Lord, Be Merciful To Me

Psalm 41

Mercy a quality that seems to be in diminishing supply in world plagued by violence. True not just in Third World countries in spite of headlines: “Gunmen kill Nigeria women giving polio vaccines”; “Accused witch burned alive in Papua New Guinea”; “Couple stoned to death for adultery in Mali”. It’s here in the First World: “Authorities nab 85 in effort to combat Super Bowl sex trafficking”; “Manhunt continues for ‘killer’ LA ex-cop”; “Irish state sent thousands of women to infamous workhouses”.

If theology no longer “queen of the sciences”, instead evolutionary biology and all its permutations, we should expect harsh prevailing mindset: summarized in “survival of the fittest”, “dog eat dog world” and the like. Interesting side note / rabbit trail: those most determined to defend evolution often first and loudest to cry for mercy, something totally contradictory to their worldview.

Two qualities distinguish Christianity from other belief systems: grace and mercy. Come under heading of God’s goodness: “that perfection which prompts Him to deal kindly and bounteously with all His creatures”. Berkhof Qualities he expects to be present in his children, ones he rewards when he finds them there. Mercy especially is counter-evolutionary – showing consideration to someone who can provide absolutely no benefit in return. God’s people who have received immeasurable mercy from him should of all people be most merciful.

A. blessed are the merciful v.1-3

third psalm beginning with “blessed is”; somewhat of progression – the man who walks the straight and narrow (Psa. 1:1); the man whose sin is forgiven (Psa. 32:1); now, the man who is merciful

man in himself, in relation to God, in relationship with others; in connection of these three, see same elements present when Jesus @ Simon’s house

Luke 7:47her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

the righteous person, in right relationship with God because of forgiveness, demonstrating grace and mercy to others; is blessed in return because “God helps those who can’t help themselves”

with deliverance (1b)

umbrella statement with further definition following; exact nature of deliverance depends on situation and God’s purpose

1 Cor. 10:13 God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

with protection (2a)

we are immortal for full extent of days allotted to us; if intent is to live life to fullest extent for glory of God, can count on his protection and preservation. Not license to be foolish, is liberty to not hold back out of fear

with temporal blessing (2b)

does not preclude future blessing, have next life as a certain hope; God graciously provides foretaste of heaven here on earth in tangible ways that encourage, motivate, strengthen his children

with a “hedge” (2c)

God often chooses to deliver in our troubles, not out of them; guards his child, frustrates his enemies and their plans, leaves necessity for trust/dependence

with sustaining strength (3a) with healing/restoration (3b)

further indication: God enables his child to endure difficulties, doesn’t eliminate them; when they have served God’s purpose, he brings about healing

like Jesus said: Matt. 5:7Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.”

elaborated on that: Matt. 25:31-40 – “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me”

B. be merciful to me v.4-10

sin is the worst (4)

no rejoicing because of hung jury or good outcome to plea bargain; begs for forgiveness on basis of mercy alone

whether predicament is result of particular sin or not, #1 priority must be relationship with God – #1 need is spiritual healing; same medicine now as then:

Isa. 53:5He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”

dealing with sin on basis of true repentance (“sinned against You”) brings other needs into proper perspective – evil and evildoers are real, but,… are secondary

enemies are evil

speak evil about me (5, 6b)

“sticks and stones…” is wishful thinking or denial; cruelty hurts, even when from enemies

especially true when unjustified, when calculated to diminish person in estimation of others – “so-and-so real waste of oxygen”

Japan’s new government is barely a month old, and already one of its most senior members has insulted tens of millions of voters by suggesting that the elderly are an unnecessary drain on the country’s finances. Taro Aso, the finance minister, said on Monday;

“Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government,” he said. “The problem won’t be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.”

He also referred to elderly patients who are no longer able to feed themselves as ‘tube people’.

speak evil to me (6a)

pretends to be friendly, speaks so as to gain confidence, on mission to gain “evidence” that can be misused – what might call a back-stabber

side note: must be careful not to react wrongly, not trust anyone because of shameful treatment by evildoers

plot against me (7)

evildoers don’t always have faces – can be whole pile of misfortunes, series of events/circumstances

seems like world is ganging up on defenseless child of God who is working all-out just to keep nose above water

kind of situation only God can handle – beyond resources of individual to change

treat me as dead (8)

more than wishing him dead, treat him that way in thinking, acting and conversation with others

insinuate that calamity is deserved, perhaps even gloating over misfortune

even friends betray (9)

especially that one – intensely painful when betrayer is one who has had full confidence, intimacy, trust

folks may not believe Bible, still don’t name their sons Judas; name dogs Brutus: “Et tu Brute?”

Jesus, John 13:18, applies this scripture directly to one who betrayed him: “the Scripture will be fulfilled”

I really need your mercy (4a, 10)

envelope is plea for mercy, declaration of utter dependence on God; in spite of troubles, does not lose hope

great comfort and encouragement – turn from faithless friends to faithful God, the one who never fails

C. I know you are merciful v.11-12

you’ve protected me (11b)

simple fact that I’m praying means God has protected; accompanied by the special work of Holy Spirit

Rom. 8:16The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”

you uphold me (12a)

in spite of what others are doing, still do right thing; they may not be people of integrity, but child of God perseveres

may be tempting, but trust in God enables his followers not to stoop to practicing evil

you refuse to disown me (12b)

“As man sets God before him as an object of trust, so God sets man before him as an object of protection.” Alexander

family relationship begins here and now, once begun will never end

depends not on child’s perseverance but on Father’s preserving; perseverance of saints really should be thought of in terms of God’s preserving, not the saints’ grit in persevering

D. closing doxology v.13

blessing that we may bless – blessing declared at beginning of psalm not given so as to be hoarded, taken for granted

God rarely gives gifts strictly for enjoyment by individual

must be praise and thanks returned to him, sharing in one way or other with brothers and sisters

doxology (song of praise) part of believer’s experience from conversion onward forever

remember Apostle John’s visions of heaven, worship and doxology by saints and angels

God and his works always a fitting object of praise. Each book of Psalter ends with doxology: 41, 72, 106; final psalm is doxology in its entirety. Psalter leads us to praise God, should be short journey! “An audible amen is no indecency in the house of God, if seasonably and reverently made. But we should always say it in our hearts.” Plumer

May we be quick to depend on God, to seek his mercy, to give him praise that is his due.

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