Psalm 41
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Though there is no sufficient reason to question the accuracy of the title of this psalm, yet the blessing here pronounced on benevolent souls is entirely independent of its human penman. The two key-words in the first verse - "considereth" and "the poor" - are words of very wide significance. The first would mean "he who takes a kindly, continuous, intelligent interest in, and who cherishes a tender sympathy for, them; and the word "poor" would include the weak, sick, insignificant, impoverished, wretched, and unfortunate - even the debtor and the slave. Now, we are so accustomed to such kindly thoughts for the helpless, that we often come to regard care for the poor as one of the "ordinary virtues of humanity;" yet such is very, very far from being the case. Where the light of Divine revelation has not shone, it is no social sin, in the estimation of men, to trample on the poor. Thus the merciful consideration for "the poor, the fatherless, and the widow," shown in the Law of Moses, marked an immense uplifting in legislation; while the continuation of this same philanthropy, on religious grounds, was made of so much account by the prophets, that if it was neglected, men's external worship was an offence in the sight of God (Isaiah 50:17; 10:1, 2; 3:14; 58:5-11; Jeremiah 22:3; Amos 2:6). The Lord Jesus Christ confirmed all this by his precepts, illustrated it by his life, and actually deems it of so much importance that, looking onward to the time when he shall be the Judge of all the nations, he declares that, according as men have attended to his poor or not, will be the stupendous distance between a "Come, ye blessed!" and a "Depart, ye cursed!", (Matthew 25:31-46). Hence the theme before us now is one that is vitally bound up with the essentials of true religion and of acceptable worship to God, so that we have the warrant of the entire Scriptures for dealing with this blessing, which is here pronounced on the benevolent, as being not only the words of David, but a continuous utterance of Divine revelation from beginning to end. Hence it would wonderfully enlarge and strengthen the basis of such an appeal as this verse suggests, to combine with it the two benedictions in Matthew 5:7 and Matthew 25:34, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy;" "Come, ye blessed of my Father!"

I. THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD SHOWS US HOW TRULY MAN IS THE OBJECT OF A. DIVINE REGARD. No one can study intelligently the book of God and compare it with the pagan estimate of human nature, without being struck with the amazing contrast between heathenism and Christianity, and, indeed, between heathenism and Hebraism. Often, indeed, both Moses and Christ are accused of indifference to the lot of the slave, because neither of them overthrew slavery with a single thrust; but they did a better and a nobler thing - they dropped those seeds of thought concerning man's dignity, concerning men's relation to God and to each other, that, in springing up and bearing fruit, would cause slavery to fall most utterly, never to rise again. And, even now, the kindly thoughts of and for us which pervade the book, given in germ in the Law of Moses, and in ripest form in the Epistles of St. John, are such that when they take effect in human hearts and lives, they turn selfishness to love; and if such, effect were to be universal, we should have a Paradise below! A common Fatherhood is over all; hence a common brotherhood should bind all in one. "There is no respect of persons with God." To despise the poor, to turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High, the Lord approveth not. And this pure leaven of the kingdom is gradually diffusing itself through the race, and will, till the care of God for us all comes to be mirrored in our care for each other.

II. WHEN AND WHERE GOD'S CARE FOR MAN AS MAN IS UNDERSTOOD AND COPIED, THERE WILL SPRING UP PRACTICAL BENEVOLENCE; and this will take effect in every form in which such kindness can be shown. The special feature noted here is that of "considering the poor," which would involve a looking out for cases in which we can render aid of any kind whatever; and when such cases are before us, making them the objects of our deep interest and practical concern. Briefly we may set these under four heads. We should be ready and ever

(1) anxious to be helps everywhere;

(2) anxious to help men for Christ's sake;

(3) anxiously caring for men as men, either because Christ died for them, or because Christ lives in them; and

(4) anxiously seeking out the cases of special sorrow and distress, that we may cheer the suffering and the sad.

III. ON THOSE WHO LIVE A LIFE OF SUCH PRACTICAL BENEVOLENCE FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, THERE IS A BLESSING PRONOUNCED. It will be the blessing of both the Father and of the Son, yea, and of the Spirit too. The Spirit; for he pronounces it in the inbreathing of these sacred words. The Son; for he proclaims it now, as our Teacher, in the Sermon on the Mount, and will pronounce it, as Judge, at last. The Father; for the very words of the blessing which the Son pronounces are, "Ye blessed of my Father. In this love he blesses specially all whose love is the reflex of his own. And the people's blessing will attend him who lives to bless the people; in such a case, in a high and holy sense, vex populi, vox Dei.


1. Divine approval; for God's heart of love has diffused its own glow of sympathy within.

2. The heart of the Lord Jesus is touched; for he feels kindness done to others for his sake as done to him. Wonderful, indeed, is his Inasmuch."

3. Those who love like Jesus will find their home with him. How inspiring are the words, "Come, ye blessed of my Father"!

4. There will be the recompense of "a kingdom prepared. Oh, how infinitely do the recompenses of abounding grace outweigh any little acts of kindness the saints may have shown to the poor of Christ! Only grace" can account for a reward so large.

V. OF SUCH IMPORTANCE IS THIS LIFE OF SERVICE FOR OTHERS THAT, APART FROM IT, ALL RELIGIOUS FORM IS EMPTY AND VAIN. (Matthew 7:12, 21-23; Matthew 25:41; Mark 10:21; Luke 16:19-31; 1 John 3:17; James 2:6, 13; James 5:1-4.) To call Christ "Lord, Lord," and then to disregard his injunctions, will be of no use. Note: Here are three lessons urgently calling for enforcement.

1. Let the agnostic and positivist, who are calling out for a religion that means "living for others," see if they have not here the religion for which they call, and which is only waiting for its professors to act up to it, to revolutionize the world.

2. Let but the spirit of the text inspire man universally, and all struggles and alienation between class and class would forthwith cease.

3. Let some who have given disproportionate attention to doctrine, and who have paid too little heed to life and love, aim at a readjustment. We want doctrine and life; not one without the other.

4. Let Christian Churches learn that if they would commend themselves to the age, they must live to serve the age, by holy thought, pure living, and manifested love I

5. Let us thank God with all our hearts for the ameliorating influence on the lot of man, of this Divine command to care for others; e.g. homes, refuges, hospitals, etc. - C.

here may be a good time coming, when the poor will cease out of the land; but it is not yet. The state of things in our day is much the same as in the past (Deuteronomy 15:11; Mark 14:3). God has always shown his care for the poor. Under the Law of Moses, special provisions were made for their help (cf. Deuteronomy 15:7-11). Besides this, there were manifold exhortations in the Psalms and prophets tending to foster a spirit of love and brotherhood. The duty of kindness to the poor is inculcated still more clearly and forcibly under the gospel. The Jews are remarkable for their charities, but they limit their care chiefly to their own poor. Christians are called to act in a more generous spirit. While we are bound to have special regard to the poor of our own blood and faith, we must not restrict our charity to them; but "do good to all" as we have opportunity, after the example and teaching of our blessed Lord. We may make use of this psalm to illustrate -

I. THE DUTY OF CARING FOR THE POOR. (Ver. 1.) "Considereth." This implies thought, insight, and practical brotherly kindness. The very fact that there are so many "poor" should arrest our attention. Surely there must be great wrong somewhere, or there could not be such inequalities and miseries. The more closely we look into the matter, the more will it be impressed upon us that we are bound to take part in remedying the evil. Circumstances and needs vary. Indiscriminate charity is bad. We cannot relieve all. Our powers are limited. We need, therefore, to act circumspectly. But whatever we do should be done in the spirit of love. Consideration without sympathy is torture (James 2:15, 16; 1 John 3:17; Romans 12:10).


1. The blessing is first to the man himself. We cannot do good without being the better for it. Every act of true self-denial and love raises us in dignity and strength. We are "blessed in our deed" (James 1:25-27).

2. There is also the blessing of the poor. We have helped them in the time of need. They feel that they have not been forsaken. They have still brothers and sisters who care for them, and they are grateful. It is better to have the confidence of the poor than their contempt; their gratitude than their hate; their prayers than their curses. Remember Job (Job 29:12).

3. Besides all this, there is the blessing of God. He is the God of the poor. He marks their state. He defends their rights. He provides for their relief. He counts what is done to them as if it were done to himself. The law and order of God in the world secure that a blessing will surely come to him who "considereth the poor."

III. THE DIFFICULTIES AND ENCOURAGEMENTS. We have not only the abstract, but the concrete. The doctrine is translated into fact. It seems as if the psalmist had been bringing the word home. Let each of us put himself in his place. Then we may not only consider the poor, but consider ourselves with regard to the poor. What are we, what have we done, and what has been the result? In this case there will be:

1. Consciousness of great shortcomings in love and duty. We have not done what we could, and what we have done we have done weakly and imperfectly. Pride and vanity and other unlovely things have mixed themselves with our best endeavours. Men may praise us, but before God we are grievous sinners.

2. There will also be disappointments. We should "do good, hoping for nothing again;" but few of us are so disinterested. Besides, it is reasonable to consider results. Perhaps we have "enemies," who misrepresent what we do. Or, worse still, there may be people who come to us in the guise of friendship, and profess to inquire as to what we have done - as to our plans and endeavours, and, finding out the secrets of our life, turn their knowledge to base uses. Instead of truth, they spread falsehoods. Instead of giving sympathy, they exaggerate our failures, and prate maliciously of our troubles. But there may be even a worse trial still. Our familiar friend, in whom we trusted, may turn against us (ver. 9). Amidst all such difficulties there is always encouragement. We turn to God, and find comfort. We know what he is, and what he would have us to be. We know that he will surely perform his word, and that if we are true, and honestly try to do our duty towards others, and especially the poor, we shall in no wise lose our reward. Learn a lesson of humility, as we think of our own sins, and ill deserts; of gratitude, when we remember God's goodness to ourselves; of charity, as we consider the evil ease of many of our brethren, and their claim upon us, if we are of the same mind with Christ, to help them as we can.

"The holy supper is kept indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need;
Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare.
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three -
Himself, his hungering brother, and me."

(Lowell.) W.F.

Written by some mighty man, probably by David, on his recovery from an affliction during which conspiracy and slander had been active against him. It may refer to the time of Absalom; and the "familiar friend" may have been Ahithophel.


1. The consciousness of guilt. (Ver. 4:.) But he was penitent, and prayed for forgiveness and spiritual healing.

2. The malicious conduct of enemies and false friends. (Vers. 5-9.) At a time when we are little able to contend against them.


1. That he had himself sympathized with sufferers. (Ver. 1.) He had not been like the enemies and false friends whom he describes, but had been a true friend to the weak and afflicted.

2. He is assured on this account of the Divine sympathy and deliverance. (Vers. 1-3.) The merciful are blessed in receiving mercy.

3. He has already received tokens of the deliverance for which he is looking. (Vers. 11, 12.) His enemy has not triumphed over him. God has upheld him in general right conduct or integrity. He does not forget his particular sins (ver. 4); but he is conscious also of living in the sight of the Divine countenance, and receiving Divine help. - S.

(Cf. homilies on Psalm 7., 17. div. II., 26. div. III., 39, div. I. 4.) - C.

Psalm 41:5-9. - David suffers from
(Cf. homilies on Psalm 12., 17. div. I., 26. div. H.) - C.

Psalm 41:9
Psalm 41:9. Here is an instance of

Very special treachery, which would be regarded as black indeed in the light of Oriental hospitality. Yet he who was in all points tempted like as we are, endured treachery viler still. To this reference is made in John 13:18. The note of Bishop Perowne hereon is so truly helpful, that we quote it in full below) - C.

This passage may suggest to us some thoughts as to influence. We have all the power of influencing others for good or for evil. This is the necessary result of our being and relationships. Our chief influence will be upon those with whom we are most closely associated; but we also influence others, often unconsciously. You cannot pay a visit, or reside for a short time in a district, without making some impression upon those you meet, and leaving them the better or the worse for having known you. There are differences as to the way people judge. Some over-estimate themselves. They have a high opinion of their own importance. You might think, from the way they talk, that the world could not get on without them. Others under-estimate themselves. They are poor, and think they can do nothing. They are modest and humble-minded, and set little value on what they can effect. Or it may be they have met with disappointments and reverses, and have lost hope. They have laboured in vain, and have not the heart to try again. It is well to remember that we have this awful power of influencing others, and while we confess our responsibility, we should be careful so to live and act as that our influence shall be for good, and not for evil; a blessing, and not a curse. How is this to be secured?

I. BY LIVING NEAR TO GOD. It is as God is merciful to us, and raises us up, bringing us nearer to himself, that we are able to "requite" others, not after the desire of our own evil hearts, but after the loving way of God (ver. 10; Matthew 5:45-48). Pray God, that he may set you "before his face" (ver. 13), and then as you receive his grace, you will reflect his goodness; as you rejoice in the light of his presence, you will bring sunshine into many a shady place, and hope to many a troubled heart.

II. BY HAVING A HIGH STANDARD OF DUTY. We must not make custom, or convenience, or the etiquette of the world, our rule, but we must learn the "perfect will of God" from Christ. The more loyal we are to our highest ideals, the more shall we gain of moral force, and the greater will be our power of doing good to others. Character settles influence. It is the salt that is good, and not the salt that has lost its savour, that is fit for use. It is the man who has the Spirit of Christ, and not the man who minds earthly things, who is the greatest force in the world. How weak was Lot as compared with Abraham!

III. BY DOING OUR WORK FAITHFULLY IN OUR SEVERAL PLACES. People are influenced more by what others do than by what they say. Example is better than precept. If there be a man of undoubted "integrity," he is not only respected, but his daily life has a salutary effect upon those with whom he is associated. It is the man we trust that we are disposed to follow. How many are there who do their duty quietly and unobtrusively, and who are never heard or' far from home, who yet prove a blessing in the society with which they are connected! Their lives are prayers towards God, and powers for good towards men. Virtue goes out of them, even when they know it not. God's favour is upon them, and they grow in favour with men.

IV. BY CULTIVATION OF THE SPIRIT OF BROTHERLY KINDNESS AND LOVE. Much depends upon the spirit that is in us, because our spirit determines our actions, and our actions are seen of men, and have their effect upon their minds. If we are proud and selfish, we cannot win the hearts of others. But if we are self-forgetful and kind, our influence will be beneficial. There are some who try to do good, but hold themselves aloof, and their efforts are of little avail. Let us strive, therefore, to follow Christ (John 13:12-15) humbly, lovingly, patiently, doing good as we have opportunity, and, above all, living ourselves according to the law of godliness, and let us leave results with God. - W.F.

This doxology does not appear to be a part of the psalm to which it is annexed. The Psalms are divided into five books. The first book closes with the forty-first psalm. In all probability this was the earliest portion of the songs of the Hebrew sanctuary; and when made up (as we should say) into a volume, the collator added thereto a doxology - as was done also at the end of Psalm 72., 89., and 106. Perhaps the omission of any doxology after Psalm 150. is because that psalm is entirely one of praise. We have no information as to the name of the collator, nor as to the date at which this first division of the Psalms was made up, and the doxology appended thereto. But, nevertheless, it is of no small interest, and ought to convey no mean instruction; showing us, as it does, most strikingly what jubilation resulted from revelation. In pagan worship there is no delight in God; there is dread, there is homage to greatness, there is even thankfulness for a good harvest; but as for delight in God as God, there is none, and can be none, save where God has revealed himself; nor can there be any delight in adoring the Unknown, nor in the positivist's worship of humanity. Religious worship, as glad and jubilant, belongs only to those to whom God is known; paganism, whether in ancient or modern days, knows no such songs of delight or ascriptions of loving praise as those which rise up from the lips and hearts of the saints of God.

I. GOD, AS THE REVEALED GOD OF OUR SALVATION, IS THE FITTING OBJECT OF GLADSOME SONG. The declared name of God would yield delight to pious souls (Exodus 34:6, 7). The various terms added to the covenant name Jehovah show how the saints rejoiced in God: Jehovah-jireh, Jehovah-rophi, Jehovah-nisei, Jehovah-tsidkenu. Many expressions in the Psalms show what God was to his people - Rock, Fortress, Light, Strength, Refuge, their exceeding Joy, their Deliverer, their Sun, their Shield, pitying as a father, gentle and comforting as a mother, One who put beneath his people "everlasting arms." Well might their joy rise to songs of rapturous delight - as in Deuteronomy 32:26-29. This joy in God would arise

(1) from what God is in himself - as a God of power, wisdom, loving-kindness, faithfulness, pity, and love; and also

(2) from what he declared himself to be as Israel's God - giving pardon, help, strength, guidance, light, salvation. And now that, through the larger Scriptures, through the Person of Christ, and through the baptism of the Holy Ghost, our knowledge is so much the larger, our joy should be proportionately greater, and our songs the louder and sweeter, rising to such heights as Ephesians 3:20, 21; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Revelation 1:5, 6; Revelation 5:9-13; Revelation 7:10; Revelation 15:3.

II. THE GLADSOME PRAISE OF THE SAINTS IS THE BEFITTING RESPONSE TO GOD'S REVELATION OF HIMSELF. "Blessed be," etc. Here believers have a changeless Object of delight. "From everlasting to everlasting." "The same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." The response of believers to the revelation of so glorious a Being may be looked at in two ways.

1. As that which God desires to evoke by revealing himself. God, being love, yearns to be loved. Divine love yearns for its object to respond, even as our need yearns for a Being to meet that need.

2. With the Divine revelation of himself there is a power working in and on human souls, whereby such response is elicited. A mighty host of believers, whom their God has rescued from darkness and death, are now exulting in songs of praise to the God of their salvation, acknowledging that all good is from him, that all their trust is reposed on him, that all their love centres round him, that all their strength is derived from him, and that all their hopes are fixed on him; they know that he will never leave them nor forsake them. Yea, it is the revelation of a redeeming God to which we owe the happiest hearts, the noblest songs, the grandest music, and the highest inspiration. And this song will never die. First on earth, and then in heaven, the sacred will ascribe all honour to their God; while the vast redeemed host will never cease to add their grand "Amen." - C.

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