Truth, Understanding, Insight

Love beyond betrayal: Psalm 41

8th August 2012, rre


1) Learning from the Past

1 Corinthians 10 says that many of the Israelites in the wilderness died.

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. (I Corinthians 10 :5-6).

In the Psalms there are amazing parallels to the life of the Messiah and that of David. On many occasions David faced trials and threats from those he had regarded as friends and even from his own family. We can imagine David's despair when friends became foes and they even threatened his life and his position as King. This is captured in verse 7 of Psalm 41.

All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt.(Psalm 41:7)

The Messiah faced similar trials. He faced life threatening situations as we read in John 7.

Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keep the law? Why go ye about to kill me? (John 7:19)

And again in John 8.

But now ye seek to kill me, a man that has told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. (John 8:40)

Physically, attempts were made against the Messiah's life but the time was not right for his capture and he escaped from his oppressors.

Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (John 8:59:)

Again in John10 there is another attempt on his life and Jesus went away “beyond Jordan”.

Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him...
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.. Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. (John 10: 31, 37-40)

The oppression of his enemies was so great that Jesus felt the need to escape from those who sought his life.

David's Enemies

It is here we find an analogy with events that occurred in David's life time. David's prayer in Psalm 41 is that if he is faithful he will be preserved and saved from his enemies.

The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. (Psalms 41:2)

There is an incident that relates to David and his son Absalom, which was a great trial for David. When Absalom tried to usurp the power of David, David fled from Jerusalem and went to the same area as our Lord had gone to beyond Jordan. It is recorded that Absalom “stole the hearts of the men of Israel”. He sought power in Israel.

Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgement, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which has any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!
And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgement: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.(II Samuel 15:2-6)

David witnessed this conspiracy by Absalom and he saw that the hearts of the people were with Absalom and fearing Absalom and not wanting blood shed in Jerusalem he escaped from Absalom.

And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword. (II Samuel 15:13-15)

As David fled with his faithful servants, he witnessed former friends turn against him. Mephibosheth, whom David had provided for after Jonathan's death, appears to have turned against him. Ziba, Mephibosheth's servant met David as he fled.

And the king said, And where is thy master's son? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he abideth at Jerusalem: for he said, To day shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my father. Then said the king to Ziba, Behold, thine are all that pertained unto Mephibosheth. And Ziba said, I humbly beseech thee that I may find grace in thy sight, my lord, O king. (II Samuel 16:3-4)

To add to David's humiliation, Shimei of the house of Benjamin cursed David and threw stones at David.

And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The LORD has returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, you are taken in your mischief, because you are a bloody man. (II Samuel 16:5-8)

Worse still Ahithophel, his advisor and friend, had turned against David and David prays that any advice that he gave Absalom would be turned into foolishness.

And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. (II Samuel 15:31)

It did follow that Ahithophel's advice was not followed and David's prayer answered.

And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father. (2Sam 22:17)

Psalm 41 reveals David's thoughts at that time.

Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish? And if he come to see me, he speaks vanity: his heart gathers iniquity to itself; when he goes abroad, he tells it. All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt. An evil disease, say they, cleaves fast unto him: and now that he lies he shall rise up no more. Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them. (Psalms 41:5-10)

In Psalm 41 David is troubled. Was it disease and illness? Was he as close to God as he had been? Did the people wonder 'when will be die?' Did the hope of power prevail in the thoughts and actions of those who desired position, power and honour?

In Psalm41:9 he spoke of “mine own familiar friend”. Ahithophel whose advice had been as the oracles of God and who ate “my bread” had “raised his heel” against David. This is reminiscent of the adversary, the heel and the serpent as described in Gen 3:15.

In Psalm 55, David laments the betrayal by a friend and expresses the deep sorrow he felt.

For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company. (Psalms 55:12-14)

Trust and Betrayal

It was Jesus who was to endure betrayal also. Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and Psalm 55 could well be a parallel to Jesus' sorrow. John's record shows that at the last supper he was sitting beside Jesus, for him to be passed the sop while still leaning on Jesus. John and Peter must have been close and Judas also perhaps next to him. This position shows Judas' closeness to Jesus.

The events and conversation during the meal reveals what Jesus knew and shows how he must have suffered knowing their thoughts at that time and the betrayal that was being plotted.

Judas would betray Jesus and later, like Ahithophel, commit suicide.

But, behold, the hand of him that betrays me is with me on the table. And truly the Son of man goes as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! (Luke 22:21-22)

The disciples were engrossed in power play and striving for greatness. At this time of extreme stress for Jesus, the disciples' preoccupation with power and authority over each other must have caused him pain and reflects David's experiences.

And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. (Luke 22:23-24)

Simon Peter who at times had shown trust, belief and confidence in Jesus would soon fail to live up to these expectations. In a way he acted out a form of betrayal. And Simon Peter after proclaiming his allegiance and support for Jesus even to death, would deny that he knew Jesus.

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shall thrice deny that you know me. (Luke 22: 31-34)

This is strong language and allowed Peter, even after he failed, to have something to remember and gain strength from. Prayer was a large part of Jesus' life and he often went out to pray alone. Jesus knew beforehand who would betray him. Judas had heard that the Lord would pray for Simon despite his failure and he could have been encouraged by this to carry out the betrayal.

Prayer is an important aspect of our lives. Jesus prayed that Simon Peter be strengthened through his failing. David prayed for his enemies. The lesson for us is that Absalom committed treason, yet David paced about prayerful and fasting and prayed for him. Our Lord prayed for Peter knowing he would fail, and prayed that he would be strengthened. The following quotation captures the feelings of David in his relationship with Absalom and his treachery.

For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company. (Psalms 55:12-14)

David prayed for help when oppressed by his enemies.

Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt. (Psalms 35:1-4)

Our Enemies

There are times in our lives when we may encounter enemies, either within or outside our family. The experiences of David against his enemies show that our greatest strength is in prayer and we must present our petitions in prayer.

In Psalm 5 the Psalmist prays and presents a contrast. The workers of iniquity will not be accepted in God's presence. In contrast those who trust in Yahweh will rejoice.

Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. For thou art not a God that has pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: you hate all workers of iniquity. .. I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple. Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.
But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because you defend them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield. (Psalms 5; 2-5,7-8,11-12)

Paul writing to the Colossians says that justice will be done.

But he that does wrong shall receive for the wrong which he has done: and there is no respect of persons. (Colossians 3: 25)

Jesus sets high standards and expectations of those who would be faithful servants. We are to pray for our enemies and seek Yahweh's help in our trials and adversities.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:44-47)

In overcoming our trials and tribulations in life, prayer can be a source of strength if we have faith and confidence in Yahweh. Luke recording Jesus' words says,

And he spoke a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; (Luke 18:1)

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