Summit, Littleborough - Psalm 41

Psalm 41 – O Lord, Be Gracious to Me

God’s kindness and truth have often been the support and comfort of the saints when they have had the worst of man’s unkindness and treachery. David found it to be on a sick-bed. He found his enemies very barbarous, but his God very gracious. Is any afflicted with sickness? let him sing the beginning of this psalm. Is any persecuted by enemies? let him sing the latter end of it. This Psalm causes us to meditate upon the calamities and the comforts of all good people in the world. O Lord, Be Gracious to Me.

[Slide right to left]
 Full of Truth and Grace
 Our God is full of truth
 His promises are always true
 Not one has ever failed
 Lord, I want none beside You.
 In life, He is my life,
 And in death, my life in death He shall be.
 In poverty Christ is my riches;
 In emptying myself, the fullness of Him I shall see.
 In sickness He makes my bed
 And causes me down to lie
 In brightness He is my sun;
 In darkness, my star in the sky.
 Jesus to me is all grace and no wrath
 All truth and no falsehood
 And of truth and grace He is infinitely full
 Yet still to me, like a flower in bud.
 The victory is assured
 No battle is there left to be won
 My soul, this day, bless with all your might
 “The only Begotten Son”.
 By the late Andrew Feakin 
 (passed away 16th March 2019)

Psalm 41 – A Psalm of David

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him. The 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. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed, in his illness You restore him to full health. As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!” My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?” And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity. When he goes out, he tells it abroad.

All who hate me whisper together about me, they imagine the worst for me. They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.” Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. But You, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them! By this I know that You delight in me. My enemy will not shout in triumph over me. But You have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in Your presence forever. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.

Blessed is he who considers the poor

Henry says – In these verses we have God’s promises of help and comfort to those who consider the poor. We can assume that David makes mention of these with regard to his friends, who were kind to him now that he was afflicted: Blessed is he who considers poor David. On these he pronounced this blessing, not doubting that God would recompense them for all the kindness they had done to him. However they can be applied to himself. David had considered the poor. When he was in honour and power at court he had taken notice of the wants and miseries of them and provided for their relief. Therefore he was sure God would, according to His promise, strengthen and comfort him in his sickness.

We can however regard them more generally to ourselves. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. It is required of us to consider the poor and afflicted, whether in mind, body or funds. These we are to consider with discretion and tenderness. We must take notice of their affliction and sympathise with them and be charitable to them. He who considers the poor (if he cannot relieve them, yet he considers them, and has a compassionate concern for them) shall be considered by his God. He shall not only be recompensed in the resurrection of the just, but he shall be blessed upon the earth

They shall be hidden

This branch of godliness has the promise of the life that is now and is usually recompensed with temporal blessings. Liberality to the poor is the surest and safest way of thriving. Those who practise it may be sure of seasonable and effectual relief from God in all their troubles. He will deliver them in the day of evil, so that when they are in the worst of times it shall go well with them. They shall not fall into the calamities which fall to others. If any be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger, they shall.

Those who are distinguished from those who have hard hearts, God will distinguish from hard seasons. Are they in danger? He will preserve and keep them alive. Do their enemies threaten them? God will not deliver them into the will of their enemies. The most potent enemy we have, can have no power against us, but what is given him from above. The good-will of a God who loves us is sufficient to secure us from the ill-will of all who hate us, men and devils. We may promise ourselves this good-will from the Lord if we have considered the poor and helped to relieve and rescue them.

We shall be particularly helped in sickness (Ps. 41:3): The Lord will strengthen him, both in body and mind, upon the bed of languishing, on which he had long lain sick. He will make all his bed, at ease. This refers to mothers for their children when they are sick, which is to make them comfortable. The bed which God makes will be well made. He will turn it into a bed of health.

He will strengthen them

God has promised His people that He will strengthen them, and make them at ease, under their bodily pains and sicknesses. He has not promised that they shall never be sick, nor that they shall not suffer long illnesses, nor that their sickness shall not be unto death. But He has promised to enable them to bear their affliction with patience, and cheerfully to wait for recovery. The soul shall, by His grace, be made to dwell at ease when the body lies in pain.

David’s prayer was directed and encouraged by these promises (Ps. 41:4): I said, Heal my soul. It is good for us to keep some account of our prayers, that we may not unsay, in practice, anything that we have said in our prayers. His humble petition was: Lord be merciful to me. He appeals to mercy, as one who knew he could not stand the test of strict justice. The best saints, even those who have been merciful to the poor, have not made God their debtor, but must throw themselves on His mercy.

When we are under the rod we must recommend ourselves to the tender mercy of our God: Lord, heal my soul. Sin is the sickness of the soul and pardoning mercy heals it. His renewing grace heals it and this type of spiritual healing we need to be more fervent for than for bodily health. David gave a penitent confession: “I have sinned against You, and therefore my soul needs healing. I am a sinner, a miserable sinner, therefore, God be merciful to me,” Luke 18:13.

It was a useful life

It does not appear that this has reference to any particular gross act of sin, but, in general, to his many sins of infirmity. Sins which his sickness set before him, and the dread of the consequences of which made him pray, Heal my soul.

David often complained of the insolent conduct of his enemies towards him when he was sick. They were very barbarous which was very grievous to him. They had not arrived at the point of the wickedness of poisoning his meat and drink, or giving him something to make him sick. But, when he was sick, they insulted him (Ps. 41:5): My enemies speak evil of me, designing to grieve his spirit, to ruin his reputation, and so to sink his life.

His enemies longed for his death: When shall he die, and his name perish with him? He had an uncomfortable life, and yet they grudged him even that. But it was a useful life. He was, upon all accounts, the greatest blessing of his country and yet, it seems, there were some who were sick of him. We ought to not desire the death of anyone. But to desire the death of useful men has much of the venom of the old serpent in it.

They envied his name, and the honour he had won, and believed that if he were dead, that that would be laid in the dust with him. Yet how they were mistaken. When he had served his generation he did die (Acts 13:36), but did his name perish? No, it lives and flourishes to this day in the sacred writings, and will to the end of time. For the memory of the just is, and shall be, blessed.

Visit the sick

They tried everything they could to disgrace him (Ps. 41:6): “If he come to see me” (as it has always been seen as neighbourly kindness to visit the sick) “he speaks vanity; that is, he pretends friendship, and that his errand is to mourn with me and to comfort me. He tells me he is very sorry to see me in such a state, and wishes me my health. But it is all flattery and falsehood.” We complain for the want of sincerity in our days, that there is scarcely any true friendship to be found. But it seems that the former days were no better than these.

David’s friends had nothing of true affection for him, for which they made profession of. Worst of all it was upon mischievous designs that they did come to see him. They made offensive remarks upon everything he said or did. They further represented him as they pleased to others so as to render him odious or ridiculous. His heart gathers iniquity to itself. If he complained of his illness, they would chide him for his cowardice. Yet if he scarcely complained at all, they would reproach him for his stupidity. If he prayed, or gave them good counsel, they would banter it, and call it canting (hypocritically pious). If he kept silent from speaking good, when the wicked were before him, they would say that he had forgotten his religion now that he was sick.

All the good he had done

There is no fence against those whose malice gathers iniquity. They whispered together against him (Ps. 41:7), speaking in one another’s ears which they could not speak out. Whisperers and backbiters are put together among the worst of sinners, Rom. 1:29, 30. They whispered, that their plot against him might not be discovered and so defeated. There is seldom whispering unless there is lying, or some mischief a foot. Those whisperers devised evil toward David. They concluded that he would die soon.

They contrived how they could undo all the good he had done for the people and how to prevent their own prosecution. This he calls devising hurt against him. They believed that they could gain their point: An evil disease (a thing of Belial), cleaves hard to him. In hoping that the disgrace with which they had loaded against his name would cleave so tightly to him they believed that it would perish with him. They went by a modern maxim, Fortiter calumniari, aliquid adhaerebit—Fling an abundance of slander, and some will be sure to stick.

“The disease he is now under will certainly make an end of him. For it is the punishment of some great crime, which he will not repent of. This proves him to be a son of Belial, however he appears.” Or, “It is inflicted by Satan, who is called Belial,” the wicked one2 Cor. 6:15. “It is a devilish disease, and therefore it will cleave tightly to him. Now that his state keeps him in his bed, he shall rise up no more. We shall get rid of him, and divide his spoils.” We are not to think it strange if, when good men are sick, there be those who celebrate it, which makes the world not worthy of them, Rev. 11:10.

We eat of His bread

There was one particular friend, probably Ahithophel, who had been his bosom-friend and prime-minister of state, in whom he trusted who did eat of his bread. Who had taken part with his enemies and was as abusive to him as them (Ps. 41:9): My own familiar friend. Those who had had their maintenance from the king’s palace should not think it appropriate for them to see the king’s dishonour (Ezek. 4:14), much less to do him dishonour. Yet this base and treacherous confidant of David’s forgot all the eaten bread, and lifted up his heel against him. He not only deserted him, but insulted him, kicked at him and endeavoured to supplant him.

They are wicked indeed when no good gesture done them, nor confidence rested in them, will suffice. Let us not think it strange if we receive abuses from such as these. David did, and the Son of David, for so did Judas the traitor. David here, in the Spirit, speaks of our Saviour who gave Judas his supper that the scripture might be fulfilled, He who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against meJohn 13:18, 26. Have we not ourselves behaved thus unfaithfully towards God? We eat of His bread daily, and yet are apt to lift up the heel and turn away from His voice.

Lord, be merciful to me

In dealing with the ill-natured conduct of his enemies David prayed to God that they might be disappointed. He said nothing to them, but turned himself to God: O Lord! be merciful to me, for they are unmerciful, Ps. 41:10. He had prayed in reference to the insults of his enemies, Lord, be merciful to me, for this is a prayer which will suit every case. God’s mercy has in it a remedy for every grievance, “They endeavour to run me down, but, Lord, raise me up from this bed of languishing, from which they think I shall never arise. Raise me up that I may render them good for evil”, for that was David’s practice, Ps. 7:4; 35:13.

A good man will even wish for an opportunity of making it to appear that he bears no malice to those who have been injurious to him. On the contrary, that he is ready to do them all good. He assured himself that they would be disappointed (Ps. 41:11): “By this I know that You favour me and my interest, because my enemy does not triumph over me.” They hoped for his death, but he found himself, through mercy, recovering, and this would add to his comfort in his recovery.

It would be a disappointment to his adversaries. They would be humbled and wretchedly ashamed. Though we may not take pleasure in the fall of our enemies, we may take pleasure in the frustration of their plans against us. David’s recovery would be a token of God’s favour to him, and a certain evidence that He did favour him, and would continue to do so. When we can discern the favour of God to us in any mercy, personal or public, that doubles it and sweetens it.

You uphold me

David depended upon God, who had delivered him from many an evil work, to preserve him to His heavenly kingdom, as also said Paul, 2 Tim. 4:18. “As for me, as a fruit of Your favour toward me, You uphold me in my integrity, and set me before Your face. Your eye is always upon me for good.” When at any time our reputation suffers, our chief concern should be about our integrity. For then we may cheerfully leave it to God to secure our reputation. David knows that if he can persevere in his integrity, he needs not fear the triumph of his enemies over him.

The best man in the world holds his integrity no longer than God upholds him in it. For by His grace we are what we are. If we be left to ourselves, we shall not only fall, but fall away. It is a great comfort to us that, however weak we are, God is able to uphold us in our integrity. If we commit the keeping of it to Him, then we will continue in it. His eye is always upon us, or else we would soon step aside from Him. Those whom God upholds in their integrity, He will set before His face forever. He who endures to the end shall be saved.

He has done great things

The psalm concludes with a solemn adoration of God as the Lord God of IsraelPs. 41:13. This Psalm teaches us that a believing hope of our preservation through grace to glory is enough. Enough to fill our hearts with joy and our mouths with everlasting praise, even when in our direst straits. We are to make God the Omega who is the Alpha, to make Him the end who is the beginning of every good work. We are taught to give glory to God as the Lord God of Israel, a God in covenant with His people.

He has done great and kind things for them and has more and better things in reserve. We are to give Him glory as an eternal God, who has both His being and His blessedness from everlasting and to everlasting. We are to do this with great affection and fervour of spirit, intimated in the double seal set to it—Amen, and Amen. So be it now, so be it to all eternity. We say Amen to it, and let all others say Amen too.

Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary

Prayer for the Day

Father, I come to You. May I always be one who considers the poor and afflicted with discretion and tenderness. May I take notice of their affliction and sympathise with them and be charitable to them. In so doing I know that I shall be considered by You, for liberality to the poor is the surest and safest way of thriving. I know that in practicing it, I may be sure of seasonable and effectual relief from You in all my troubles. When I am in the worst of times it shall go well with me. Thank You for Your promise that says I will be hidden in the day of Your anger.

You have assured me of Your love for me and Your good-will is sufficient to secure me from the ill-will of all who hate me. You have promised to enable me to bear my affliction with patience, and to cheerfully wait for recovery. May I remember that the best of saints, even those who have been merciful to the poor, can never make You their debtor, but must throw ourselves on Your mercy.

May I be one who wishes for an opportunity of making it to appear that I bear no malice to those who have been injurious to me. On the contrary, that I am ready to do them all good. I depend on You, who has delivered me from many an evil work, to preserve me to Your heavenly Kingdom. You uphold me in my integrity, and set me before Your face. Thank You that Your eye is always upon me for good.

May I cheerfully leave it with You

When at any time my reputation suffers, may my chief concern be about my integrity. For then I may cheerfully leave it to You to secure my reputation. However weak I am, I know that You are able to uphold me in my integrity. If I commit the keeping of it to You then I will continue in it. Your eye is always upon me. Keep me from ever stepping aside from You. Uphold me in my integrity and set me before Your face forever.

Keep me in a believing hope of my preservation through grace to glory. Fill my heart with joy and my mouth with everlasting praise. You are a God in covenant with Your people. You have done great and kind things for us and have more and better things to come. I give You all the glory as the eternal God with great affection and fervour of spirit. And all the good You do to me, help me to infuse those around me. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Psalm 41

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