The Messianic Psalms --Part 8

The Messianic Psalms
Part 8

Dr. John Boyd

This is the eighth article by Dr. John Boyd, Hollywood, Ireland, on the Messianic Psalms. We have always appreciated the Doctor’s written ministry, and consider these articles an excellent contribution to an understanding of these prophecies concerning Christ.

(8) Psalm 41
Messiah — The Betrayed One

The historical setting of this Psalm seems to have been the time of Absalom’s conspiracy, when David was grieved to learn that the chief counsellor, Ahithophel, had treacherously sided with his enemies. The title is the same as that of Psalm 40. Both Psalms seem to be closely linked together. Here it would seem that David had been afflicted with a serious illness, and as a result his judgment of Israel had become slack (2 Sam. 15:2-3). This gave Absalom his chance to intrude into the work of judging the nation, and as a consequence he drew towards him the affections of the people. David, still a sick man, appeals to God amidst the false sympathy he was receiving from men whom he knew to be secretly hoping that he would never rise again. But the greatest blow he received was when he learned of Ahithophel’s desertion.

Whilst Psalm 41 was David’s expression of disappointment in a time of perplexity, it was written under the direction of the Holy Spirit with a definite Messianic intention. The Lord Jesus Christ in John 13:18 applied the words of v. 9 to the action of Judas Iscariot in betraying Him to the chief priests (Luke 22:4). This was the portion of the Old Testament referred to in John 17:12 as being fulfilled in the person of Judas whom the Lord designated the son of perdition. This was the Scripture which the Holy Ghost spake before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to them that took Jesus (Acts 1:16).

The Psalm is divided into four stanzas, (1) vv. 1-3, Messiah’s Confidence in God, (2) vv. 4-6, The Defamation of Messiah, (3) vv. 7-9, The Conspiracy against Messiah, (4) vv. 10-12, Messiah’s Appeal to God. Verse 13 does not properly belong to the Psalm, but is rather the closing doxology to the First Book of the Psalms. Let us now examine the Psalm in more detail.

Stanza 1
Messiah’s Confidence in God vv. 1-3

David gives us his impressions of God’s regard for the man who looks with compassion on the needy. Poor means rather one who is weak and needing assistance (Judg. 6:15). The man who helps such will himself receive a seven-fold blessing from God, {1) Deliverance from his enemies in an evil day. David was even then passing through such a time. Trouble (v.1) is the same word as evil (v.5); (2) Preservation from harm; (3) Long life, instead of the premature death his opponents wished for (v.8); (4) Earthly happiness and prosperity; (5) No fear of being betrayed to his enemies; (6) Support and strength when weakness compels him to lie down on his couch; (7) Comfort when ill. David in his present illness felt the need of all these blessings.

The Lord on the Cross, in the midst of His sufferings, and surrounded by enemies, expressed such confidence in His God; He had ever considered the poor. In Psalm 22 He confessed His dependence upon God; God was holy (v.3); He was the God of deliverance (v.5); God was His continual trust (vv. 9-10); God was his succourer (v. 19). Yet the blessings of vv. 1-3 had been withheld from Christ. The Lord realized that the fathers of Israel had been delivered, yet on the Cross He had been forsaken of God (v. 1). For Him there was no deliverance, no answer (v.2, R.V.), no strength (v.15), no rest (v.4, R.V., marg.). Such was God’s dealing with His Son when carrying out the work of our redemption. God had laid on Him the iniquity of us all; He had made Him to be sin for us.

Stanza 2
The Defamation of Messiah vv. 4-6

This stanza finds David in his bedchamber of suffering. His enemies came to visit him, but instead of sympathizing, they spoke words that distressed and worried him. David sought the mercies of God outlined in vv. 1-3, and in doing so confessed that his sin had been responsible for his illness. His enemies regarded his sickness as leading inevitably to death. That was their wish. They seemed to express it in his presence — not cheerful conversation with a sick man. But his enemy had visited him with ulterior motives, (a) speaking falsehood (R.V., marg.) —professing love, whilst there was enmity in his heart, (b) picking up information to use against David, (c) misconstruing his words and actions, (d) going away and spreading false rumours about his condition. These all possibly had reference to Absalom himself.

In the first part of this stanza it is difficult to see Messiah. Never in His first sojourn on earth, to which this Psalm applies, did He confess sin. On the contrary He challenged men to convict Him of sin (John (8:46). But here it would seem that He asked for mercy; He sought for the healing of His soul for sorrow had overtaken Him, the Man of Sorrows. He acknowledged His sin; this sin was the sin of the world which He as the Lamb of God was bearing in His own body on the tree. So identified was He with our sin that He confessed it as His own. His only bed-chamber of suffering was Calvary. His experience there was due to sin — our sin. A similar expression to this, “I have sinned,” is rendered in Genesis 43:9 “Let me bear the blame.” Does this infer that the Lord on the Cross was making Himself answerable for our sins?

The enemies of Christ continually spoke evil of Him. They plotted His death, and from the Cross they saw no deliverance for Him. They hoped and expected that His name would perish for ever. False witnesses testified against Him at His trial.

The Pharisees and Herodians and Sadducees united in visiting Him with the ulterior motive of entangling Him in His talk that they might encompass His death. They hypocritically questioned Him that they might have wherewith to accuse Him before Pilate (Matt. 22:15. Luke 20:20). The chief priests and scribes and elders mocked Him at Calvary. They challenged Him to come down from the Cross, and affirmed that God would not deliver Him finding no delight in Him who had claimed to be the son of God (Matt. 27:41-43).

Stanza 3
The Conspiracy Against Messiah vv. 7-9

Here David passes from the sick-chamber to the secret gatherings of the conspirators. In verse 4 it would seem as though Absalom was chiefly present to his mind, but in v.9 it was Ahithophel. Away from his bed-chamber his enemies had made his absence an occasion to plot against him in secret. They whispered together their impressions of his illness, and their hopes concerning its outcome, but not publicly lest David should get to hear of them for they still feared him. They hoped that it was an incurable, evil disease, literally, a thing of Belial — worthlessness, that had been poured out on him (v.8, R.V., marg.). This they interpreted from his confession of sin (v.4). His depression as seen in the request for his soul to be healed, they interpreted as his approaching death.

To David the “most unkindest cut of all” was that Ahithophel had treacherously defected to his enemies. David gives us a three-fold presentation of Ahithophel, (1) A familiar friend, literally the man of his peace, the man with whom he had ever been on good terms, (2) A man in whom the king had trusted for advice, (3) One whom David honoured with the privilege of eating at his table, not merely as a guest, but as one subsisting on the bounty of his household (2 Sam. 9:11). Yet what saddened David was that one so intimate should desert him in his hour of trial when support and advice were most needed. Lifting up the heel is an allegorical representation of a horse kicking his master. Thus did David depict Ahithophel’s betrayal.

The picture presented in this stanza amply sets forth the experience of Messiah. The Lord taught that this Scripture had been fulfilled in His relationship with Judas (John 13:18). Jesus had been the victim of much secret plotting in the closing days of His first sojourn on earth (Matt. 26:4, John 11:47-53). Men regarded Him as one stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted for blasphemous assertions (Mk, 14:64). Their wish for His death was father to the thought. But the Lord was greatly distressed over His betrayal by Judas (John 13:21), just as David had expressed his grief at Ahithophel’s defection.

Ahithophel and Judas had much in common. Both had been treated well; both were in a position of trust; both treacherously deserted their benefactors; both lived to see their counsel despised, and to regret their actions; both came to a sinister end — suicide by hanging. Yet there are two points of contrast between Ahithophel and Judas. The Lord did not quote the whole of v.9 in designating His betrayer; He did not call Judas His “own familiar friend;” he was not the man of His peace; he was a devil John 7:60). Nor did Jesus describe the son of Iscariot as one in whom He had trusted, for He knew what was in man, and did not trust Himself unto him (John 2:2425); He knew whom He had chosen; He knew that Judas would betray Him (John 13:11, 18).

Stanza 4
Messiah’s Appeal to God vv. 10-12

David continued his prayer of v.4, and asked for recovery from his illness for three reasons, (1) To deal with the conspiracy. This would dispel his enemies’ hope that he had been appointed unto death (v.8). He desired to requite them in order that God’s honour might be vindicated for God had set David in authority over them. (2) To be assured of God’s favour. This he would appreciate if God did not permit his enemies to triumph over him. (3) To know that God had acknowledged his integrity in his claim to have ever considered the poor (v.1), and had set him before His face. The eyes of the Lord are ever towards the righteous (Ps. 34:15).

The Lord on the Cross prayed to be delivered, not from dying, but out of death, that is, in resurrection (Heb. 5:7, R.V.m.). This He did that He might thereafter vindicate God’s honour, and bring to pass the righteous recompense that He had promised to those who had refused God’s King on earth. The kingdom of God would be taken from them, and given to a people bringing forth the fruit thereof (Matt. 21:43). This was not calling for vengeance on those who had inflicted suffering on Him at Calvary. For those He had prayed forgiveness (Luke 23:34).

Messiah realized that if God raised Him from the dead it would express the Father’s delight in Him and in His work on Calvary. The resurrection would be the greatest manifestation of triumph over His enemies — death (2 Tim. 1:10), and him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14). His opponents at Calvary said that God would express delight in His Son if He delivered Him from the Cross (Matt.27:43), but the Lord knew that if God allowed Him to experience death, and then raised Him from the dead, it would more effectively demonstrate the divine pleasure.

Christ’s integrity was upheld when He ascended into glory, and was set down by God at the right hand of the Majesty on High — before the face of His Father’s glory.

What a triumphant consummation of Messiah’s work on Calvary! He has suffered for our sins, and has entered into His glory. On earth He was despised; He was rejected; He was forsaken; He was ignominiously betrayed by the hand of one of His disciples. Yet in Heaven He was received with glory, and given the seat of honour at God’s right hand. There He is worshipped, the Great High Priest of His people, the centre of heavenly worship, and the constant admiration of His Father.

Verse 13 is separated from the Psalm, not being a part of it, but intended as a doxology at the end of the First Book of the Psalms (1-41). Yet it is a fitting anthem of praise in this Psalm which depicts the sorrow of the betrayed Messiah, and His complete acceptance by God in the seat of honour in Heaven.

“Jesus, in His heav’nly temple,
Sits with God upon the throne;
Now no more to be forsaken,
His humiliation gone.”