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Psalm 41 is a blend of some familiar psalm ingredients. It kicks off by again reminding us of God’s heart for the weak and echoes his commands to his followers to care for the weak. I’m continually surprised at how self-absorbed much of contemporary Christianity has become with so little regard for the weak, when this is such a consistent theme throughout the Bible.
The psalm then shifts into a prayer of repentance. The psalmists seem continually aware of their personal sin, continually humble before God in repentance and in seeking wholeness and healing in his forgiveness. I love the theme of mercy throughout the psalms. Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve. We have so much to be thankful for in God’s mercy. Mercy is not just a one-time act we receive at salvation. Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV) remind us:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Psalm 41 then shifts into the very familiar theme of the psalmist being persecuted by his enemies. His enemies want him to die and speak of him in malice. They speak falsely about him and slander his name, spreading vile rumors. Even his close friend has turned against him! In passages like these, I think we often forget the emotional and mental anguish that this type of persecution brings. We can often imagine the physical danger a psalmist might be in, like when someone is trying to murder him. But how often are we ourselves in a situation like that? Very rarely, if ever, for most readers today. But how often are we in situations where the emotional and mental anguish of life is overwhelming? Where our circumstances have outmatched us. Where someone has betrayed us, where plans have failed, where we feel lonely and isolated. We can all raise our hands to having experienced that type of pain on a semi-regular basis. It’s important we don’t miss the gift this psalm offers us as we endure those hardships.
The gift again is mercy. The prayer is that we might experience the riches of God’s mercy. Mercy produces joy and gratitude, despite our circumstances. Our circumstances might not change, but we can always have incredible joy and gratitude that we have been given God’s merciful love instead of the wrath that we deserve.
We read these psalms back through the lens of Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross. We aren’t seeking to repay our enemies the way the psalmist was because of Jesus’ new commands to love our enemies in his new way of being human (Matthew 5:43-48).
The mercy that the psalmist prays for leads him to worship. Whether circumstances are ideal or an intense struggle, we consistently see the psalmist worshiping God. Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Mercy can always lead us to worship. Thank you God for your ultimate victory! Thank you that you let me in on your victory! Thank you for adopting me into your family! Thank you for your love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, which I could never attain on my own, yet you lavish upon me. Thank you! I praise your name!
Invitation to reflection:
Prayer for the day: Father, thank you for your mercy. Thank for giving me your love, grace, and forgiveness instead of the punishment for my sins that I deserve. I soak in your love. I soak in your mercy to me. I thank you for your mercy. Help me to see everything through the lens of your mercy. Help me to see my marriage or singleness as a gift of your mercy, an undeserved gift. Change my heart. Change my prayers. Take away my heart of entitlement that makes demands on you and replace it with a heart of gratitude that is overwhelmed with all you have already given me in your mercy alone. Thank you! Praise be to the Lord, from everlasting to everlasting!