Theme: The Psalmist’s Confidence
In this week’s lessons we see that there is a connection between how we treat other people and what we want the Lord to do for us.
Scripture: Psalm 41:1-13
Yesterday we looked at three things people were doing against David. Today we begin by looking at the fourth.
The worst thing of all was that David has been betrayed by his close friend (v. 9). This may have happened more than once in David’s life and no doubt did. But the situation in the psalm is adequately accounted for or at least well illustrated by the betrayal of Ahithophel, David’s trusted counselor, at the time of Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam. 16:15-17:23).
Part of this verse was used by Jesus to explain the betrayal of Judas, saying that it was to fulfill Scripture (John 13:18). This has led some commentators to regard the entire psalm as messianic. But there is no reason to regard the whole of Psalm 41 as messianic, just because the sixth through eighth verses of that psalm are applied to Jesus by the author of Hebrews.
Verse 10 has also been a problem for some people, since David is asking to be raised up so “that I may repay them [his enemies].” The words have a vindictive ring, which is startling and seems inconsistent with David’s conduct toward his enemies elsewhere. We also know the entirely different standard for Christians modeled by the Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed even for those who were crucifying him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). However, there is a difference between the standards binding upon David as the king of Israel and those applying to him as a private person. If the speaker is David and he is conscious of his divine appointment to be king, he might well pray to be restored to power in order to punish traitors as they deserve, while in other cases as an individual he would leave vengeance to Jehovah (cf. 1 Sam. 25:33; 2 Sam. 3:39). Leupold says, “It may be added that punishment of treason is among the duties of a faithful ruler. Our soft age has largely overlooked this responsibility in its overly sympathetic attitude toward all miscreants.”2
Verses 11 and 12 express the psalmist’s confidence in God even in the midst of his sickness and the taunts and ill will of his enemies. Here the tone of the psalm reverts to that of the beginning, where David expressed his persuasion that in the times of their trouble the Lord delivers those who have regard for the weak. David had lived by that standard; therefore, he is assured that the Lord will not abandon him now.
As a matter of fact, his expression is even stronger than this since it is in the present tense, saying not “you will be pleased with me, my enemy will not triumph over me, and you will uphold me,” but rather “you are pleased with me,” “my enemy does not triumph over me,” and “you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.” This means, “You are pleased with me even though my sickness causes many to think you are not, my enemy does not triumph over me even though I am sick and he is in health and working against me—you are keeping him at bay—and you are upholding me even in this low period.” This is a great testimony, but it has been the testimony of the saints down through the ages since believers maintain that they triumph not only when things go well, but in defeat also.
The saints have their share of victories. But they also triumph at other times, times that the world would call defeats. They are always victorious. As for the world, its defeats are unmitigated by any breath of triumph, and even its triumphs are tarnished by the specter of God’s sure and pending judgment of sin.
What objection has been raised concerning verse 10, and how is it best understood?
Describe the attitude of a weak person who has seen God’s mercy.
Application: Perhaps you are trying to cope with having been betrayed by a close friend, or you know someone who is. How can this psalm help you to address it in a biblical way?
2H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 334.