The Righteous One’s Meekness under Betrayal

a brief study of Psalm 41, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 5 Apr 2007

Psalm 41 appears to be written by David at a time of bodily afflictions. During those days, his enemies took advantage of his situation not only to wish him ill, but also to create trouble for him. Amongst all those who were his enemies was one whom he had regarded as a familiar friend. Could it have been Ahithophel? Could it be that the uprising of Absalom took place at a time when David was also suffering some illness? We do not know. But it must have been an extremely vexing time for David. Nevertheless, he trusted in the justice and mercy of the LORD, believing that the LORD will protect him and restore him.

Is this psalm messianic? Some deny that this psalm can be messianic because of verse 4—“I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.” Our Lord could not have taken these words upon His lips, it is suggested.

However, we must not forget that in the night the Lord Jesus was betrayed, when He was celebrating His last Passover meal with His disciples, our Lord quoted verse 9. He said to the disciples:

“I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (Jn 13:18)

The Lord was referring to Judas Iscariot who was about to betray Him. And notice how He quotes the verse! “That the scripture may be fulfilled” He says. Essentially, what that means is that the Lord is not simply applying or adapting the psalm to His own situation. He is suggesting that the psalm is ultimately prophetic about His experience. David was but a type, Christ is the substance. The suffering speaker in the psalm is ultimately Christ. Verse 9 is ultimately referring to Judas Iscariot, whoever the type might have been.

With this in mind, let us look at this psalm again and see how it fits so beautifully into the experience of the Lord.

There are 3 parts in this psalm: (1) verses 1-4 is a commendation of the merciful; (2) verses 5-9 is a description of the Traitor; and (3) verses 10-13 is a plea for mercy and favour.

1. The Blessedness of
the Merciful

1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. 2 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.

May not these words be summarised in the 5th beatitude of our Lord, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7)? “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.” Is this not synonymous with “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”?

The Day of trouble is the day of the wrath of the lamb and all days of judgement that are precursors to it. But that day will also be a day when the merciful will obtain mercy and be delivered out of trouble. Did not our Lord tell us in His parable of the Sheep and Goat that He would say unto His sheep in that day:

“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you… For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me…” (Mt 25:34-36)?

Truly blessed are the merciful. But such as are merciful do not need to wait till that Great Day of trouble to experience God’s mercy, for our Lord has promised, verse 3—

3 The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.

Such as are merciful can expect to experience the Lord’s mercy in His providence when they are afflicted. They can expect to find strength in the Lord emotionally and spiritually, and often times, even physically. This, I believe, is the experience of many a child of God.

God does not promise us exemption from sorrow and sickness; but He has promised us strength and comfort to carry us through our trials. Those who have themselves been the Lord’s instrument of mercy towards others in their hour of need, will inevitably experience a reciprocation of their kindness. This is God’s promise. And this is also our experience. We experience mercy and comfort especially from those who have been helped by our ministry.

But our Lord, who is most merciful, ironically, experienced the least mercy through reciprocation. Those whom He showed kindness to, abandoned Him in His hour of need.

Why did this happen? This happened because He came to bear our sin; and He must bear it alone.

4 I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.

Our Lord had no sin, therefore when He took these words in His holy lips, He must be understood as confessing not His own sin, but the sin of those whom He came to represent.

Because He was bearing the sin of His people, He was in need of mercy from the Father. No one else would show mercy to Him. They had forsaken Him. And many of them were ready to render evil for good instead.

Consider their wretchedness…

2. Wretchedness of the Traitor

5 Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish?

Did not this happen exactly as described in our Lord’s ministry? While He was doing good, His enemies were speaking evil of Him behind His back and before Him. “Thou hast a devil” they accused him over and over again (Jn 7:20; 8:48 etc)

So they were constantly wishing He would die and His name would perish with Him. We are told of how the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to discuss what they should do to the Lord. He was doing many miracles, they acknowledged. But they hated it that a multitude of people was following Him. They could not wait get rid of Him (cf. Jn 11:47; 12:19).

So they kept sending out spies to trap Him. Luke tells us:

“And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor” (Lk 20:20).

Was this not prophesied in verse 6?

6 And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it. 7 All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt. 8 An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more.

Their fury against the Lord heated up more and more as the Lord approached the Cross so much so that towards the end even before they handed Him over to Pilate, they had already decided that He would die.

The high priest, Caiaphas, even pronounced:

…it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (Jn 11:49-50).

A judgement of death penalty was already determined in the minds of those who hated him.

Their hatred for the Lord became clearer and clearer until they cast off any pretence completely.

“9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me,” says our Lord.

“The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Mt 26:24), adds the Lord.

Judas Iscariot was a familiar friend. He was appointed an apostle together with the other 11. He travelled with them, ate with them, worshipped with them. He was trusted enough to be appointed as the treasurer of the apostolic band. But even as they sat down to enjoy the Passover meal together, he was thinking of how to betray the Lord.

He betrayed the Lord with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver.

Such was the lot of our Lord.

Very few of us will be required to endure the same kind of betrayal because of the general principle which we have seen earlier that the merciful will experience blessedness not only in future but in this life.

However, it is not a promise that we shall be spared from such wicked betrayals. And so if the Lord deems it necessary that you should experience what our Lord experienced, remember that “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord” (Mt 10:24). “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (Jn 15:18) reminds our Lord.

So beloved brethren and children, if you experience betrayal from friends or foes, remember the Lord’s example of meekness. And remind yourself of the Father’s mercy as our Lord did in the final section of this psalm.

3. The Favour of the LORD

10 But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them. 11 By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me.

The Lord knew that He was headed for the Cross. He warned His disciples about it. He knew that when His familiar friend lifted up his heel against Him, He would have to die.

But the justice and mercy of God demanded that our Lord would not remain in the grave. He must arise from the dead for the justification of his saints. He must arise that He might sit in judgement against His foes who are the enemies of God.

So He prays, “raise me up, that I may requite them.” Raise me up that I may know “that thou favourest me.”

All of God’s providential dealings with His saints in this life are designed to give us substance for praise and gratitude. Even the trials that God sends our way, together with the deliverance packaged is designed for us to experience God’s favour that for all eternity we may have reason to rejoice in Him.

Our Lord’s suffering and victory served the same purpose. Through the experience of deliverance, our Lord, the God-Man learned experimentally of the Father’s favour.

This then is one of the reasons why God appoints sufferings for us. God sends trials into our life for our good. These trials will never harm us. In fact, He upholds us through our trials, as He did to our Lord who testifies finally:

12 And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever. 13 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.

Every step of the way our Lord experienced the favour. Through the suffering which He must endure for our sakes, the Father upholds Him. When His atonement is accomplished, the Father raised Him up and seated Him at His right hand, one day to return as King and Judge over all — to execute justice upon His enemies and the enemies of His people.


What a psalm! As our Lord experienced the favour of His Father through the persecution and betrayal that He suffered on our behalf, may we also experience His favour.

At least, let us remember that dark providences in our life are no indication of a withholding of His favour and love. On the contrary, they are often sent in order that we might for all eternity sing of His favour. His favour and love will be the theme of our song for all eternity. May we learn to sing it today—in the words of such a psalm as this. Let us sing it in remembrance of what our Lord went through for us. Let us sing it at times when we suffer similar betrayal or persecution, understanding that Christ our Lord was tempted like as we are yet without sin. Amen.