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Bible Commentaries

Parker's The People's Bible

Psalms 41

Verses 1-13

"Handfuls of Purpose"

For All Gleaners

"Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble" Psa 41:1

The Psalmist is here talking experimentally. He recalls the treachery of some who professed to be his friends, and he pours a eulogy upon those whose honour and sympathy he had tested in a crucial hour. There is nothing to show who wrote the psalm, yet in its speech there is a tone that touches all hearts. By "the poor" we are not to understand in all cases the penniless. Poverty is a large word, and requires a large definition. Sickness, weakness, fear, sense of helplessness, sense of desolation all these may be brought under the definition of poverty. Some men are poor mentally, needing continual suggestion, direction, and recruital of mind. Want of money is the most superficial kind of poverty. It is by no means to be neglected either by the individual or by the state, because through want of money men often perish through lack of other things. When money is taken thus typically, then pennilessness becomes a manifold disorder and weakness. The word rendered "considereth" implies a kindliness of consideration. It is not only a statistical or economical view of social circumstances it is also a direct and earnest exercise of the heart. The word may also be rendered "he that understands," then the text would read, "Blessed is he that understands the poor; "by understanding we are to bring in the idea of sympathy or fellow-feeling. We cannot understand the poor simply as an intellectual study. A man may intellectually concern himself with the condition of the poor without ever knowing what it is to suffer with them. We can only understand the poor by living with them, by making ourselves part of them, by admitting them to our confidence. No man understands hunger who has not been hungry. There are dictionary interpretations of words which help us but a short way towards their true comprehension. Think of turning to the dictionary to find the meaning of poverty, hunger, sorrow, death! All the words may be neatly and clearly defined in terms, but to understand any one of them we must pass through the experience which it indicates. The blessings of the Bible are always poured upon good-doing. Never, in a single instance, do we read of men being blessed simply because they are kingly, rich, mighty, or even intellectually wise. In the Beatitudes there is not a single blessing on merely social greatness. All the persons referred to in the Beatitudes might be extinguished to-morrow, and yet the world in all its higher social phases might not be conscious of any loss. How little the world knows of its own riches! How little we know to whom we are indebted for the preservation of our lives, and for the success of our enterprises! Some of us may today be reaping harvests which our fathers sowed in the fields of the poor. We do not know the harvests because they are so great. The actions done by our forefathers were so small that when we see them in their harvest form we exclaim, These actions have come up again, some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundredfold.

Verse 6

"Handfuls of Purpose"

For All Gleaners

"And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it." Psa 41:6

The poet is thus recalling his personal experience. His mind is set upon one particular individual, and this is the result of his study of that case. "To see me" is a common expression amongst ourselves; it refers to seeing a sick person, or seeing one who is in difficult circumstances, or seeing a man by particular invitation. The picture drawn by the poet is a very common one. He has unfortunately sent for a man who does not understand his case. The man is full of words; he can dilate upon the events of the time; he can ask many questions; he can be ostentatiously officious and meddlesome; but all is vanity, a veering wind, a mere noise in the air. The person sent for was destitute of the quality of sympathy. He did not know the ministry of silence. He did not understand that by a mere look, tender, lingering, and sympathetic, he could heal a human heart. Being a newsmonger he brought in the news of the day, which is a sure proof that he would carry the news of the day away with him. "When he goeth abroad, he telleth it:" then; is nothing sacred to the mere talker; there is a disease of words, a gossip which could pry and prattle about the most mysterious and tragical experiences of the heart. The man referred to by the poet talked all the while about himself, or only made such inquiries as would give importance to himself when he went away from the scene of conference. The text teaches us how important it is to entrust ourselves in trying moments only to those who are rich in Christian wisdom and sympathy. Few men know how to visit the sick. Those who are in Christ Jesus ought to be able to take rich Christian sympathy to sick chambers, and to make houses beautiful with instances of divine revelation and promise and comfort. It should not be beneath the greatest to visit the humblest. The supposition of the poet is that the person here spoken of is visiting "the poor" referred to in the first verse. The temptation is to over-ride the poor; to make a false use of strength in the presence of the poor; to bear down upon and discourage the poor; such persons should never be sent to minister to souls that are in distress. The piety of Christ's Church is not to be roughshod. The saints are to study the gentlest courtesy and grace of manner. They are to act "as becometh saints."

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Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 41". Parker's The People's Bible. 1885-95.