Chapter 4: Psalm 41

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by Craig Munro, Scotland

INTRODUCTION

PRECIS

A Psalm About Poverty And Pain – v.1a

A Psalm About Preservation – vv.1b-3

A Psalm About Public Confession And Forgiveness – v.4

A Psalm About Persecution – vv.5-8

A Psalm About Predictions – v.9

A Psalm About Power And Prospects – vv.10-12

A Psalm About Praise – v.13

CONCLUSION


INTRODUCTION

Before we deal with this Psalm verse by verse it would be helpful to understand its context. The Psalm is written by David out of deep personal pain; it is also prophetic concerning the Messiah and has an interesting position in the Psalter.

A Psalm of Personal Pain

The context of this Psalm is the treacherous behaviour of David’s friend Ahithophel; it happened during the usurpation by Absalom against David his father, after David’s sin with Bathsheba. The events and the background context are all recorded in 2Samuel chapters 12 to 19. Along with these sections, it is worth reading Psalm 32 and Psalm 51, where David repents of his own sin. Psalms 38 to 41 all belong to a collection of Psalms that surround the Absalom rebellion. David was much weakened by the treachery of Ahithophel and the attack of Absalom. This is given intense expression in Ps.41.9: “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”

David was stung by Ahithophel’s treachery. He was a close confidant whose counsel was greatly admired: “And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom” 2Sam.16.23. Psalm 55 records the betrayal by Ahithophel: “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company” Ps.55.12-14. Ahithophel’s counsel for Absalom to defile publicly David’s concubines was revolting and hurt David to the core, 2Sam.16.21. Psalm 41 is, therefore, a record of pain.

A Prophetic Psalm

Psalm 41 is also a Messianic Psalm, speaking of the Person of Christ. Most of Ps.41.9 is quoted in John’s Gospel chapter 13 concerning the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot: “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He that eateth bread with Me, hath lifted up his heel against Me.’ Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am He” Jn.13.18,19.

Ahithophel’s betrayal mirrors that of another, even more sinister, character: Judas Iscariot. Both individuals betrayed their lord and master, and then after doing so, committed suicide through hanging, 2Sam.17.23; Matt.27.5. Psalm 41 is part of a trio of prophetic Psalms about the betrayal of the Christ. Another two Psalms, 69 and 109, are prophetic of Judas Iscariot. Peter quotes from these Psalms when speaking of Judas Iscariot, in an early message to the embryonic church in Jerusalem: “And in those days Peter stood” and said, “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas … Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. (And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.) For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein;’ and ‘his bishoprick let another take’” Acts 1.15-20. The last part is a partial quotation from Ps.69.25: “Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents” and also from Psalm 109: “For my love they are my adversaries …. Let his days be few; and let another take his office” Ps.109.4-8. Peter takes up the last part of this quotation as justification for another apostle to be appointed in the place of Judas Iscariot, Acts 1.20-22. Therefore, although Psalm 41 had a meaning in the past for David and has relevance in the present for us, this Psalm is ultimately about Christ and His betrayal by Judas.

This Psalm is part of a larger group of fifteen Psalms, each of which is quoted in the New Testament about the Person of Christ. A list of these, along with the corresponding New Testament quotations, and a discussion of other Psalms that could also be considered as ‘Messianic’ has been placed at the beginning of this book.

The Position of the Psalm

Psalm 41 is the last Psalm in the First Book of Psalms (Psalms 1-41). The last Psalm in each Book has a doxology (a hymn of praise to God), and so does this Psalm, in v.13: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.” The last Psalm in the Fifth Book of the Psalms (Psalm 150) is the great ‘Hallelujah Psalm’, where every line praises the name of the Lord.

Psalm 41 focuses on the betrayal of Christ. The last Psalm in the Second Book of Psalms (Psalm 72) is also Messianic, and the focus is on the blessings to the world of the reign of Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. The final Psalm in the Third Book of Psalms (Psalm 89) is Messianic too; there the focus is on the bond-service of Christ to His Father and the resultant response to honour Him.

Finally, Psalm 41 is also part of another trio of Psalms that are Messianic (Psalms 40, 41 and 42).

Psalm 40 reminds us of the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ in His life and service on the way to Calvary: “Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; Mine ears hast Thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required. Then said I, ‘Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart’” Ps.40.6-8. This passage is quoted in Heb.10.5-7. There was One willing to do the will of His Father no matter the cost. The Lord Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and He willingly came into the world to live a perfect life and die for us. His motivation for service is the focus: “delight to do Thy will”.

Psalm 41 reminds us of the Lord Jesus’ voluntary poverty and suffering in life and at Calvary at the hands of men. The Lord Jesus served others in the midst of treachery: He even gave Judas His bread, v.9. He was the perfect servant as to how He served. His manner of service is the focus.

Psalm 42 perhaps reminds us of the sufferings of Christ and billows of judgment He suffered at Calvary (figured in the land of Jordan, the river of death). His suffering at the hands of God and how He defeated the devil and death as He took the crushing blows of Divine justice is heard in the poetry of vv.6,7: “O My God, My soul is cast down within Me: therefore will I remember Thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts: all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over Me”. He was the perfect servant as to what He was prepared to do and the length He was prepared to go. The magnitude of His suffering is the focus. He was the perfect sufferer.

The hymnwriter Isaac Ewan captures Psalm 42 beautifully in his hymn “Garden of gloom appalling”:

Garden of gloom appalling
Where, in His sore amaze,
Earthward in anguish falling,
Prostrate, the Saviour prays;
Prays in exceeding sorrow,
Prays, on the ground bowed low
Facing the dark tomorrow
Full of unfathomed woe!
 
Garden of grief amazing,
Where, in His agony,
He, His petition raising,
Prays yet more earnestly,
Prays till His sweat is falling,
Falling like drops of blood!
Deep unto deep is calling,
Calling in flood to flood.
 
Garden of tears that never
Mortal could ever weep!
Not of the common river;
Drawn from a deeper deep!
Drawn from a depth unsounded.
Coursing toward the sod,
Telling of love unbounded,
Sourced in the heart of God!
 
Garden of myrrh unfading,
Breathing submissive prayer,
Sweet-flowing myrrh, pervading
Heaven with its fragrance rare!
Myrrh that perfumes our praises,
Fresh from the tear-wet clod,
Softly the heart upraises,
To Thee, His Father, God.

PRECIS

Psalm 41 is about:

  • Poverty and Pain – v.1a
  • Preservation – vv.1b-3
  • Public Confession and Forgiveness – v.4
  • Persecution – vv.5-8
  • Predictions – v.9
  • Power and Prospects – vv.10-12
  • Praise – v.13

This chapter will provide a summary of each of the sections but concentrate on those parts which are specifically about the Person of Christ.

A Psalm about Poverty and Pain – v.1a

“Blessed is he that considereth the poor.”

Let us make sure we understand what the words mean.

‘‘Blessed’’ means ‘happy’. The word is cognate with the word for the tribe ‘Asher’: “Happy am I” said Leah at the birth of her son, Gen.30.13.

‘‘Considereth’’: the root of this word means ‘to look at or behold’ and by extension it means ‘to act wisely or prudently’, for example, “David … behaved himself wisely” 1Sam.18.5; compare vv.14,15,30. It is also often translated “understand”.

‘‘Poor’’: the root of this word denotes something hanging, like a door. The word is associated with weakness: “the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” 2Sam.3.1, and physical leanness: “And he said unto him, ‘Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day?’” 2Sam.13.4, but it is often used for financial poverty: “Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh” Judg.6.15.

David as the Helper of the Poor

Therefore, when we consider the last word, “poor”, the blessing David is considering is not exclusively to those who understand and seek to alleviate those in poverty, but also to those who seek to help the weak or enfeebled in health (as David himself was at that time). David had poured kindness on the invalid Mephibosheth in his lifetime, 2Samuel chapter 9. There is a blessing for those who behave considerately towards the afflicted: “the LORD will deliver him”. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” was the Lord’s teaching, Matt.5.7. Those who show mercy to others will be looked after themselves. David had proved the truth of this beatitude; have we? Paul said, “To the weak became I as weak” 1Cor.9.22. The apostles also believed we should “remember the poor” Gal.2.10, which Paul was determined to do anyway, before they asked. He was never patronising or stand-offish. He exhorts us, “Now we exhort you, brethren … comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men” 1Thess.5.14. Are we doing this?

The Lord Jesus

Surely the ultimate fulfilment to this beatitude in this Messianic Psalm is Christ. Did He not act wisely towards the poor? Did He not stop and consider the blind beggar Bartimaeus, Mk.10.46-52; Lk.18.35-43, and the woman tormented by her bent body for eighteen years, Lk.13.11? He was affected by those in need around Him. He was “moved with compassion” for the leper, Mk.1.41, and for the people in the crowd: “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick” Matt.14.14. Those whom the Lord Jesus touched responded by having a conscience about the poor. Zacchaeus, for example, after he had received salvation, said, “The half of my goods I give to the poor” Lk.19.8. Paul said the Saviour taught that His followers should remember the poor, giving us words not recorded in the Gospels: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” Acts 20.35. Are we giving in this way?

What about Us?

It is challenging to think about what we are doing practically and collectively to support the poor and the weak in general. The first assembly fed hundreds of people every day, because they were hungry Acts 6.1-4. They opened their homes and looked after each other physically, even being prepared to sell belongings to gain money to look after those in need: “and parted them to all men, as every man had need” Acts 2.45,46. Dorcas perhaps did not have money, but she made clothes for poor widows, and she was greatly appreciated, Acts 9.39. The early assemblies looked after widows if no one in the family was saved, 1Tim.5.1-16. The early assemblies sent people hundreds of miles on boats to take financial aid to people who were poor, Acts 11.28-30; Rom.15.25-28. Today some of these duties have been taken up by the state, but not all. Even in ‘western’ countries the poverty of ambition is evident, the purposelessness, the mental ill-health that emerges sometimes stimulated by sin, the spiritual vacuum created by materialism: people need to hear the message of Christ, and they will, if they see it first in practical care and love.

How many poor people (financially, physically, mentally, spiritually) are there within a radius of two miles of our home? Do we visit people? Do we pray for them and seek to practically help them? Do we visit the sick and infirm in the local care home or hospital or can we in practical ways support the vulnerable? There is a blessing to those who seek to understand and act wisely towards those who are weak. It is not always about dispensing financial gifts. Sometimes it is about sitting with them, listening to them, praying with them, weeping with them. We must show that we care.

David as the One who is Poor

It is interesting to notice that David was in weakness when he wrote this Psalm. He certainly calls himself “poor” in the last verse of Psalm 40. The word is singular here, in Ps.41.1: ‘poor man’. He was no doubt thinking of himself in the context of betrayal by Ahithophel, usurpation by Absalom, removal from his home in Jerusalem and hiding over the Jordan as a refugee and knowing rejection by his friends. The fulfilment of the expression, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor”, had a real meaning for David then. There were people who did not behave like Ahithophel and conspire against him, for example, people like Barzillai, 2Sam.19.31-33, who supported him in his weakness and extremity: “Now Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old: and he had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim”. Such people would be blessed and delivered in their “time of trouble”. Perhaps it should be read like this: ‘Blessed is he that considers the weak or poor one’. We should not forget the fact that we might be supporting someone today but tomorrow we may be the one who is in need.

The Lord Jesus

If this is true of David, how much truer it is of our blessed Saviour! If David was poor in that sense, surely Christ was in a category of poverty that David could not fathom. Does Paul not say, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” 2Cor.8.9? He became poor that we might be rich. The Psalm grants blessing for those who consider Christ in His poverty and suffering. Did He not say, “Shew Me a penny”? Was He not hungry? Was He not thirsty? Was His strength not dried up like a potsherd? His tongue stuck to His jaw for lack of moisture. Did someone not give Him a coat? A donkey? An upper room? A meal in Bethany? A home? Five barley loaves and two small fishes? Do we ever consider His poverty? This Psalm is Messianic from the very first verse. Daniel says, “Messiah will be cut off and have nothing” Dan.9.26, N.A.S.B.

What About Us?

In what way can we give to the Lord today? The Lord’s teaching on this subject bears quoting in full: “Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was a hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.’ Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when saw we Thee a hungred, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?’ And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me’” Matt.25.34-40.

Whilst this Scripture will be fulfilled completely in a coming day, at the judgment of the living nations, the principle here is clear. We give to the Lord today through supporting God’s people in our homes, visiting and helping the sick and needy. In giving to His people we are giving to Him.

But is there another way we can give to the Lord? Verse 9 of this Psalm forces us to think of the rejection of the Messiah through Judas Iscariot. Judas Iscariot said he was interested in the poor: “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” Jn.12.5. But he really had no interest in Mary’s sacrificial worship, or poor people at all, as the Scriptures explain: “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” Jn.12.6. It is interesting that all the disciples knew that the Saviour had an interest in the poor from the whole tenor of His life and teaching. They supposed that when the Saviour sent Judas Iscariot out of the room the reason for his departure was to look after the poor. “For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, ‘Buy those things that we have need of against the feast;’ or, that he should give something to the poor” Jn.13.29. This was obviously something that happened regularly. They did not know, however, that on this occasion Judas left to betray the Lord Jesus. The Lord knew exactly what Judas was doing; that is why the expression “in whom I trusted” Ps.41.9, is omitted in the quote in Jn.13.18,19. However, it was the Lord Who commended Mary for her sacrificial devotion and worship saying, “Let her alone: against the day of My burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but Me ye have not always” Jn.12.7,8. Let us, therefore, “consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself’’ Heb.12.3. Let us, like Mary, bring our best to Him and pour upon Him our love and devotion, our ‘alabaster box of ointment’. This is also how we can give to the Lord: in our worship. But let this also be seen in following the example of Christ and looking after the feeble, spiritually depressed, and the poor souls all around us who need God’s salvation and financial, emotional and spiritual support. What a blessing there is for those who consider the poor!

A Psalm about Preservation – vv.1b-3

“… the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and Thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.”

Is the Lord teaching here that deliverance from calamity is a direct payment for benevolence? No! This would not be true to experience or other Scriptures. It is important to see that it says deliver him “in” time of trouble and not ‘from’ time of trouble. This preservation is within the trial, not from trial. Some of the greatest servants of the Lord were sick, maimed and hurt: Job and Jeremiah, for example. How do you think Job felt when he was told that his problems were because of his sin? That was what Job’s three so-called friends told him, and they were roundly condemned by Jehovah. This is one of the reasons why the false ‘prosperity gospel’ is heresy; it claims that Christians who have great faith get richer, and do not suffer: “from such turn away” 2Tim.3.5. God has a greater plan for our lives, and this sometimes requires hardship and lessons through the trials.

Perhaps there could also be the thought that the covenant blessings of Lev.26.1-13 and Deut.7.13-16 are being invoked in this Psalm. Remember the Lord’s covenant promise through Moses: “If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase” Lev.26.3,4, and, again, “Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee” Deut.7.14,15. There is certainly a general truth that God blesses righteousness. I cannot expect mercy if I have shown mercy to no other. The Lord underscored this truth in Matt.18.23-35. He warned about the man who would not forgive his debtors, who owed him a pittance, although he had been forgiven an incredible debt of ten thousand talents (billions of pounds in today’s money). So, I cannot expect blessing and preservation from spiritual defeat if I am sinning: “the way of transgressors is hard” Prov.13.15. Equally, I should expect blessing and preservation if I am moving in obedience to God’s Word.

Perhaps, too, we can see the fuller thought of Christ here. Can we discern the sufferings and poverty of the Messiah in v.1? If faith can discern Christ behind the suffering in the first part of the verse, then in the second part of the verse a special blessing is promised to those who consider the One Who was “crucified through weakness” 2Cor.13.4. God will preserve His saints in their weakness and restore them as they have helped others in their time of need, reflecting the character of the One Who “became poor”. He has been there before us, understands us, and sympathises with us: “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” Heb.4.15.

The Lord Jesus is now alive forevermore. When the sorrow of illness or ill health comes upon us Jehovah will “strengthen [us] upon the bed of languishing” v.3. We can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” Heb.4.16. He can “make [our] bed” Ps.41.3. He has promised, “‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ So that we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper’” Heb.13.5,6.

A Psalm about Public Confession and Forgiveness – v.4

“I said, ‘LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against Thee.’”

This Psalm is in the context of the aftermath of the sin of David with Bathsheba and the usurpation by Absalom following the advice given by Ahithophel. David sees his own sin as the cause of all the trouble in his life. We can, therefore, only see the Lord Jesus in this verse by contrast, as “in Him is no sin” 1Jn.3.5.

Ahithophel had a son called Eliam: “Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite” 2Sam.23.34. Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam: “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 2Sam.11.3. Bathsheba was, therefore, very likely the granddaughter of Ahithophel. Now, perhaps, we can understand why Ahithophel was treacherous to David. David had taken his granddaughter to wife, after adultery. It was Ahithophel’s inability to forgive David that drove him to betray the king. We can now understand Ahithophel’s anger but in plotting vengeance against David he destroyed himself. The inability to forgive has ‘killed’ many people over the years. We need to be on our guard when we harbour ill will to others, no matter how ‘right’ we are and how ‘wrong’ they are. It is only the Lord Who can give us the strength to forgive. But the Lord can forgive sin. David lost four children after the sin with Bathsheba; he knew he had sinned. Sin always brings sorrow and loss. But, praise God, David repented and confessed his sin and God is the God Who can show mercy and can heal us. All of us have sinned but, praise God, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” Eph.1.7.

It was in the Upper Room that the Lord indicated that Peter’s denial would be forgiven, and he would be restored, Jn.13.36. By the time we get to John chapter 21 his repentance is accepted as genuine and he was mightily used in the inauguration of the Church in the early part of Acts. David too was forgiven but not everyone readily accepted the forgiveness as genuine: only those who considered David as a ‘poor man’ v.1, and felt love towards him despite his failures. Much of our ‘weakness’ and ‘poverty’ is the inability to accept ourselves as God sees us. He has forgiven us; we need to ‘forgive ourselves’ and others. Listen again to the words of Scripture: “The blood of Jesus Christ [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin” 1Jn.1.7. Meditation upon Calvary is a great preservative from harbouring resentment on the one hand or being debilitated by guilt on the other. When I am aware of God’s mercy to me, then I am more likely to show mercy to others. When I recognise how much I have been forgiven, I am given strength to forgive others in their day of weakness, Lk.7.47.

A Psalm about Persecution – vv.5-8

“Mine enemies speak evil of me, ‘When shall he die, and his name perish?’ And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it. All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt. ‘An evil disease,’ say they, ‘cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more.’”

This section of the Psalm starts with the words “mine enemies”: the Psalm is a continual antithesis between the few who “consider[ed] the poor” and the majority who did not care and who afflicted such in days of trouble and weakness. David knew what persecution really meant. He had been rejected by Saul for many years prior to his coronation as king, but now He is facing rejection by his own kith and kin:

  • His claims are disregarded in v.5;
  • Their actions are deceitful in v.6, and they like to spread slander and gossip. One rendering is, “then he goes out and spreads it around”;
  • His character is denigrated in v.7: “whisper together … against me do they devise my hurt”;
  • Their ultimate wish for him to be destroyed is given in v.8.

David is betrayed and delivered up in v.9. Paul says, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” 2Tim.3.12. This is the common lot of all who follow Christ.

Can we not see Christ in this section of the Psalm as well? Was Christ not persecuted? Was His name not challenged? Was He not plotted against and betrayed? The fact that they wanted His name to perish suggests an attack on the Messianic line of David. They did not want a king to reign on this earth in righteousness. But God said, “They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end” Ps.102.26,27. We should not look for sympathy in this world. “In the world”, said the Saviour, “ye shall have tribulation [suffer persecution]” but then He added, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” Jn.16.33. To quote Horatius Bonar, “This is the way the Master went; should not the servant tread it still?”

A Psalm about Predictions – v.9

“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”

Much has been said on this verse in the introductory parts of this chapter. All four Gospels record the betrayal by Judas Iscariot of our Lord Jesus. Mark has the least to say about him, with three short references which encompass the three major movements:

  • His election (chosen to be a disciple), 3.19;
  • His negotiation (his negotiation of a price for the Lord with the chief priests), 14.10;
  • His rejection and betrayal in the garden, 14.43.

 

“Mine own familiar friend.”

“Mine own familiar friend” literally means ‘the man of my peace’. These words are not quoted in the New Testament as they are not an appropriate description of the relationship between Judas Iscariot and the Lord, as they are of that between David and Ahithophel. The relationship between Judas and the Lord is a strange one. Matthew does tell us that the Lord called him “friend” Matt.26.50, perhaps teaching us how to speak to even our enemies. Judas betrayed his true relationship with the Lord by the language he used directly to the Lord Jesus. Whilst all the other disciples called the Lord Jesus “Lord”, Judas, by contrast, called Him “Master”, or “Rabbi” Matt.26.21-25. Judas had never known Him as Lord of his life. He did know that the Lord was sinless. Having been with Him for over three years, he could point to no fault in the life of Christ. He said uniquely in Matthew that he had betrayed “innocent blood” Matt.27.4. Judas, despite this knowledge of Christ’s perfection, passed himself off as a disciple without really knowing a true relationship with the Lord, and certainly he knew nothing of personal friendship that the others knew.

“In whom I trusted.”

We have already pointed out that the expression, “in whom I trusted”, is not quoted in the New Testament for the simple reason that Judas was never trusted by the Lord. It was true of Ahithophel and David but not true of the Lord Jesus and Judas Iscariot. The Lord knew that Judas was a thief, Jn.12.6. However, Luke uniquely tells about the miracle in the garden, Lk.22.50,51, and that Judas saw the ‘ear healed’ of Malchus (the high priest’s servant, Jn.18.10): he witnessed the Lord’s last miracle and yet still betrayed Him. He was given amazing experiences and reasons to trust Christ. Luke also uniquely tells that the Lord “chose” twelve even though He knew Judas’ character, Lk.6.13. Luke shows that Judas had great privileges but traded them for money and lost his soul. Judas had a choice but chose evil.

“Which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”

The juxtaposition of these two clauses side by side is startling; one clause, “eat of my bread”, expressing fellowship and friendship, and the other, “lifted up his heel”, expressing rejection and treacherous betrayal. John in the great ‘fellowship’ Gospel uniquely tells that He gave Judas Iscariot “the sop” (the special dish) in the Upper Room meal, Jn.13.26. Could this be something of the meaning of “eat of my bread”? John also tells us of the garden of Gethsemane that “Judas … knew the place” and had a knowledge of the Lord’s prayer life in the garden, Jn.18.2. This intimacy of experience stands in contrast to his complete betrayal of the Lord. The expression “lifted up his heel against me” is metaphorical language of trampling upon, and rejecting, Christ. John’s unique statement in Jn.6.70, “one of you is a devil [‘demon’]”, tells that the devil was behind the whole thing, and later again he writes that “Satan entered into him” Jn.13.27. Now Satan cannot enter a spirit. Judas was a real man who made real choices. Solemnly, we are learning that those who open themselves up to demons will be controlled by them. As a result, Judas went “to his own place” Acts 1.25. Those who reject Christ will be rejected themselves, eternally.

A Psalm about Power and Prospects – vv.10-12

“But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them. By this I know that Thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me. And as for me, Thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before Thy face for ever.”

David cries for mercy, v.10, because he knows he had sinned, v.4. David also begs to be raised up, v.10, and God in His grace raises him up. His grace gives us what we do not deserve and his mercy withholds what we do deserve. David affirms his integrity is only because the Lord supports him to stand: “Thou upholdest me” v.12. He knows the Lord is with him because he is triumphing over his enemies, v.11. When we overcome sin in our lives it encourages us that God is with us.

Verse 9 speaks of the traitor; v.10 speaks of David’s trust in the Lord; v.11 speaks of the great test of opposition and v.12 speaks of the triumph over opposition through the Lord. David believed that the Lord would heal him, restore him to the throne, and deal with those who opposed him. He knew that one day he would be in the presence of the Lord and serve in His holy courts in heaven forever: “settest me before Thy face for ever” v.12; compare Ps.16.11; 17.15. One day every believer will sit upon a throne with Christ, with administrative responsibilities over a vast kingdom, Rev.3.21. What prospects we all have! Let us live now with the dignity and integrity of kings despite the opposition, for “He shall reign for ever and ever” Rev.11.15.

A Psalm about Praise – v.13

“Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.”

We have seen that the First Book of Psalms ends in a doxology, as do all the last Psalms in each of the five Books in the Psalter (Psalms 41,72,89,106,150). This Psalm about poverty and pain ends in praise. The beatitude at the beginning blesses men and women but the one at the end blesses God. The Psalm that commences with a heavy heart, cries out ‘Hallelujah’ in its climax. The saints who are marked by sorrow and take an interest in others when they are in need, are now blessed and stirred with overflowing love to an eternal God Who took an interest in them. The pain, poverty and persecution are all past, the betrayal is all behind us and the silver coins of treachery are thrown down and lie buried in the turf. The glory is set before us; nothing can disturb our peace. The eternal “Amen” ascends to the God of Israel and never ends.

CONCLUSION

We have seen Christ in the Psalm, David in the Psalm, Judas in the Psalm and Ahithophel in the Psalm. We trust we have also seen practical and pointed truth for us all in the Psalm. The day of trouble, v.1, has turned into the eternal day of God. The simplest saint can sing:

Through the love of God our Saviour, All will be well;
Free and changeless is His favour, All, all is well:
Precious is the blood that healed us;
Perfect is the grace that sealed us;
Strong the hand stretched forth to shield us,
All must be well.
 
Though we pass through tribulation, All will be well;
Ours is such a full salvation, All, all is well:
Happy still in God confiding;
Fruitful if in Christ abiding;
Steadfast through the Spirit’s guiding;
All must be well.
 
We expect a bright tomorrow; All will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow, All, all is well:
On our Father’s love relying,
Jesus every need supplying,
Yes, in living or in dying,
All must be well.

(Mary Bowley Peters)