The occasion for Psalm 41 is the aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba. God had told David “the sword shall never depart from your house…Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house” (2 Samuel 12.10-11). A couple years after this prophecy is uttered, Absalom, David’s son, steals the hearts of the people (ch.15) & performs a coup to steal the throne from David. Sick & on the run, with the sword of his own house in his back, David pens this Psalm. The main idea of this Psalm is that God’s blessings are upon the man of integrity. What do you do when you’ve been stabbed in the back? Psalm 41 speaks a word from to God to the betrayed.
The Beatitude of the Social Worker (1-3)
1Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
Consider the Poor (1a): The bliss of God belongs to those who give attention to poor/weak and treat them proper. “Poor” here could be the impoverished, tho David saw himself as “poor & needy” (40.17). Could be the humiliated & weak. Not merely in thought (“bless their hearts”) but in action (cf. 1 Jn 3.18). Brethren, we’ve done some of this; let us seek to do this even more.
In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;
2the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.
Count Your Blessings (1b-3): The common denominator of all these is peace. 1) Deliverance (1b): “Day of trouble” or “evil day” (cf. Ephesians 6.13, any day the evil one or evil ones come against you). 2) Protection (2a): Mortal life is kept by the immortal God. 3) Prosperity (2b): material & financial blessing in the land. 4) Sustenance (3a): YHWH is the God of health so when you’re sick He sees you thru it. 5) Restoration (3b): YWHW ensures you make a full recovery after illness.
YHWH’s deliverance in the evil day; His protection from foes and keeping you alive; how blessed you are in life; God seeing you thru sickness & bringing about full recovery – all of these blessings are related to how you treat the poor. You are blessed with these IF you consider the poor. Think about how much we pray for the sick among us; God answering those prayers is directly related to how we treat the poor. Your peace is related to how you treat the poor, the little guy. God cares for them; we should too.
The Plea of the Sick Warrior (4-9)
4As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
Heal Me (4): “Be gracious to me” is a common plea found throughout the Psalms (15 x’s in the Psalms; twice in this Psalm). We especially need God’s grace when we “have sinned against You.” Herein is why sin is most grievous: it is directed toward God. So David cries out for healing (lit. heal my soul), body & soul, the whole being because of sickness & sin.
5My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?”
6And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
7All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.
8They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.”
9Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
Help Me (5-9): Verse 5: Modern vernacular – “Drop dead!” This is akin to Ike Taylor in Tombstone saying “I hope you die” to Doc Holiday after losing to him in gambling. But also, may there be no memory of him in the pages of history. Wow!
Verse 6: Lies are crafted & spread abroad. “It is perfectly marvelous how spite spins webs out of no materials whatsoever” (Spurgeon).
Verse 7: Many commentators put the writing of this Psalm when David was running for his life from his son Absalom. One of his advisers, Ahithophel, seems to now hate David, advising Absalom to go kill David & he would lead the charge (2 Samuel 17).
Verse 8: “deadly thing” or “evil disease” (NKJV) seems to indicate David has fallen ill. Meanwhile, his enemies gloat over this.
Verse 9: For David, Ahithophel, his adviser, had betrayed him, stabbed him in the back. Further, when Ahithophel realizes his advice has not been taken by Absalom, he goes home & hangs himself (2 Samuel 17.23). Why did he betray David? Why such a violent response when his advice is rejected?
Ahithophel had a son named Eliam who was one of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23.34). That’s the same group Urijah ran with. He was married to Bathsheba whom David committed adultery with back in 2 Samuel 12. Want to take a guess who Bathsheba’s daddy was? 2 Samuel 11.3, Eliam, making her Ahithophel’s granddaughter. AND if David could do what he did to Urijah…what’s stopping him from doing this to my son? This was his chance to finally get David after years of his rage simmering. Bitterness, hatred, anger, revenge…this stuff ate him alive.
Help Me Again: While this certainly explains David’s situation, being a prophet he spoke of Christ. Indeed, the latter portion of verse 9 is quoted in John 13.18 by Jesus of Judas. Truly, you go through these verses & Christ is seen in each of them. Though He was sinless, He certainly needed the grace of God (v.4). His malicious enemies did want Him to die & His name to be forgotten (v.5). Their hearts were full of iniquity & they crafted lies to convict Him (v.6). The chief priests & Pharisees imagined the worst for Him, even death on a cross (v.7). They were so adamant about Him not rising from the grave they posted guards at His tomb (v.8). And it was Judas who betrayed Him, even one of His disciples (v.9).
The Prayer of a Sincere Worshiper (10-13)
10But you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!
11By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
Imprecation (10-11): “I may repay him.” For self-revenge? No, but the righteousness of God is at stake because these guys are seeking to hurt the Lord’s anointed, something even David did not dare do though he had opportunity. As his kingly duty required of him (cf. Romans 13.4), he would change their shouts of victory into cries of mourning or silence them permanently. But that would be the sign that God took pleasure in His servant. NT Update: Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1.8-10.
12But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.
Integrity (12): David is confident that he has treated the poor, weak, emarginated right. In fact, although at one point he had a “lame” policy for his kingdom (2 Sam 5.8). However, when it came to Jonathan’s relative Mephibosheth, who was crippled, David allowed him to eat at his table. So David too longs to sit in the King’s presence forever.
13Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.
Invocation (13): As this Psalm closes & as Book 1 of the Psalms closes, we have a final exclamation praising God.
Again, David’s deliverance was related to how he treated the poor/weak. This was his integrity. When you’re stabbed in the back, that may be all you have. Keep looking to God’s grace, His blessings during these hard times.