Fifth Decade of Psalms
“Blessed is he that considereth the poor : the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble . . . ” (Ps. 41:1-13).
Outline and Summary of the Text
As with much Hebrew poetry, this psalm is structured as a chiasm.
a. didactic introduction and associated prayer of confidence (vv. 1-4);
c. words and behavior of the adversary (vv. 6-8);
a’. didactic conclusion and associated Temple worship (v. 12).
The serious illnesses of kings are always watched with interest. When a basketball player is about to shoot, there will be all kinds of posting up and positioning under the basket. When a king looks as though he is going to die, the same kind of ambitious scuffling is going on among the courtiers, plotters and heirs apparent. King David is the type, and the Lord Jesus is the antitype. There are some things that apply only to David (for example, his confession of sin in v. 4). But the apostle John clearly declares that v. 9 found its complete fulfillment in the treachery of Judas. The same kind of thing repeats over and over. We see this kind of treachery throughout the Old Testament (e.g. Jer. 12:6), we see it with Jesus, and with followers of Christ down to the present.
God Helps Those Who Help the Helpless
Our proverb says that God helps those who help themselves. And while there is an important but limited truth there, we want to pursue a deeper truth. God helps those who help the helpless. As we seek to understand this, we must take care not to treat it as though God in heaven were a celestial vending machine—as though I could put my good deeds in here, and get my product there. At the same time, sowing and reaping are woven into the way the world is structured. We simply must refuse to understand the sowing and the reaping in a superficial way. The seed is not sown on the surface of the ground, and the plant does not grow from a spot on the surface.
Those who when they are prosperous help the helpless are becoming the kind of people who can cry out to God for help when they are in dire straits. This is why it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35); this is why the man is blessed who considers the poor (v. 1). David asks for mercy, and his appeal has two arguments. First he pleads for mercy because he has sinned (v. 4). No spin control. But second he asks for mercy because he had previously made a point of extending it. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy (Matt. 5:7). David is in trouble—he is sick, and he is dealing with the treachery of friends. When he writes a psalm in his trouble, he begins with this: “Blessed is he that considereth the poor.” In his current crisis, he remembers the times when the crises was someone else’s—and he was the benefactor.
Note that the blessing is for those who consider the poor. This is not limited to mental activity—obviously, the result is action that actually helps the poor. But it at least includes thoughtful consideration. The blessing is not for those who close their eyes and strew money about the place. Those who are hurting need different things and we won’t know what those things are unless we consider it. Do they need medicine? a job? training? education for their children? capitalization for a business? debt forgiveness? What do they need? Consider it, and to consider it biblically is to act on it.
Right and Left Hand
Jesus teaches us that when we give, our left hand should not know what the right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3). Remember that David is making a plea to the Lord to consider him in his poverty, just as he had considered others in theirs. He is doing this in the context of slander—close associates and former friends were slandering him and speaking evil concerning him. They knew better, and yet they snatch at anything that will weaken David or misrepresent his character or his prospects. This was the position that Judas was in with respect to Jesus. He shared His bread, and lifted up his heel—the way an animal in a stall kicks the one who feeds him.
But David was king, and a public person. There is no question about settling personal scores, but when God raised him again, he intended to require them (v. 10). Jesus did not strike down His persecutors when they taunted Him as He was on the cross. And He could have; He could have summoned legions of angels. But He did not refrain because this was the wrong thing to do; He refrained because it was the wrong time. When the Lord came to Jerusalem in judgment in 70 A.D. the time was fulfilled and the fullness of wrath fell on that generation. Who will be trusted to wield judgment? The merciful. Who will be trusted to receive mercy? The merciful.