# 153 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 40 Invictus

In the 1870s, while recovering from Tuberculosis in hospital (which had earlier resulted in a leg amputation), William Earnest Henley wrote a poem which later became known as “Invictus”. It has inspired a number of people, songs and films since then and today is the theme of the Invictus Games; “an international Paralympic-style multi-sport event created by Prince Harry in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sport”. The Latin word means unconquerable or undefeated.

The poem does appear to put this unconquerable spirit down to the writer himself when he writes those now famous words at the end:

“I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”

But, in reality this is not the case. In the first verse we read:

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.”

Henley here acknowledges that his “unconquerable soul” is not entirely something he has created but rather due to “whatever gods may be.” i.e. he is “unconquerable” because of this higher power.

David in Psalm 40 wrote a similar poem over 3000 years ago. He too was in a dire situation, which like Henley he describes as a “slimy pit”. He too is delivered from this situation, but the big difference is that David is not in the least bit vague about the One who delivered him and gave him the strength to endure. To David this was no vague impersonal “god”, but rather “The Lord” with whom he had an intimate relationship.

He wrote:

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.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

David doesn’t give details of what this situation was (maybe it was due to enemies, illness, or his own sin), but only that it was a hopeless situation. Using picturesque imagery which his contemporary readers would appreciate, he said it was like being stuck in a “slimy pit” full of “mud and mire” with no foreseeable way out. I’m sure that many of us have felt that way at some time in our lives. Maybe due to injury or illness (similar to those participating in the Invictus games), maybe due to depression or even PTSD (again similar to armed services personal) or due to other difficulties.

But David didn’t give up. He knew the One who could deliver him, and he cried out to the Lord, patiently waiting for Him to answer him. Which He did, and the result was no longer a sticky unstable pit but rather “a rock” as the Lord gave him “a firm place to stand.” No wonder David, in gratitude, was able to sing “a new song…a hymn of praise” to God.

The result was that David’s friends could then see and hear about this wonderful deliverance and be encouraged in their (and our) faith.

Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

Paul in Romans 8 wrote these words concerning those who put their trust in God:

31 … If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?… 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Whatever you are facing today, remember the truth of these words and put your trust in the One who is for you!

Father, thank you that in Christ we are not only unconquerable but “more than conquerors through Him who loved us”!  Amen.


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