Although this is a psalm of David, it's also a messianic psalm, a psalm that looks forward to the great Descendant of King David, our Lord Jesus Christ. David sang it, phrase by phrase, and the congregation repeated each phrase in their morning worship, but as appropriate as it was for David's Israel, it's equally appropriate for our Lord and His Church. In fact it's quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7, and there attributed to our Lord.
David was the leader of Israel's armies. But since Israel as a nation was in peril in each of its battles, David was therefore also the nation's savior, the commander who would be counted on to deliver them from defeat. The psalm before us, in fact, was probably sung in memory of victory in a particular battle. But it undoubtedly became much more. It became a song to be sung in anticipation of any other battles David and Israel might fight and win with God's help. So it's a song of thanksgiving to the God Who alone could give them such victories.
The first necessity in such a song was confession that battles of any kind could never be won merely by means of superior weapons or greater strength, but, ultimately, they could be won only by the intervention of God. David sings, "I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined to me, and heard my cry!" Very simply, He's confessing that rushing right in, depending on his own strength and upon the fierceness of his charge - wasn't ever going to result in victory, but that waiting patiently for the Lord to act on Israel's behalf was the sure key to success.
When thinking about such military engagements, it was always necessary to face the possibility of David's death and the defeat of God's people. David knew that possibility very well, and he saw it as it really was. To him it was like "an horrible pit," a pit filled with "miry clay," a pit out of which the Lord must save him or he would indeed be forever lost.
The words David uses in this psalm are in fact descriptive of death. In the Hebrew mind physical death was often likened to a "pit" (sheol) filled with miry clay, a pit from which there could be no escape. In any given battle, only God could save David (and Israel) from such death. He alone was therefore to be praised when they won, and His alone would be the glory.
And, just as we should do in remembrance of the battles of our lives, David praised the God Who was ALWAYS thinking about them, ALWAYS caring for them - Whose thoughts toward them were so many they couldn't ever be numbered.
Along with knowing that great armor and weaponry couldn't win, David also knew that "religious goodness" wouldn't save Israel either. In other words, their "sacrifices and offerings" wouldn't be any more effective than more horses and better swords. Instead, as David himself very well knew, God had another plan. It would be David himself who would be used of God to bring the victory. He sings, "Sacrifices and offering (religious rituals) You did not desire; my ears You have opened (to hear God's call to lead the people in battle). Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, 'Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart (not just in outward religious observance).'"
So Israel had to trust in God alone, and God's means for Israel's salvation would be David himself! But even though he was to be such a savior, yet David himself had to depend entirely upon a much greater Savior. So he promised the Lord that he would tell "the great assembly" (all Israel) about that dependence, and he prays a simple prayer of that dependency when he says, "Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord!"
He candidly confesses to the Lord that it isn't his own worthiness that makes him a fit leader. Indeed he has to say, "My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me."
So it's abundantly clear that all help will have to be from the merciful and gracious Lord. He sings, "Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me!" And in the same vein he prays "Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let such as love Your salvation say continually, 'The Lord be magnified!'" Having confessed that it all depends on God, He closes with another simple prayer. He says, "You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!"
Our Lord Jesus Christ, like David, was given the task of being His people's Savior - their Deliverer in the world's greatest battle, the battle over sin and death. Like David, we need to see that it's ultimately His battle, not ours. Like Israel, we too need to be aware that religious ritual can't save us any more than it did them. Only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can ultimately save us.
We're in that battle now. We're in it today - from the time we get up in the morning until we lie down again at night - and it's an awful battle against all the forces of darkness! Oh tell Him, then, that He is your David, your Savior! Tell Him at the very beginning of the day that He's all the help you have - or need.
Then fight hard, knowing that He has accepted the challenge, that He voluntarily came to be your Savior and Lord, to lead you and show you the way in every battle against the world, the flesh and the Devil. It is to Him we appeal when we close our prayers by saying, "…through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen."