30 October 2013

Psalm 41

“Happy are those who consider the poor; the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.” (v. 1)


Psalm 41 affirms both the reality of suffering and the presence of God in the midst of adversity, and suggests a connection between human integrity and divine blessing. It begins with a refutation of the idea that God is like a heavenly vending machine. Rather than automatically delivering blessings when requested, the psalmist suggests that the Lord blesses those faithful people who seek to confirm to kingdom values in their protection of the poor (verse 1). This does not mean that those who conform to God's will in this way will be immune to suffering, but rather that "in the day of trouble", in the face of enmity (verse 2) or times of sickness and infirmity (verse 3), the Lord will sustain them. In response to this truth, the psalmist offers a prayer for healing and restoration (verse 4). The use of "I" and "me" make this a very personal plea in the light of the promises of God outlined in verses 1-3: that which previously affirmed generally is now expressed as a matter of individual conviction in the psalmist's relationship with God.

God's blessing does not insulate faithful people from opposition or adversaries, and the psalmist laments at length at those who gossip and slander (verses 5-6) and who hope the worst (verses 7-8). The hardest blow is the desertion of a close friend (verse 9). The psalm ends though with an affirmation of God's goodness, even in these painful circumstances. The fact that despite enemies' worst efforts the psalmist has not been overwhelmed is a sign to the psalmist of God's continuing gracious presence (verse 10). As at the beginning of the psalm, this has not simply happened on demand, but is God's response to the psalmist's integrity (verse 12). Unlike those who profess loyalty to the Lord but ignore the needs of those who God has created, the psalmist's actions and values match: when demonstrating integrity, wrote Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, "singleheartedness is its fundamental characteristic".

The psalmist concludes with a shout of joyous praise to the Lord, which is both a personal response and an affirmation that 'from everlasting to everlasting' his God is the God of Israel.

To Ponder

  • How do your actions towards those less advantaged than you reflect the values that you hold about God?
  • When have been the times in your life where you have felt God's presence "in the day of trouble"? How has this been manifested?

Bible notes author

The Revd Tim Woolley