pressed into the British navy and became a midshipman.  By then, I had earned the reputation of being able to curse for two hours straight without repeating a word.  Restless and wild, I tried to desert, was caught, stripped, whipped severely, and degraded to the ranks.  I eventually ran away to Africa, but only so 'I might sin my fill.' And I did.

Debauched and distant from God, I fell into the hands of a Portuguese slave trader.  For months the chief woman of the trader's harem treated me like an animal, beating me and forcing me to grovel in the dirt for my food.

Reduced to a mangy cur of a man, I finally escaped and made my way to the shores of Africa.  Picked up by a passing ship I earned the position of first mate because I was a skilled navigator.  But while the captain was ashore one day, I broke out the ship's rum and got the entire crew drunk.  When the captain came back, he was so furious he hit me, knocking me overboard.

I would have drowned were it not for a sailor who pulled me back on board by spearing my thigh with a boat hood.  The wound was so large that it left a scar big enough to put my fist in.  Some weeks later, when the ship neared the coast of Scotland, it sailed into a storm and almost sank.  For days I manned the pumps below deck in what seemed a hopeless nightmare.

It was then that I desperately called out to God.  He answered my helpless cry, and I emerged from the hold of that ship to later become the chaplain of England's Parliament and even to preach before the king.  I am the vile blasphemer whom many would subsequently refer to as the second founder of the Church of England.  And it was I who wrote:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

These were the lyrics born out of my wayward, free-versed life.  And to my ears, there is no sweeter sound than grace in all the world.  Who am I? John Newton. 



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