March 27: Psalm 41

March 27: Psalm 41

A cry for help and vindication

Common meter 86.86             St. Anne (O God, Our Help in Ages Past), p. 39
New Britain (Amazing Grace), p. 29
Azmon (O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing), p. 49

How bless’d the man who guides the poor by counsel strong and clear;

The Lord will surely rescue him when evil days draw near.

The Lord will guard him in the land; his life is blessed indeed;

Nor will You let him fall before his adversaries’ greed.

The Lord sustains him on his bed of sickness and of pain.

And from his bed You make him rise; he will his health regain.

Now as for me, I said, “O Lord, have mercy on my soul.

Because against You have I sinned, restore and make me whole.”

My foes speak evil things of me and to each other say,

“When will he die; when will his name completely pass away?”

And when he comes to see me here his words are all deceit.

He gathers evil in his heart and tells it in the street.

All those who hate me whisper ill, against me harm devise.

“Some evil holds him fast,” they say, “Brought down he will not rise.”

And even my familiar friend in whom my trust was real,

The one who ate my bread, has turned and lifted up his heel.

But You, O Lord, be merciful and raise me in Your grace;

And then a recompense complete upon them I will place.

By this I know that I am held as precious in Your eyes:

My foes do not raise over me their glad exulting cries.

And thus am I sustained by You to be complete and well,

And in Your presence evermore You make me safely dwell.

The Lord, the God of Is-ra-el, be blessed and blessed again

From age to everlasting age. Amen and still Amen.

Psalm 41 speaks of both the earthly ministry and the suffering passion of Christ (with David as His “type”). These are not separate nor separable things. The Lord’s teaching and healings are not, as it were, “moral aspects” of His character, essentially unrelated to the Cross, but components of His one redemptive work, aspects of the single truth that “Jesus saves.” Psalm 41 maintains this unity of theme. It begins with God’s compassion for the poor and sick as well as Christ’s compassionate assumption of our sinful condition—the identification of the Sinless One with sinners. Christ’s compassion for the poor and the infirm is not simply a moral quality of His character, so to speak. It is of one piece with that love that compelled Him to lay down His life for sinners, paying the price for their return to God. More specifically, this psalm’s context is Christ’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot (verse 9). Other verses of the psalm go on to elaborate the setting of the Lord’s Passion (verses 7-8). The psalm ends, however, on the note of His paschal triumph over death: “Thou dost set me in Thy presence forever.” (Reardon, p. 79-80)

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