Who is going to be happy or blessed by God? In Psalm 41 David teaches us how to receive the blessing of God.
Psalm 41 is the end of the first book in the Psalms. Altogether, there are five books in Psalms. There is no agreed upon reason for the number of divisions or why certain psalms are in each book. Of interest, though, is the fact that Psalm 1 and Psalm 41, the first and last psalms in Book 1, both begin with the same word: "happy" often translated "blessed." It seems obvious that the person who compiled the psalms into their current books selected these two psalms as "bookends" for this collection.
The psalm divides into three sections: the first is addressed to the people, the second is a personal reflection and the third is a prayer. The final verse is a doxology (hymn of praise) used both to close out the psalm but also to close out Book 1 of Psalms as a whole.
Another interesting feature is the parallelism of thought in verses 4-6 and 10-12.
|4||Be gracious to me||10||Be gracious to me|
|5||My enemies speak malice||11||My enemies have nothing to say|
|6||Their iniquity is spread abroad||12||My integrity places me in God's presence|
Finally, it is important to note that Jesus quotes from this psalm and applies it to Himself.
Who is going to be happy or blessed by God? According to Psalm 1 it is the person who delights in the law of God. According to Psalm 41 it is the person who has compassion for the weak. These two concepts give us a great overview of what God expects of us. God desires His followers to both seek for truth in His word and reach out in compassion to others.
But my experience is that it is so easy to emphasize one of these characteristics almost to the exclusion of the other. Have you ever come across a person or church that placed so much emphasis on Bible study, right doctrine or holiness that they had no room for the physical and emotional needs of the people around them? Even worse, they may take pride in their right doctrine or holy living and look down upon those who are not as righteous as they are. Or how about the opposite - the person or church that spends all of its time on social concerns but has little concern for doctrine or holiness. They care for those who are suffering but in the end don't feed their souls.
It is so important for us to strive for balance in these two areas: Bible Study and Love. May we be both people who love God's word and people who strive to demonstrate God's love to those around us.
The rest of this section is a list of the blessings one receives for having compassion on the weak:
David now applies the truth of the first section to his own life. Apparently David is sick and his enemies are joyfully anticipating his death.
My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die and his name perish?” Psalm 41:5
To make it worse these people are spreading false statements about David.
So David's first move is to confess his sins and plead for mercy. It could be that David feels he is being punished for his sin or maybe he simply wants to make sure he has a clean slate before God. In either case, he has set a good example for us. If we want God to bless us then we need to strive to remove the sin that so easily comes between us and God. The good news is that God forgives and confession can open up the pathway for God's blessing.
If sickness and slander were not enough trouble, David's problem is compounded by betrayal.
Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me. Psalm 41:9
As a side note, this verse has messianic implications since it is quoted by Jesus when Judas betrays Him (John 13:18).
So, what about the promise David made at the beginning of the psalm? Why is David suffering so much? Where is God's blessing? Why doesn't God help?
Have Mercy on Me
In spite of all his troubles, David is confident that God will bless him. God has never failed him in the past and God will have mercy on him now. David does not claim to be perfect. Otherwise, why confess his sin in verse 4? But David does believe that he has lived a life of integrity.
In other words, he may not be perfect but he has worked to love God and love others. He has tried to be a person that God can easily bless.
Because of my integrity you uphold me
and set me in your presence forever. Psalm 41:12
May I strive to live a life where I can say I have lived with integrity before God and man.
This last verse is both the ending to this psalm and the song of praise to close Book 1.
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen. Psalm 41:13
So, how can we be people who are blessed by God?
- Love God's Word and love the people around us. God blesses those who seek Him and those who help those who are suffering. (Psalm 41:1-3)
- Remember that God's blessing does not eliminate the possibility of suffering in our own lives. Suffering is a universal experience. God's own Son suffered and so will we. Much of our suffering is due to sin - ours and others. Don't let temporary suffering cause you to believe that God has forgotten you. (Psalm 41:4-9)
- Live a life of integrity. God looks with favor on those who follow His commands. (Psalm 41:10-12)
- Pray for God's blessing. (Psalm 41:10-12)
- Realize that the fullness of God's blessing will not be experienced until you are in His presence. (Psalm 41:12)