Read: Psalm 41:1 – 3; Job 31
Psalm 41 is the last of the four psalms, 38 – 41, believed in rabbinical tradition to have been written by David in response to a severe illness which he suffered because of God’s discipline for sin. It is the last psalm of the first of the five books of psalms, and is followed by several psalms of the “sons of Korah” and one psalm of Asaph, before Davidic psalms resume again with Psalm 51. The psalm begins with a picture of an ideal spirituality to which David aspired: a spirituality which “considers the poor.” The Hebrew word translated “considers” comes from a root meaning “to show discernment, to understand.” There are six Hebrew root words used to refer to poverty in the Old Testament. In Psalm 41:1 David chose dal, which can also mean lowly and weak, and refers to those who are poor due to their difficult lot in life, for example, subsistence farmers.
Think About It: According to Psalm 41:1 – 3 what does the Lord do for those who consider the poor? According to Job’s defense in Job 31, what are some ways that he “considered the poor”? What are some ways that I can “consider the poor”?
Prayer: Lord, grant me the grace and wisdom to show compassion towards the powerless and oppressed, as You do.
Read: Psalm 41:4; Psalm 103:3; Psalm 147:3; Jeremiah 17:14; Mark 2:3 – 5; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 1:9
While David defined the spirituality towards which he aspired in the first three verses of Psalm 41, in the phrase “As for me” which begins verse 4 David seems to have recognized that he hadn’t achieved that ideal. His aspirations towards a godly spiritual life had been tragically deferred by his sin, for which he suffered from God’s discipline. David admitted his sin to God and asked God to heal him. The Hebrew can be translated not just “heal me,” but “heal my soul.” Physically sick though he was, David recognized that his first need was for the salvation of his soul. Jesus taught the priority of forgiveness over healing by His actions and words in Mark 2:3 – 12.
Think About It: Why is it more important to be healed in my soul than to be healed in my body? David’s prayer in Psalm 41:4 contains an admission that he had sinned; in this he was agreeing with God’s assessment of his actions. The essence of the first sin against God (Genesis 3:5 – 6) was to reject God’s definition of sin, and to “be like God, knowing (the Hebrew contains the idea of “deciding for yourself”) what is good and evil.” Am I prepared to accept God’s definition of what is right and wrong?
Prayer: Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.
Read: Psalm 41:5, 7, 8; Psalm 38:12; Psalm 71:10 – 11
Because of his sin, David suffered not only illness, but the depredations of his enemies, who wished for God’s discipline to result for David in shortened life and the perishing of his influence, and who imagined the worst for him. If this is what enemies do, it is interesting to consider the reverse of this as a definition of friendship: wishing for a long life for our friends, and the establishment of their influence, and imagining and wishing the best for them. The enemies of David who wished for his name (and therefore influence) to perish have been totally frustrated. Three thousand years after his death we are still pondering David’s songs. Apparently David had nothing to worry about concerning the ill wishes of his enemies!
Think About It: Am I a good friend to my friends? How does Jesus fit the “reverse of an enemy” definition of friendship suggested in Psalm 41:5, 7, 8?
Prayer: Thank you Jesus for being my first, last, and best friend.
Read: Psalm 41:6, 9; 2 Samuel 15:12; Proverbs 18:24; John 15:13 – 15
David suffered from the duplicity of a false friend, regarded by David as close and trustworthy, who pretended kindness but only came to see him to gather evidence against him that he might go out and tell everyone what he learned. Ahithophel, David’s friend and counselor who joined Absalom’s rebellion, is the prime biblical example of a false friend. If a true friend is the opposite of a false friend, Psalm 41:6 and 9 provide a helpful definition of true friendship: speaking words that are full of meaning to our friend; seeking out and encouraging what is righteous in our friend; telling others what is good about our friend; remaining constant and true in our friendship.
Think About It: Am I a true friend to my friends? How is Jesus a true friend to me according to the “reverse definition” of Psalm 41:6 and 9? Am I a true friend of Jesus?
Prayer: Jesus, help me to be a true friend to You.
Read: Psalm 41:10 – 11; 2 Samuel 3:39; Matthew 5:43 – 44; Romans 12:19
David prayed for strength that he might repay his enemies. The Commentary Critical and Explanatory says of this prayer, “A lawful punishment of criminals is not revenge, nor inconsistent with their final good.” While David’s imprecatory prayers are sometimes criticized, his actual request of God regarding his enemies was not particularly harsh, and his behavior towards those enemies was far more magnanimous than was typical of other eastern kings (for example 2 Samuel 18:25; 19:21 – 23). David did not ask the Lord for the slaughter of his enemies, but only that they not be permitted to shout in triumph over him.
Think About It: Am I a vengeful person – do I try to “settle the score” when I am wronged? Am I willing to leave vengeance to the Lord? Do I pray for those who hate me or hurt me?
Prayer: Lord, please help me to be forgiving person who seeks to restore and rebuild.
Read: Psalm 41:4, 12; Romans 4:1 – 8, 20 – 24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21
How could David claim that he had integrity in Psalm 41:12, when in Psalm 41:4 he had already admitted that he had sinned against God? The answer: his integrity was not in his own perfection, but in his honest confession and plea for God’s grace. David’s integrity was that righteousness that was imputed by God, and because of this he had the assurance of eternal reward. Ironically, the person who strives for righteousness in his own strength can never have the assurance that God will set him in His presence forever, because he can never be sure that he has been good enough. And he never can be good enough, because God’s standard is absolute perfection.
Think About It: Where does “imputed righteousness” come from, and how do I get it? Have I got it? Why is assurance of eternal salvation possible?
Prayer: Praise Jesus Christ, who is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
Read: Psalm 41:13, 72:18 – 19; 89:52; 106:48; 150:6; 1 John 3:2
Each of the five books into which the psalms are divided ends with a blessing similar to Psalm 41:13. This verse is not only a marker for the division between books one and two, but a fitting end to the psalm. David blessed and gave glory to the God of Israel, because he knew God deserved all of the credit for his salvation. He referred to the God of Israel, because Israel was the people of God, and Israel was also the name of the Patriarch who had been called Jacob. Jacob the Usurper, the Grasper, changed by the grace of God into Israel, “Prince with God.”
Think About It: Before I met Christ, who did I used to be? Who am I now, and what am I becoming, thanks to the grace of God? Am I careful (and joyful) to give God all the glory?
Prayer: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.