Sacrifice and offering you do not desire; but you have given me an open ear [or “ears you have dug for me”]; Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Psalm 40:6
The strange phrase about an open ear or dug out ear makes this verse seem awkward, but it has become one of my favorites. The ear reference comes from Deuteronomy 15:15-17. In the instructions about indentured servants if the indenture was over but the person wanted to continue to serve in the household, the head of the household would pierce the ear of the one who had agreed to serve willingly.
This would only be done when the servant had been given freedom because any debts were paid in full. I assume, there would have to be an ear ring inserted in the pierced ear so that the person’s status would be known.
In light of the indentured servant instructions Psalm 40:6 could be paraphrased, “you don’t require me to burn offerings to you, but you have made me willing to serve you out of love.” Doing good because it is required or is a duty will not lead us to the same place that love will.
Any declaration of willingness to serve would not be seen as genuine if one still felt there were debts to pay. When Christians spend so much time talking about the price Jesus paid for their sins it is difficult to separate a sense of duty from a loving response. Debts and duties are incurred in human society, but not in relationship to God.
Without the church language, the bottom line is love life for it is a gift, and willingly serve to make life better.