Sunday, April 14, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “The Song of the Sick King”

“The Song of the Sick King” 
April 14, 2019 :: Palm Sunday :: Psalm 41

Today’s message will be about Psalm 41, but I want you to turn with me first to the Gospel of John chapter 13.

I want to show you why we are going to study Psalm 41 at the beginning of this Passion Week. John chapter 13.

In John chapter 12, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey. We call it the Triumphal Entry, and it was on Palm Sunday, the day we are recognizing right now. The crowd greeted Jesus was “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”

By the time you get to chapter 13, it’s Thursday night, and Jesus is meeting with His disciples in the Upper Room.

We tend to call this the Last Supper. They ate the Passover Meal. Jesus reinterpreted the meal to point to Him, especially the bread and the cup.

And John tells us that He washed His disciples feet. That’s at the beginning of the chapter, verses 1 through 17.

I want to pick up the story in verse 18.

It’s a story of a predicted betrayal.

Jesus knows that He is going to be betrayed.

And He wants His disciples to know that He knows.

He knows in advance, and He wants them to know that He knows.

This is not a surprise for Jesus. He knew this betrayal was coming.

Do you think that made it any easier?

I doubt it.

It probably made it harder in this case.

Look at John 13:18.

‘I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.' I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.

I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.’ After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.’ His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.

One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved [we know that’s John, the writer of this book], was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask him which one he means.’ Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’

Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.  As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. ‘What you are about to do, do quickly,’ Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.  Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor.

As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.”

Did you ever notice how the Bible is full of hypertext?

You know what I mean? Like when you are on a website, and the words are blue or underlined? And if you move your finger or your cursor over that word, it’s clickable? And then if you click on it, it will take you to another place that is connected to that place? And then to other places?

The Bible is overflowing with clickable links to other places in the Bible.

It’s all connected. It’s like a giant web of connections, that when you study them long enough, you see how they are genuinely related to one another.

Did you see why in John 13, we are going to study Psalm 41?

Why we are going to click from the Last Supper in the Upper Room back into the Old Testament to the Song of the Sick King?

Look again at verse 18.

In talking about this betrayal, “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'”

That scripture is Psalm 41, verse 9.

Click there with me. Turn there with me. Psalm 41.

I call this Psalm 41, "The Song of the Sick King."

Have you ever sung a song about a king who was sick and wanted to get better?

Me neither, but Israel had a song in their songbook about that very thing.

King David wrote it for his director of music.

And the Holy Spirit inspired it and made sure that it was preserved and included in the sacred songs of the Hebrew psalter.

“The Song of the Sick King”

I’ve been learning a lot about the Psalms this year.

Instead of reading all the way through my Bible in 2019, I’ve set out to really study the Psalms in my personal devotional times.

There are 150 of them, and I’m taking a few days on each one.

I read a portion of a Psalm set out by Pastor Tim Keller in this little book, “The Songs of Jesus” and then he has a short explanation and then a prayer. Kind of like The Daily Bread.

And then I turn into two different commentaries to study that same passage more indepth. Derek Kidner and Tremper Longman. And see what light they have to shed on that portion of scripture.

And then I turn in the Trinity Psalter Hymnal that I bought my wife last year (and then stole from her this year) and I read and pray through their setting of the Psalm to music.

I’ve just gotten today to Psalm 50, so it was a week or two ago that I studied Psalm 41, and I thought, “We might go back to this when we get to Passion Week.”

The psalms are songs.

They are so helpful for expressing our human emotions.

For expressing our deepest desires and thoughts and feelings.

For praising God in the highest ways and also for expressing our other feelings.

The bad feelings. The painful feelings. The suffering.

The best book I’ve read so far in 2019 is this one called, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament.

It’s by a pastor named Mark Vroegop, and it’s pure gold.

Pastor Mark teaches about this painful but powerful form of prayer that’s all over the Bible called lament. It’s those prayers that are in a minor key. Those prayers that are full of pain and suffering.
There’s whole book of them in the Bible called “Lamentations.”

And about a third of the Psalms have lament in them, as well.

Did you ever notice how sad the psalms can be?

They can be really joyful, for sure. That’s the major key. Hallelujah!

But the Bible is about all of life, not just the joyful parts.

And there are songs in the Bible’s fullest book of songs that give voice to suffering and pain.

And Psalm 41 is one of them.

Actually, it has both praise and lament in it.

It’s kind of a mix of the two.

But because of its sorrowful lament, Psalm 41 was perfect for the Man of Sorrows to reach back into when He was pondering the pain of His betrayal.

Let’s begin reading it together.

Verses 1 through 3 of the Song of the Sick King.

“For the director of music. A psalm of David. Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”


Now, this song does not start out sad.

It starts out confident.

It starts out with a confident declaration:

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.”

We sing that, can’t we?

What good news that is.

This song starts with blessing.

The Hebrew word is “ashre,” which is a lot like the word “makarios” that we learned about last year in the Beatitudes.

Remember “flourishing?”

“Good for you! Congratulations. Way to be!”

Blessed is he who has regard for the week.

Or some translations say, “Who consider the poor.” “Who treat the poor properly.”

David is talking about the lowly. The people at the bottom.

Perhaps they are sick. Perhaps they are unpopular. Perhaps they are oppressed. Perhaps they are literally poor or just weak and lowly.

David says that the person who is kind and generous and merciful to people like that are the kind of person that the LORD loves to bless.

In other words, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Right? What Jesus taught in Matthew 5:7.

The pattern that David is pointing out is that God is generous to those who have been generous, especially when you are generous to those who can’t pay you back.

Now, this is not something that you earn by being generous.

Tim Keller points out that the opposite is also true. This works the other way around, in that we can only be merciful and generous because God has already shown us mercy and grace.

We don’t earn it.

But if we have gotten it from the Lord, we will pour it out on others, and in the process, we’ll find that the Lord is pouring it out on us again.

But if we don’t pour it out on others, we can’t expect to see it either.

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. [Like what?] The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land [That’s very Old Testamenty] and not surrender him to the desire of his foes [his enemies]. The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”

Now, we get to why David is singing about this.

David is on his sickbed.

David is on his bed of illness.

And David believes that God is going to raise him up again because he’s been kind to the lowly, considerate to the poor, and shown regard for the weak.

He’s singing about himself.

Do you find that strange?

We don’t always think like this, but it’s really just praying back to God His own promises.

“This is how you operate God, I’m asking you to operate like this now.”

Before we get to his actual prayer for healing, it’s important to stop and ask each of us ask ourselves the question, “Do I have regard for the weak?” “Do I show consideration for the poor?” “Do I help out the lowly?” “Am I loving the people at the bottom?”

Not perfectly.

We’ll see that King David did not think he did this perfectly.

But he believed that he did do it.

How about you and me?

Do we help out those who are poor and needy and can’t pay us back?

David expected the blessings of the covenant to come to him because he believed that God was faithful to keep His promises. Enough to sing about them and enough to pray from them. V.4

“I said, ‘O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.’”

See? He doesn’t think he’s perfect.

He knows that he’s a sinner.

I don’t think he’s saying that this sickness is because of a particular sin.

I think he’s saying that he knows that he doesn’t deserve healing. He’s a sinner. He doesn’t deserve anything good.

But he knows that God is merciful especially to those who have been merciful, as David knows that he has been.

And so he asks, “O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
And then...this song takes a turn for the worse.

This song of confidence grows dark and sad.

And full of lament.

There are 5 verses in a row that are full of pain.

We don’t sing enough songs about pain.

We like to skip those verses, don’t we?

I mean, I do. Who wants to feel pain, much less sing about it?

But pain is real. Suffering is real.

The Bible is not Candyland.

The Bible is not fake.

The Bible is not the wonderful world of Oz.

The Bible is full of all of the realities of reality, including the painful realities of reality.

“In this world, you will have trouble,” Jesus said.

And you probably need some songs to sing about life being hard when life gets hard.

So He gives us songs like Psalm 41.

Verse 5. “My enemies say of me in malice, ‘When will he die and his name perish?’ Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad. All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, ‘A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies.’”

David put that in his song.

By the way, we don’t know when this happened.

The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot more about this particular occasion, this particular situation.

And that’s alright because it is easier to apply to a lot of our own situations.

We don’t know exactly what happened to David, but we know what it’s like.

Do you have enemies like this?

Two-faced enemies.

They come into to David’s hospital room, and pull back the curtain, and say, “O man, David, I’m sorry. What’s wrong? What’s your prognosis?”

And then they pull the curtain back and go out into the hallway and say, “You’ll never guess what’s going to happen to him! He’s going to die! He’s got a deadly, devilish disease. He’s on the way out.”

I wrote about this psalm in my book on resisting gossip. That’s what these are enemies are doing.

And it hurts.

Can you hear how much King David hurts when they are doing this to him?

He’s sick, and this is how they are treating him.

I hear the voice of Satan in their words.

But it gets worse.

It’s not just David’s enemies who are treating him like this when he is down.

It’s even his close friend. V.9

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”


Have you ever sang a song about being betrayed?

I think there are bunch of relationship songs like that.

Country and Western Songs about your girlfriend leaving you and taking the truck and the dog.

And I think that all of Taylor Swift’s songs are about this, right?

But this isn’t angry as much as it is hurt.

This is lament. This is singing out your pain.

And singing out your pain to your God.

“Lord, this hurts.”
“Father, I hate how this feels.”
“Dear Lord, why does it have to be like this?”
“How long, O Lord?”
“Why, Lord, why?”

“God, this is the worst.”

Have you prayed like that?

Why not?

I’ll bet you’ve felt those things.

The Bible invites us to pray like that.

Jesus prayed like that.

I’m not sure exactly what it means when David says, “he has lifted up his heel against me.”

Some commentators think it meant that he has turned his back on David, and so David is seeing his heels.

But I think it’s more likely that David is down, and his friend has lifted his foot up to crush him when he’s down.

Have you ever experienced betrayal like that?

King David knew what it was like to be betrayed.

And King Jesus does, too.

John 13:18 quotes this verse right here, verse 9 and says that Jesus fulfilled it.

Great King David was betrayed.

And Great King David’s Greater Son Jesus was even more betrayed.

He filled up that verse with all of the fulfillment that you could imagine.

Do you remember how Judas did it?

He kissed Him.

He betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

He marked Jesus out with the symbol of intimate friendship.

The one that had shared His bread!

That very night, Jesus and Judas had shared a piece of bread together.

And, you know what, Jesus died because of it.

David is going to pray again in verse 10 that he be raised up to health.

And he clearly believes that he will be.

But Jesus did not get to escape the Cross.

Judas betrayed Him, and He went to trial.
He went to crucifixion.
He went to the grave.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
“Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?”
“Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?”
“Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”

And well it should.

In verse 10, the Song of the Sick King grows confident again.

Actually, it is confident all the way through, but he’s just sung about his pain for 5 verses. Now, he’s going to reiterate his faith in the Lord one more time. V.10

My enemies have whispered...
My close friend has betrayed...

“But you, O LORD, have mercy on me; raise me up, that I may repay them. I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.”

Verse 10 sounds a lot like verse 4.

God hasn’t done the healing yet. David is still praying for it.

But he believes it is coming.

And asks God to have mercy on and raise him up to health so that he can repay his enemies.


Didn’t see that coming.

It sounds vengeful, and there definitely is an element of that.

But remember, David is the king.

It’s David’s job to execute justice.

And what his enemies are doing is actually treasonous.

It’s not a joke. They are hoping the king will die and spreading news that he soon will.

And somebody in his inner circle has lifted up his heal.

David has to deal with that, or he wouldn’t be a good king.

This is not vengeance, but it is vindication.

It is justice on the way.

Which should probably remind us of the justice that King Jesus will one day bring.

David knows. He knows that God is pleased with him.

He knows that the Lord delights in him.

He knows that his God has good in store for him when this is all over.

How much more should you and I be confident in the Lord’s love for us, on this side of the Cross?

How much more should we rejoice that our enemies (the world, the flesh, and the devil) will not triumph over us because of the Cross and the Resurrection?

David knew that he was not perfect. He admitted that readily in verse 4.

But he also knew that he had a basic integrity of heart. He was a man after God’s own heart. He knew that he had a heart for the heart of God.

He knew that he had a real relationship with God and that it showed in how he treated others.

So, he knew that he was going to be upheld and set in the LORD’s presence forever.

How much more do we know that that’s our future, as well?

Jesus died, but He did not stay dead.

We’re going to celebrate that big time next Sunday!

King David just got up from his sickbed.

King Jesus got up from the grave!

His betrayal was greater, but His vindication was so much greater than we could ever imagine.


Verse 13 doesn’t just end the psalm, it ends the whole first book of the Psalms.

Did you know there are 5 books of the Psalms?

Psalm 41 is the last psalm of book 1.

And each book ends with this kind of high praise.

You know why?

Because the LORD is worthy of it!

“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.”

And everybody said?

Amen and Amen!