Summary: The blessing and suffering of God's people.
BLESSING, LAMENT, AND BLESSED ASSURANCE.
This is a Psalm of David. It is quite possibly about David. It is also about our Lord Jesus (except that Jesus has no personal sin to confess, unlike Psalm 41:4). It is even quoted by Jesus (Psalm 41:9; cf. John 13:18). It is also about His people, who are so often despised for doing good, and about whom fake news is spread at the slightest suspicion that they may have stumbled (cf. Job’s friends)!
To “consider” the poor is not simply to throw a coin at him, but to look at his afflictions not so much as a thing he must somehow have deserved (a common error, cf. John 9:1-3), but to recognise him as a fellow human being who has fallen on hard times. It is interesting to notice that our Lord Jesus ‘became poor that we might become rich’ in Him (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). And He taught, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (cf. Acts 20:35; Luke 14:12-14).
The Psalmist goes on to develop the thought of the LORD’s deliverance:
Psalm 41:2. He shall “preserve” his soul (cf. Psalm 121:7). He shall “keep him alive”: an abundance of life in the here and now (cf. John 10:10). “He shall be blessed in the earth”: the widow’s cruse of oil did not dry up ‘for many days’ after she had fed the prophet - not until the drought was over (cf. 1 Kings 17:14-16)! “Thou wilt not deliver him unto his enemies” (cf. Psalm 37:32-33).
Psalm 41:3. “The LORD will strengthen him in all his languishing” and, literally, “make his bed” in his sickness. The tender bedside manner of the Great Physician (cf. Psalm 73:26), who died on a Cross on our behalf! It is in such times of affliction that we find ‘grace sufficient’, and ‘strength in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Psalm 41:4-10 takes the form of a lament. Even Jesus had to go through the dark night of Gethsemane. But Jesus had no personal sin to confess: He ‘knew no sin’; He ‘did no sin’; and ‘in Him is no sin’ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
Psalm 41:4. The first stop for David (and us) was confession of sin. ‘Against you, you only have I sinned’ was his former plea (cf. Psalm 51:4). All sin is against God, but He stands ever ready to “heal” all our ‘backsliding’ (cf. Hosea 14:4).
Psalm 41:5. “My enemies speak evil of me.” Consider how many times, in all four Gospels, that the various religious groups plotted together to destroy Jesus! “When shall He die?” said they (cf. Psalm 38:12). As is the Master, so is the servant (cf. John 15:20).
Psalm 41:6. The enemy offers cold comfort when he visits the blessed man in the bed of languishing: “he speaks vanity.” His visit is hypocritical: far from offering comfort, “his heart gathers iniquity to itself” (cf. Proverbs 26:24-25). He seizes upon the rags and bones of gossip, that he may “tell it forth abroad.”
Psalm 41:7. “Whispering.” “Devising my hurt.” This is not paranoia. Absalom’s counsellors plotted together against David. The chief priests and the elders of the people plotted against Jesus (cf. Matthew 26:3-4). Church history is no doubt littered with unholy alliances against God’s people. ‘The devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour’ (cf. 1 Peter 5:8).
Psalm 41:8. The enemies wish him dead. Bullies like to kick their victim when he is down. Far from the taunt of “he shall rise no more,” Jesus, though dead, would “rise” again, and we in Him.
Psalm 41:9. Jesus prophesied from this text concerning the traitor Judas (cf. John 13:18-19). Interestingly Judas, though he did “eat of the bread” of Jesus, did not stay around long enough to partake of the first Communion.
Psalm 41:10. This is the climax of the complaint: another appeal for mercy, and that the LORD would “raise” him up. David survived the rebellion, and Jesus rose again from the dead, and we in Him. We may draw strength from this fact.
Psalm 41:11-12. The Psalmist concludes his composition with an assurance of the LORD’s favour, protection, and support, and envisages himself in His presence “for ever.” This is the ‘blessed assurance’ of all who are in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 41:13. How apt, then, the benediction which ends this section of the book of Psalms: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.”