Do you feel broken? Sick? Chewed-up and spit-out by life’s issues? In today’s world, it’s easy to feel numb from the constant barrage of bad news and division within our own communities. When the world feels the hopeless, the Bible proves to be our only source of lasting hope. Read this quick & encouraging commentary on Psalm 41 – written by David when he was at his lowest.

The below commentary is adapted from the
Holman Old & New Testament Commentary Set


Betrayed, Broken, but Blessed – Psalm 41

“The merciful fall into the arms of mercy.”
J.P. Lange

I. Introduction

One of the best tests of any believer’s spiritual condition is not what he is when he is succeeding. Rather, the greatest disclosure of what he is occurs as he responds to suffering. Adversity reveals a person’s soul. In this psalm, David was at just such a point in his life. He was undergoing much adversity, and yet he was blessed. This psalm is a passionate prayer for God’s mercy at a time when David was seriously ill (v. 3) and surrounded by slandering “friends” who longed for his death (vv. 5-8). One close friend especially sought to do him harm (v. 9).

In this perilous predicament, David acknowledged God’s blessing in his life (vv. 1-3) and confessed his sin (v. 4). Knowing that he himself had shown mercy to the weak (v. 1), he turned to God and asked for mercy (v. 10). Sensing God’s pleasure in his integrity (v. 11), he asked the Lord to uphold him, both now and forever (v. 12).

This “psalm of David” was intended “for the director of music.” Its central theme is that those who show mercy will receive mercy.

II. Commentary

MAIN IDEA: David instructs God’s people that those who show mercy and confess their sin will find mercy with the Lord.

A. David’s Reward (41:1-3)

41:1. The first line states the general theme of this psalm—blessed will be the believer who has regard for the weak. This is, those who show mercy to the helpless will receive mercy from God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matt. 5:7). Being blessed means to know the happiness, contentment, and peace that only God can give (cp. Ps. 1:1). In addition, the LORD delivers such a merciful person in times of trouble. This was true of David as king. As he defended the weak and poor (Prov. 29:14; 31:8-9), God defended him.

41:2-3. More spiritual blessings will come to the merciful person. Specifically, the LORD will protect him and bless him in the land of promise (Ps. 37:22). Furthermore, David knew the Lord would sustain him on his sickbed, a reference to his confining illness later referred to as a vile disease (v. 8). These are the blessings of God upon the defender of the weak: happiness, protection, security, and health.

B. David’s Request (41:4)

41:4. David offered prayer as a person faced with illness, asking for restoration. Have mercy on me, David prayed, and heal me of sickness. He asked for the mercy he had shown others. This illness he suffered was the result of his own sin. Thus, David confessed to God, I have sinned against you. He was familiar with the cause-and-effect connection between his sin and physical illness (cp. Pss. 6:1-2; 32:3-5; 39:1-8). So he confessed his sin to God, believing his illness was God’s painful discipline.

C. David’s Reproach (41:5-9)

41:5-6. While David was in this state of illness (v. 3), his enemies surrounded him like vultures ready to rush in for the kill. In frustration David noted, My enemies say of me, “When will he die and his name perish?” They took advantage of his weak condition, slandering him, all the while pretending to befriend him. Perhaps David’s adversaries wanted to remove him and his descendants from the throne, causing all to forget his existence. But David saw right through it. When a person came to see him on his sickbed, David knew that he spoke falsely about being devoted to him. Instead, this disloyal hypocrite gathered slander within his heart, plotting what he would say against David even while standing before him. This slanderer then left and went about spreading tales about David.

41:7-8. David realized that these people whispered together against him, plotting his demise. They spread the bad report, A vile disease has beset him, he will never get up from … where he lies. With his illness so serious, they hoped to destroy public confidence in David’s ability to carry out the duties and responsibilities of king. Perhaps plans were being made to dethrone David as Israel’s king.

41:9. Worse, David declared, even his close friend, one whom he trusted and one with whom he shared his bread in private meals, had betrayed him. This insider, David mourned, had lifted up his heel against him, a picture of harm being brought to David. Initially, this refers to the treachery of Ahithophel who betrayed David (2 Sam. 16:20-17:3,23) and prophetically to Judas who would rise up against Christ from among the Twelve (John 13:18).

D. David’s Renewal (41:10-12)

41:10. David concluded by petitioning God again, asking for mercy and health. Raise me up from this sickbed, he pleaded, so I may repay them. This request was motivated by a desire for justice and for the stability of the nation.

I know you are pleased with me for my enemy does not triumph over me Psalm 41:11

41:11-12. Since David had shown mercy to the weak (v. 1) and confessed his sin (v. 4), he could say to God, I know that you are pleased with me. Because his integrity remained intact, he knew that God would uphold him and set him in the Lord’s presence forever (Ps. 23:5-6). He was both temporarily and eternally secure in God.

E. David’s Rejoicing (41:13)

41:13. This final verse is a doxology that concludes Book I of the Psalms (cp. Pss. 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; 150:6): Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel. What began as blessing for man (Ps. 1) ascends to a blessing for God (41:13).

III. Conclusion

This psalm provides a model response for any believer who is undergoing the pain of deep trials. Humility, as demonstrated in David’s life, is highlighted as the leading virtue of the person who walks with God. With humility, believers should call upon God in every difficulty, yielding themselves to him. Those who trust God must show mercy to others if they expect to receive mercy from him. Jesus said, “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). When betrayed, the righteous must seek the high road by showing mercy even when they are maligned.


Holman Old & New Testament Commentary Set

Holman Old and New Testament Commentary Set

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