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Speak to God | Psalm 41

As preached by John Keller. The structure of Psalm 41 shows us a pattern of promise, pain, and peace, so...

1) Speak to God his Promises (v. 1-3).

2) Speak to God your Pain (v. 4-9).

3) Speak to God in Peace (v. 10-13).


"Blessed is the one who considers the poor!

In the day of trouble, the LORD delivers him;

the LORD protects him and keeps him alive;

he is called blessed in the land;

you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.

The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;

in his illness, you restore him to full health.

As for me, I said, 'O LORD, be gracious to me;

heal me, for I have sinned against you!'

My enemies say of me in malice,

'When will he die, and his name perish?'

And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words,

while his heart gathers iniquity;

when he goes out, he tells it abroad.

All who hate me whisper together about me;

they imagine the worst for me.

They say, 'A deadly thing is poured out on him;

he will not rise again from where he lies.'

Even my close friend, in whom I trusted,

who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

But you, O LORD, be gracious to me,

and raise me up, that I may repay them!

By this, I know that you delight in me:

my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.

But you have upheld me because of my integrity,

and set me in your presence forever.

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting!

Amen and Amen."

Let’s pray. Father, blessed be your name from beginning to end, from age to age. May all nations, families, and peoples worship and submit to you and your son. Lord, you are great and mighty. We ask for healing for our sick. We ask for relief for our poor. We ask that you protect and deliver us from our enemies. Lord, we want to obey your word; help us. Jesus, you show us how to treat our enemies. You show us how to speak the truth in love to those who hate and despise us. Help us follow your example. Help us be your disciples. Holy Spirit, guide my words. Help me to speak truth from your word. Help our hearts to be still and receive your message. Holy Spirit, guide us in obedience and worship. We pray this in the name of Jesus our Lord, amen.

One day, I went to go work on my home computer but something was wrong. Instead of seeing the background, icons, folders, or anything else on the home screen, I just saw a giant, pixelated mess. In a panic, I tried the standard troubleshooting that I knew and nothing was working. The screen still showed this weird, pixelated blob. I called my wife, and she had no idea how this happened. It was working fine just earlier in the morning. I frustratedly waved my mouse across the desk in a vain attempt to free the computer from this malicious virus that had affected our computer. That was when I saw the pixelated blob turn white briefly as I moved the mouse. I slowly moved the mouse back, and the screen turned white again. It was then that it hit me, our computer was not broken nor did it have a virus. Instead, one of our kids had somehow enabled “zoomed in” mode through a keyboard shortcut and that is what the screen was displaying. Fortunately, this was easily fixable after a quick Google search, but this story shows a valuable lesson. You cannot see, operate, or function well without proper perspective. Yes, there is a time and place to focus and zoom in, that is why there is a keyboard function to do it on a computer, but if you never step back or zoom out, you will become frustrated and lost.

Perspective matters. A mosaic, or in my case a computer screen, is not seen zoomed in, but further away. Do not miss the forest for the few trees before you. Do not miss the plank in your eye as you look for specs in other people’s eyes. While we understand the truth behind these things, we live in a time and culture that naturally hyper-fixates on things. We live in a world that is zoomed in 24/7. Maintaining perspective and remembering the big picture can be difficult. We have 24/7 news cycles, we have our own personal computers and assistants in our pockets which can constantly say, “Look at me, check this out, look at me, oh better check on that.” 

Look, look, look, give, give, give, that is what our technology and world say to us. And what do these things offer in return? A chance to find a moment of gladness, wisdom, pleasure, belonging, and escape. All you have to do is check a screen. When you are suffering, it can be so easy to go to these things to distract you from your pain. When you are in sin, it is easier to wash away your guilt with a gullet of other emotions from entertainment, news, and social media. If one is not careful, they may find themselves even denying that they were suffering in the first place. In our kind of world, where so many things seek to steal away your attention, emotions, and cares, how do you maintain perspective, particularly in the midst of suffering? What is your centering point?

I hope all of us would say that we should go to God and His Word! He is our maker, sustainer, healer, and deliverer! His Word is life and truth. Psalm 41 shows us what we should do when we suffer and what should we say to the God who is in control even in the midst of our suffering. In short, this song grounds us in God’s promises and guides us to speak in peace. 

Psalm 41 addresses two types of affliction: sickness and plotting enemies. I think we can relate more to one than the other, but both are in focus in this Psalm. 

There is a universal recognition that sickness is bad. You don’t want to be sick, you don’t want your family to be sick. Sickness is a form of suffering. As we have seen in early Psalms, illness can be a form of discipline from the Lord. Our sickness can be a result of sin and rebellion against God. And yet, it is appropriate and right to seek healing and restoration from God and to do so with humility and confidence. 

There is a universal acknowledgement that enemies are bad but it is also taboo to talk about them. We usually associate the average person talking about their “enemies” with paranoia and other negative attributes. We just rather not deal with the baggage of labeling someone who despises us, undermines us, slanders us, and yearns for our destruction as our “enemy.” Maybe they just had a bad day today? We just don’t click that well for some reason. 

So when David talks about his enemies, we sometimes struggle to properly apply these passages. But enemies are a form of suffering and God allows them into our lives to form us and shape us to be like Christ. Jesus had enemies and his church continues to have them today. Consider Jesus’ words from Matthew 10:24-25: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” What David says about his suffering from enemies applies to us today. We must turn to God when persecuted by our enemies.

How do we talk to God with both humility and confidence in the midst of our suffering? Is it the same when the suffering is due to our own sin? David gives us Psalm 41 as an answer. 

So far, we have only talked about Psalm 41 from a big-picture overview. What do we see when we take a closer look?

We find Psalm 41 begins with a theological reflection on how God blesses and protects the righteous, particularly those who help the poor in vv. 1-3. God helps them even when they are sick. Then we see that David is sick, he has sinned, and his enemies are circling around him in vv. 4-9. David then calls on the Lord for salvation from his sickness and his enemies vv. 10-12. Psalm 41 concludes with a final declaration of worship to God in v. 13.

As we take this closer look, we find some odd things that don’t quite make sense if this is just a song of personal reflection. Why can David refer to his integrity in v. 12 when he just confessed sin in v. 4? Why does David ask to repay his enemies when vengeance is the Lord’s (see Deut. 32)? If this is a reflection on a specific event in David's life, why do we not have mention of it in the subheading? All we know about this Psalm is that David gave it to the choirmaster. 

A key to this puzzle comes from Jesus in the gospel of John. Jesus cites Psalm 41:9 in John 13:18 as for why one of his disciples would betray him, noting that the Scripture must be fulfilled. This is significant so let me be clear, Jesus was not appropriating a random line from a psalm as a prophecy. This prophecy was there when David wrote it hundreds of years earlier and gave it to the choirmaster. If that is the case, David was primarily thinking and meditating on the coming Messiah when he wrote this song. He was meditating on the future sufferings of the Messiah and the plotting of his enemies which include one of his close friends. At the same time, while there is a messianic prophecy in Psalm 41, David is looking to the Messiah as a lens to interpret his own plight. Just as God would save and vindicate his Messiah in the days ahead, David knew the same would be true for him. Additionally, this is not just about Jesus and David but for all of God’s people. That is why this song was given to the choirmaster, it is to help us speak to God in the midst of our suffering. It does this by keeping our affliction in proper perspective. This does not mean that we minimize the pain we experience. It’s actually quite the opposite. There are more stanzas about David’s suffering than anything else in this Psalm. No, Psalm 41 does not minimize the pain, it just magnifies God and his promises. 

The structure of Psalm 41 shows us a pattern of Promise vv. 1-3, Pain in vv. 4-9, and Peace in vv. 10-13. Those will be our three points of application this morning. 

Speak to God his Promises

Speak to God your Pain

Speak to God in Peace

Before we get to these points, I want to talk about vv. 1-3 and think through what David means by “considering the poor.” This is important because if the Psalm does indeed have the Messiah in mind, it shapes how we view Jesus’ ministry and our lives as his disciples. Was Jesus a social justice warrior who fought and advocated for the poor? Was Jesus trying to end poverty while he was on Earth? The answer to these questions is a flat no, that is not why Jesus was here. And yet, Jesus is one who perfectly considered the poor. So we need to understand what the Bible is talking about when it says to consider the poor like it does in Psalm 41 because it is very different from what our culture would say.

When David says that one is blessed when they consider the poor, he is not speaking just from his personal experience. He is not writing this as a righteous “influencer” with some pointers from his life lessons. He is writing this as an anointed king and prophet of God who mediates on God’s law. Yes, David did consider the poor and we can look at his life and learn some principles from David. But that is not what David is pointing to, he is pointing to something greater than himself. So what exactly is he pointing to? 

Let’s look back at our text. In vv. 1-3 we see David begin by making theological statements about those who “consider the poor.” The one who considers the poor is blessed and the Lord delivers him (v.1). The Lord protects him and keeps him alive, he is called blessed by his neighbors and community, and the Lord does not give him to the desires of his enemies (v. 2). Finally, the Lord sustains him when he is sick and even restores him to full health (v.3). Before David begins with his own problems and pains, he begins by saying to God and to himself what God has promised. Namely, that God does not abandon the righteous. For those who act in alignment with God’s heart, God takes care of them in all their needs. 

Many Psalms have talked about righteousness, but here we have a specific act of righteousness called out. But what does it mean to consider the poor? Where is David getting these promises from? 

There is a footnote in the ESV that the word for poor could also mean weak. The first use of this word in the Old Testament is when Pharaoh describes his dream of the 7 bad cows. They are weak, feeble, and sickly. To be poor is to lack money, power, ability, and even health. So what are we to do for the poor, to those who lack and are weak? What does it mean to consider them? We need to ask this because those who do are blessed in the land and are not given up to their enemies. They are sustained and healed by God even in the midst of physical suffering. So we need to get this right.

There are countless stories and Bible passages that we can turn to for guidance on how we can help the poor around us. We have the message of John the Baptist giving your extra tunic to someone in need. We have the story of the good Samaritan from Jesus which shows loving your neighbor in a powerful way. But what did David have to teach him this reality? Where in the Law of Moses, the Pentateuch, do we see God’s love, care, and concern for the poor? 

Deuteronomy 15 gives clear commands on lending to the poor, with v. 15 saying “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”. We are to give freely to those in our community with needs, even when we know they may never pay us back. Even Jesus reiterates this when Mary pours perfume on his feet, “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Matt 26:11). Considering the poor by lending and giving to them is still important for us today. James assumes these principles of giving to the poor and meeting their needs when he writes, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16)

But these commands are not the only way we can look at the poor in the Bible. We can also start at the beginning of the Pentateuch and ask who are the first poor people that we see in the Bible? One could argue it was Adam and Eve as they were fleeing the garden. They have absolutely nothing, but what does God provide for them? Animal skins for clothing (Gen. 3:21). Even after the Fall, God sees the needs of the weak and provides for them. What about those who are poor because of the actions of others? In other words, yes, they are sinners, but their painful circumstances are tied to people who have authority and influence over them. In other words, they are rightly called victims who need help. 

Here we see a very powerful example in Hagar fleeing Abraham and Sarah. After conceiving a child with Abraham, Sarah treats Hagar harshly, causing Hagar to leave into the wilderness and go towards the land of Shur. Who comes and ministers to Hager in this time of fear and pain? It is the Angel of the Lord in Gen. 16:7. This is the first time in all of Scripture that the Angel of Lord is mentioned. This figure, who is often associated with the pre-incarnate Christ, is first seen in the Bible comforting and speaking to an abused, runaway slave girl. Clearly, God is showing concern for this poor person. The same figure who speaks to Moses from the burning bush is first seen here speaking to Hagar. Let’s look at what this concern looks like. Listen to what the Angel of the Lord says to Hagar to comfort and minister to her in Gen 16:9-13, 

“The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her,

“Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael because the LORD has listened to your affliction. 12  He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen. 13 So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

What is God giving to this poor slave? God gives Hagar two things: a command and a promise. The command is to go back to the awful situation she was in. The promise is what causes Hagar to worship God and obey God in returning to Sarah. But the promise is not that her situation will magically improve overnight, but that her son and descendants have a purpose and blessing in God’s plan. Ishmael was not part of Jesus’ redemptive family line. But God still blesses Hagar and Ishmael with a song of promise (Gen 16:10-12). God considers poor, weak Hager by visiting her, giving her a clear command and a clear promise. 

Let us skip ahead and look at Gen. 21:14-20. Here Abraham is casting out both Hagar and Ishmael after Ishmael persecuted and mocked Isaac: 

“So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept” (Gen. 21:15-16). 

“And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.  And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow” (Gen. 21:17-20).

When we see Hagar suffering again, we see a similar response. God again gives Hagar a command and reiterates his promise. But this time he provides for her and her son’s physical needs. They need water and the Lord gives her water. These stories show that the Lord has a heart for the poor and righteousness reflects that care and concern. But if that concern is only for physical needs, it is missing the point. When David and God’s people looked back at Hagar’s story as they meditated on God’s law, they could see the Lord’s concern for this poor woman by giving commands and promises while also providing to fulfill those same promises. 

We see this in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus teaches the poor God’s commands and promises while delivering them from physical and spiritual affliction. Jesus had a heart for the poor and we see that primarily through his teachings. Over and over Jesus gives commands and promises when he speaks to the poor. Concern for the poor is giving them God’s commands, God’s promises, and helping to meet their physical needs. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of this and we are called to go and do likewise as his disciples. With this perspective in mind, let us look again at our text and give some points of application. 


Speak to God his Promises

God promises to deliver the righteous, those who consider the poor. If you are sick and suffering, the Lord is sustaining you (see v. 3). You may feel like Hagar where the Lord’s command to you is to go back to your painful situation and submit. Trust the Lord and be patient. Be still and know that He is God. But that is not all that God says to you! God also speaks to you His promises! Psalm 41 shows us it is perfectly right and good to pray them right back to God. Pray God’s promises to Him! Pray “Lord, your Word says you will not abandon me in my sickbed. O God, deliver me that I may stand with your people once again! You promise to not leave behind the poor and needy, so restore me that I may too give to those who are poor and needy! Lord, I am depressed and in despair, please forgive me. Heal my soul and protect me.” 

There are some who hear these prayers and need to speak them for themselves. There are others who need to pray these things for other members of the church. We are a family, we are known by our love for one another. We are not alone in our suffering. One of the ways we can serve each other when we see those who are weak and poor is to speak God’s commands and God’s promises and to help empower them to keep them. This can be something as simple as giving a ride to church to helping someone budget in order to faithfully give to setting accountability patterns and relationships against sexual immorality. We do these things not just because we love our church and we want to help each other grow in righteousness but because we believe God’s promises. Let us speak these promises to God and to one another as we live life together.

Speak to God Your Pain

In v. 4, we see David plead to God for grace and confess that he has sinned against God. This sin has affected David in a deep way. David appears to be ill in bed, with enemies falsely coming to comfort him with empty words only spreading lies and venomous slander in public afterward in vv. 5-8. Even a good, close friend has turned aside and betrayed David in this bleak circumstance in v. 9. 

Notice how David is spending far more words talking about his painful situation rather than his sin. Yes, he begins with a confession of sin, but we don’t know the details or the context. David seems to be quickly moving on from that point to detail all the ways his enemies are troubling and distressing him. The majority of this song from David is detailing to God his pain. 


Do you pray to God when you are sick? Do you ask God for healing? Or do you try to tough it out? Do you notice when other people are sick? Do you go into the details with God?


Do you tolerate gossip? Does what people say bother you? Is it just something that people do sometimes? Do you tell God how much it hurts and bothers you?


How do you respond to people spreading lies about you or the church? Is it not a big deal to you? What is the line that has to be crossed before you say something to someone? What is the line before you talk to God about it?

Malicious associates

Do people try to undermine you? Has someone in your workplace set you up to fail? How do you talk about that situation with your friends and family? How do you pray about that situation to the God who allowed this to happen? 


Have you experienced betrayal? Has someone close to you abandoned you or even turned against you? Have you forgiven them? Have you talked to God about why He let you experience that pain?


Who are your enemies? Who stands against you and your faith? Who is planning a party at your destruction? Who hates you? How are you praying for your enemies and how are you praying to God about the pain they cause?

I remember being at a game shop in Tennessee and a man was talking about how he read that a church building collapsed on the congregation on Easter and how happy he was about that. I asked him why and he said they deserved it for following such foolishness. He later told me that he grew up in the church but now followed Satan instead. For decades it was taboo to openly speak against God and his church but that time has long passed. We must be prepared to face enemies in our work, in our neighborhoods, and in our families. And we start that preparation through prayer by speaking to God. But we must confront our enemies. Jesus regularly spoke to the Pharisees and called them to repentance. Jesus did not ignore his enemies but spoke God’s commands and promises also to them. But instead of accepting them as the poor did, they rejected him. At times, we will face the same rejection. 

Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). We are to love our enemies as God loved us when we were His enemies. Paul writes, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom 5:10). 

And yet, as we see in Psalm 41, we are to speak about the pain and suffering that our enemies and sickness cause us. 

There was a night 7 years ago when I could not sleep. My heart and soul were in so much pain for my newborn son, Moses. He had been in the hospital for days with no answer on what was going on or when or if he would be brought home for us. As I lay in bed, sleepless, I began to pray all the feelings and fears I felt from this pain. Yes, I prayed for healing and prayed back God’s promises, but my heart needed to share to God all my anxieties and trust that he cared for me and my son (1 Pet. 5:7). 

When you are slandered and persecuted by your enemies, you should pray for them but do not hold in and ignore the pain and anxieties they cause within you. Cast them unto God. When you are sick in bed, feeling helpless, do not ignore your pain but cast it unto God and make plain to him how you feel. We do these things in peace which takes us to our final point.

Speak to God In Peace

In Psalm 41:11-12 we can see David have confidence and peace in his standing in the Lord. He says “By this, I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. 12  But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.” 

Why can David speak with such certainty? Is he not still sick in bed? Are his enemies not plotting and speaking against him? Yes, but that is not where David gets his confidence and peace. He gets it from keeping his perspective on the Lord. He has assurance that the Lord delights in him. Even though David sinned and is suffering, David knows that the Lord's attitude towards him is one of love and delight! How does David know this? Because David’s enemies will not triumph over him. Once again we see a promise, something that has not happened yet but that David knows will be true. But what about this promise? Why does David continue to have such confidence in these promises? V. 12 gives the answer why.

God has upheld David because of David’s integrity, his character, his righteousness, and he will be with God forever. Because David knows he will be with God forever and that he is blameless before God, how could his enemies ever overcome him. How could even sickness rob David before his time when God is on his side. 

Make no mistake, David is no Pharisee. He just confessed sin in v. 4 of this Psalm. So how can David speak about his integrity and assurance of his standing with God? It is because this Psalm is about the Messiah, Jesus. David is not writing a song to point God’s people to himself as a righteous influencer but to point people to the coming Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one. He is the means by which we can be called righteous. As Abraham believed God and David believed God we too can believe God and be declared righteous. 

Jesus is the blessed one who considers the poor in Psalm 41. Jesus is the one who has empty words spoken to him in private and slander spread in public. Jesus is the one whose close friend turned his heel against him. Jesus is the one who was raised up so that he may repay his enemies. We know that God the Father delights in Jesus because his enemies did not triumph over him. Instead, God upholds the Son because of His righteousness and His integrity and sets the Son at his right hand forever. Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 41. 

David had his eyes on the Messiah in the midst of his suffering and that gave him peace. We are to do the same. When you speak to God, are you speaking in a place of peace? When we are suffering, when our hearts are full of pain and turmoil, it can feel impossible to say anything, let alone try to be peaceful about it. So what does it mean to speak to God in peace? It means that you are speaking to God with full confidence and trust in his promises, knowing that it is all on him. 

This is a peace that comes from God. It comes from His word and promises and also from the Holy Spirit who dwells within all who profess Christ as Lord. Paul notes that peace is a part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit living in us. It is something we grow in and ask God to help us in.

Christ can give peace to the storms and the wind. He can give peace to your soul. Christ was raised from the dead and dwells with Father forever. For those who have faith in Christ, that will be true for them. If you do not have your faith in Christ, there is no peace for you. You only have the futile distractions of this world. They will continue to rob you of all perspective until you no longer remember why you feel the way you feel. So repent and believe in the Son, confess him as your Lord and Savior. God is a God who gives and gives freely. He gives life, peace, and freedom, but it is at the cost of your control, your autonomy, and your self-identity. That is the only path you too can have this peace.


When we are not suffering, we can find ourselves holding on to things we thought we had abandoned. We can begin to lose perspective of the grace God has given to us. Sickness and enemies, while never pleasant, invite us to call upon the Lord. They invite us to remember God’s promises and to speak to him about our pain. They challenge us to grow in peace which cannot be from ourselves but comes from God. 

As God’s church, we can band together in prayer and service for our sick and those oppressed by our enemies. And even our enemies, who seek to silence, to restrict, and to oppress us for our beliefs, we repay them with good as God showed us good through the cross. We forgive them as God forgave us. We confront them with the truth as God confronted us with the truth. We call our enemies to repent as God called us to repent when we were his enemies. We do this all in peace, which comes not from ourselves. It is a peace that comes only through Jesus. It is a peace that gives us the perspective to say with Paul in 2 Cor 4:17-18: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Let us go and be doers of God’s Word.


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