Scripture reading – Psalm 41

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Today’s Bible study is taken from Psalm 41, which was believed to have been penned by David at a low point in his life. The setting is uncertain; however, it appears the king was recovering from sickness and was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Blessed Are the Compassionate (Psalm 41:1-2)

Psalm 41:1-2 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands; comprehends] the poor [weak; sick; needy]: the LORD will deliver [save; rescue] him in time of trouble [injury; misery; misfortune].

2  The LORD will preserve [keep watch; guard] him, and keep him alive [revive; restore; sustain]; and he shall be blessed [prosperous; happy] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe].

Whatever the circumstances, the king rehearsed the LORD’s promise that He hears and heeds the cries of His people. Those who show compassion to others are “blessed” (Psalm 41:1), for the LORD keeps watch over them (Psalm 41:2). Should an enemy seek advantage in one’s hour of weakness, David assured God’s people that the LORD never abandons His own to the will of an adversary (Psalm 41:2).

A Comfort to the Sick and Afflicted (Psalm 41:3-4)

Psalm 41:3-4 3 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [illness; sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; i.e., describing the care of a nurse] all his bed in his sickness [disease; malady].  

4  I said, LORD, be merciful [gracious; show favor] unto me: heal [cure; purify] my soul [life]; for I have sinned [committed sin; guilty] against thee.”

David tossed and turned on his bed as sorrow and disappointment washed over him like the storm waves of the sea. He spent sleepless nights praying and waiting on the LORD to heal him (Psalm 41:3).  He searched his soul, confessed his sin, and believed God would show Him mercy and restore him (Psalm 41:4).

The Cruelty of Hypocritical Friends (Psalm 41:5-8)

Psalm 41:5-6  Mine enemies speak [charge] evil [sin; wickedness] of me, When shall he die [be slain], and his name [fame; honor] perish [destroyed]?

6  And if he [enemy; adversary] come to see [look upon; behold] me, he speaketh [declares] vanity [deceit; lies]: his heart gathereth [collect; heap; take up] iniquity [sin; wickedness] to itself; when he goeth [go forth] abroad [in the streets], he telleth [speak; say; talk] it.

The king did not identify his enemies by name. Still, he knew they took pleasure in his illness, and they wondered aloud, “When shall he die?” (Psalm 41:5). His adversaries were not content with his death but anticipated that David’s name, fame, and esteem in the land would perish with him. Notice also that his enemies were not necessarily adversaries of his country but might have been his family, friends, and some in his innermost circle.

David’s enemies were close enough to see his pain and pretend to pity him, only to go their way and gloat about his troubles (Psalm 41:6). I believe that Psalm 41:7-8 revealed David’s foes were close to him. The king wrote,

Psalm 41:7-8  “All that hate me whisper [mumble] together [i.e., in chorus] against me: against me do they devise [imagine; fabricate] my hurt [misery; trouble].

8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

We expect to be the object of cruelty from our enemies, but David’s friends (and perhaps his family) reveled in his sorrows. Rather than empathy, they enjoyed adding to his miseries (Psalm 41:7). Those embittered souls waited for the king to die, perhaps to enrich themselves with power, position, and possessions (Psalm 41:8).

Betrayed by a Friend and Confidant (Psalm 41:9)

Psalm 41:9   “Yea, mine own familiar [close] friend, in whom I trusted [a confidant], which did eat [devour; consume] of my bread [food; meal], hath lifted up his heel [foot] against me [magnified himself].

Psalm 41:9 affords us a glimpse into the personal nature of the betrayal that had befallen David. Ahithophel’s betrayal, a man whom the king would have counted as a “familiar friend” (Psalm 41:9), would have been a bitter experience for David. He had been the king’s confidant but also Bathsheba’s grandfather. Embittered by David’s adultery and sins against his household, Ahithophel joined Absalom’s insurrection against the king (2 Samuel 16:23). In David’s words, such an adversary had “lifted up his heel” and sought to grind the king under his heel.

Of course, our LORD experienced the same disloyalty when Judas delivered Him to His adversaries with a kiss of betrayal (Luke 22:47-48).

A Doxology of Praise (Psalm 41:10-13)

Psalm 41:10-13 – “But thou, O LORD, be merciful [be gracious; show me favor] unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them. [reward them for the evil his enemies had done]

11  By this I know that thou favourest [delight in] me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me.

12  And as for me, thou upholdest [support; give him justice] me in mine integrity [innocence], and settest me before thy face [presence] for ever.

13  Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.”

Closing thoughts –

Psalm 41 has given us a window into the heart of a broken man. Some reading today’s Scripture can identify with David’s disappointments and empathize with his sorrows. However, David did not stay there! His hope was renewed when the king turned his thoughts from his sufferings to the LORD (Psalm 41:10-13). He was encouraged that the LORD would show him grace and mercy.

Suffering friend, take a lesson from David’s life and remember: God favors those who trust Him. (Psalm 41:11-13)

A Devotional Addendum to Today’s Devotional:

Permit me the liberty of a current application that parallels David’s commentary on his enemies (some of whom were family and friends). I have observed the same selfish spirit in our culture. I have witnessed family waiting like vultures to claim their inheritance from a sick, dying loved one. Rather than comfort and compassion, they plot and quarrel among themselves, anticipating the opportunity to claim the fruit of the life and labor of another. 

The spirit David identified in his enemies has become indicative of modern cultures. Marxist movements and organizations incite youth who have never built or accomplished anything with their lives to tear down memorials to those who have. Leftists urge lawless youth with no knowledge of history to erase the names and memories of their predecessors and the nation’s founders. Statutes and memorials have been torn down. The names of men and women have been erased from buildings. History is denied as historical figures are expunged from books and monuments. We are left with the dreaded consequence that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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