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For the Chief Musician. A Psalm to/for David.
This Psalm is offered to the person responsible for the sacred music, or the choirmaster, and is of the Davidic collection. ‘To (or ‘for’) David’ may indicate that it was dedicated to David, written for the Davidic house, or even written by David himself.
The Psalm opens with David bewailing an illness which has left him in a weak state, and declaring that those who have consideration for him in that state will be blessed by YHWH. Indeed, he declares that it is YHWH Who will support him on his sickbed, and is in process of restoring him (‘has turned his lying down in his sickness’).
He frankly admits that his suffering is partly due to his sinfulness, and asks for God’s mercy to be shown to him, but at the same time he bewails the fact that his enemies are taking advantage of the situation and are speaking against him, hoping for his death. They come to see him, as befits a king, but it is clear that it is all a false front, and is simply so that they can talk glibly to him, and then take lying tales about his situation to the outer world, where there is much whispering and expectation of his death.
What saddens him most is that even one who was close to him, whom he had trusted, and who had eaten bread with him, had proved false.
He prays that YHWH will raise him up from his sickbed, and enable him to requite himself on such enemies. Indeed he is so certain that this will be so that he considers that it demonstrates that YHWH delights in him, something further proved by the assurance that he has that YHWH will not allow his enemies to triumph over him. And he closes the Psalm by expressing his confidence that God will uphold him in his integrity, and will indeed set him before His face for ever.
Many relate it to the machinations and plottings of Absalom as being at a time when David was going through a severe illness. Such an illness would explain why he was caught so totally unawares. The treacherous friend is then seen as being Ahithophel. But the very dedication of the Psalm to the Chief Musician gives it a ‘universal’ application to believers.
Blessing Is Pronounced On The One Who Considers The Sick King In His Illness, And A Prayer Is Made For The Deliverance And Recovery Of The Sick King (Psalms 41:1-3 ).
‘Blessed is he who considers the weak,
YHWH will deliver him in the day of evil.
YHWH will preserve him,
And will keep him alive,
And he will be blessed on the earth.
And do not deliver him to the will of his enemies.
YHWH will support him on the couch of languishing,
You have turned his lying down in his sickness.’
This first section of the book of Psalms commenced with a declaration of blessedness, on those who meditate in God’s Instruction day and night, and here it ends with a description of the blessedness of those who give consideration to the weak. We may think in terms of, ‘blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy’ (Matthew 5:7).
That David sees himself as one of the weak and needy has already come out in Psalms 40:17, so that in the first instance it is David who is in mind. He was clearly going through a severe illness, severe enough for his enemies to hope that it would bring about his end.
God’s blessing on those who consider the weak and helpless is considered to be threefold:
· He will deliver him in the day of evil so that he might escape the worst of that evil, in the same way as he himself seeks to deliver the weak and helpless from evil.
· He will preserve him and keep him alive, just as he seeks to keep alive the weak and helpless.
· Such a one will be blessed on the earth, because he has been a blessing.
‘And do not deliver him to the will of his enemies. YHWH will support him on the couch of languishing. You have turned his lying down in his sickness.’ This may be seen as continuing the thought of the first line (with lines 2-5 being seen as an interjection), thus being a prayer for the weak and helpless that he might not be delivered to the will of his enemies, and confidently asserting YHWH’s support for him on his sick bed, and declaring that the illness has turned so that he will soon now recover from his sickness. Or the sixth line may be seen as a prayer for the one being blessed, and a request that he too might be helped when he is ill.
Thus we have here a prayer of gratitude for the aid provided to a person in their illness by those who have their interests at heart, which includes the desire that they might be blessed. Such people were very important in David’s case because they were maintaining the kingdom and keeping his throne safe.
The Psalmist Acknowledges That His Problems Partly Arise Because Of His Own Sinfulness, And Then Explains To YHWH About The Behaviour Of His Enemies (Psalms 41:4-9 ).
‘I said, O YHWH, have mercy on me,
Heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.
Lying on his sick bed the Psalmist has been made to face up to his own sins. And he confesses his sin to God and prays that He will have mercy on him and heal him wholly within. There is nothing like an illness for making us face up to the truth about ourselves.
My enemies speak evil against me, saying,
“When will he die, and his name perish?”
And if he come to see me,
He speaks falsehood,
His heart gathers iniquity to itself,
When he goes abroad, he tells it.’
‘All who hate me whisper together against me,
Against me do they devise my hurt.
“An evil disease,” say they, “cleaves fast to him,
And now that he lies he will rise up no more.”
He explains to God the behaviour of his enemies towards him;
· They are looking forward to his death, constantly asking how soon it will come.
· They come to see him, pretending to be loyal, when all the time he knows very well that once they leave his sick room they spread abroad anything that is derogatory to him and continually add to the rumours of his soon demise.
Behind his words there clearly lies a plea that God will observe their behaviour and counteract it.
‘An evil disease.’ Literally ‘a thing of Belial’. They might have intended by this that in their view David was stricken because of his wickedness. Thus his death must be seen as certain.
‘Yes, my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted,
Who did eat of my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.’
What grieves him most is that one of his closest friends, to whom he has demonstrated such love and generosity, even inviting him to the king’s g’s table, has taken the part of his enemies and has acted against him.
In John 13:18 these words are applied by Jesus to the behaviour of Judas. He was saying that what had happened to David himself, had also now happened to great David’s greater son. It was the fate of all who truly served God.
He Prays For Healing And Expresses His Certainty That God Will Help Him Against His Enemies, Confident Also That God Upholds His Integrity And Has Indeed Set Him Before His Face For Ever (Psalms 41:10-12 ).
‘But you, O YHWH, have mercy on me, and raise me up,
That I may requite them.
By this I know that you delight in me,
Because my enemy does not triumph over me.’
‘And as for me, you uphold me in my integrity,
And set me before your face for ever.’
The Psalmist prays that God will heal him and raise him up so that he might deal with his enemies as they deserve and maintain the throne for YHWH (we must remember that they were seeking to introduce the dreadful evil of civil war into his kingdom), and expresses his joy in recognising that his deliverance reveals that God delights in him. It demonstrates that God is upholding him in his integrity, and has set him before His face for ever.
We should note that the reason that he does expect God to uphold him is because of his integrity. It is not simply because he is God’s ‘favourite’ as such, but because he is also loyal and true to YHWH and walks in His ways. That indeed is why He sets him before His face for ever. To be ‘set before His face for ever’ is to be living in His presence and under His protection, knowing that His eye is ever upon him, both now and for ever. We note here again David’s assurance of God’s eternal interest in him (compare Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 23:6). This is especially emphatic in the light of the following reference to ‘from everlasting to everlasting’. He has at this moment eternity in his heart.
Blessed be YHWH, the God of Israel,
From everlasting and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.
The Psalm then ends with words which not only conclude the Psalm but also the whole section. They declare a blessing on YHWH the God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting. May He be blessed and praised for ever! Amen and amen.
Final Thoughts On The Psalm.
It is interesting how much of this Psalm might be seen as applying to the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
· He also became ‘weak and sickly’ on our behalf, for ‘He bore our infirmities and carried our diseases’ (Matthew 8:17).
· He also was brought low by the burden that he was carrying (Matthew 26:36-45).
· He was constantly visited by enemies who outwardly professed genuine interest but were in fact continually spreading lies about Him and plotting against Him.
· In His case too a close friend betrayed Him (John 13:18).
· He also cried for God to raise Him up and rejoiced in the favour shown to Him by His triumphant resurrection as a result of which all His enemies were defeated (John 12:31-32; Matthew 28:18; Colossians 2:15).
· He also was raised because of His integrity and set before His Father’s face for ever more (Ephesians 1:19-23; 1 Peter 3:22). And to Him also be glory for ever and ever (Romans 9:5).
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 41". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25