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Who Considers the Poor? - Psalm 41 Sermon From February Prayer Service

Who Considers the Poor? - Psalm 41 Sermon From February Prayer Service

"Who Considers the Poor? Jesus or Judas?" / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Wed February 4th 2015: Season of Epiphany, Psalm 41

          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 us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Psalm 41 marks the end of the first book of Psalms: Psalm 1 to 41 are put together because they were written by King David, they were meant for use in the Tabernacle Tent and the Temple, and they deal with suffering and victory for the righteous. This suffering and victory is focused on, first in David's life, but ultimately these Psalms point to Jesus, great David's greater son.[1] Jesus the fulfilment of God's promises.[2]

In 2 Samuel chapter 7, through the prophet Nathan - in the midst of talking about Solomon - David's immediate heir, God also spoke of David's ultimate heir: The long awaited Saviour, the Messiah; the focus is on the coming Christ when God said to David, "When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever. I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son. .... My steadfast love will not depart from Him ... [in Him] your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”[3]

As a result of this promise, (and all of God's promises to David, and to God's people - stretching right back to Adam and Eve in the garden at the time of the Fall into sin),[4] As a result of this promise, those promises, you will find when you study, pray and learn Psalms 1 to 41 that there are moments that scream out Jesus. Psalms that point so clearly to Jesus and His life, death and resurrection that it would be hard to miss the connection. Today you will see this again and you will hear how Jesus Himself quotes Psalm 41 showing how it is about Him.[5]

Psalm 41 starts with these words, "Blessed is the one who considers the poor!"

Saint John, one of Jesus' disciples, records in his Gospel that, "Six days before the Passover [The Passover that would mark Jesus' crucifixion], Jesus ... came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead." John tells us how in Bethany, they gave a dinner for Jesus, and how at the dinner, "Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with [Jesus] at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of [Jesus'] disciples (he who was about to betray [Jesus]), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” [Judas] said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.”[6]

Psalm 41 says, "Blessed is the one who considers the poor!"

On the surface Judas looked like he was considering the poor, when he asks, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii (300 days wages) and given to the poor?” but Judas was a hypocrite, he was a man with two faces. With one face he pretended concern with the other he "[helped] himself to what was put into [the moneybag]." Jesus on the other hand, while eating with Lazarus (a man He'd personally risen from the dead), was looking forward to the greatest reward that He could provide for the poor, and not just the poor but all peoples, an un-fading crown of glory, eternal-everlasting-life, a gift better than a king's ransom bought not with silver or gold but with His own precious blood, blood, "like that of a lamb without blemish or spot."[7] Resurrection not for some, like Lazarus, but for all and the added gift of His own Righteousness bestowed on all who believe in Him and are baptized,[8] this gift as Jesus puts it, is worth more than almost a year's wages, worth more than, "a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard," which in the grand scheme of things is worth very little. Jesus who showed no favouritism to the rich certainly was "the one who considers the poor!" And Jesus, who treated the poor and the rich the same, continues to consider the poor even now. Yet right after the Psalm says "Blessed is the one who considers the poor," David continues saying, "In the day of trouble the LORD delivers Him; the LORD protects Him and keeps Him alive," hang onto that thought, we'll return to it.

First let's go to another dinner - a Supper - the Passover Supper: St. John tells us how, "During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray [Jesus]," How, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that [Jesus Himself] had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. [Jesus] laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. Then [Jesus] poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. [Jesus] came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to [Jesus], “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For [Jesus] knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When [Jesus] had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate My bread has lifted his heel against Me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am He."[9]

Jesus quotes King David's words from Psalm 41, "Even my close friend in whom I trusted,[10] who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me." - ‘He who ate My bread has lifted his heel against Me.’ - In the Gospel of John the next moment is the one people are most familiar with because of the Leonardo Da Vinci painting of the Last Supper, just moments later everyone at the Supper is thrown into turmoil and Da Vinci captures the confusion and tumult, Saint John records how Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom [Jesus] spoke. One of His disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus' side, so Simon Peter motioned to Him to ask Jesus of whom He was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when [Jesus] had dipped the morsel, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after [Judas] had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to [Judas], “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why [Jesus] said this to [Judas]. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, [Judas] immediately went out. And it was night."[11]

For three years Judas was with Jesus, for three years Judas was at Jesus' side with the other 11 disciples and the rest of the followers of Jesus who had been accumulated along the way. He was close to Jesus and yet Judas took a paltry 30 pieces of silver in exchange for handing Jesus over to men who had been plotting Jesus' death. Jesus had just washed Judas' feet and Judas had just heard Jesus say, "a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." While Judas heard these words Saint John tells us that Jesus did not speak them about Judas. From the outcome of events it's plain that Judas did not have ears to hear what Jesus said. Judas is a warning figure in the Scriptures. So close and yet so far away. Listening without hearing.

The reason David was called "a man after [God's own] heart," was because King David was a man, "who [would] do all [God's] will."[12] In his sin David was not pig-headed and inflexible; When confronted with his sin David had a "broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart,"[13] he was repentant. David returned to the Lord his God trusting that God was, is and ever shall be gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. That in God he would be forgiven. While Judas felt guilt over what he'd done and while he returned the 30 pieces of silver, he did so not seek forgiveness from Jesus, whom he had betrayed, but instead Judas sought forgiveness from the ones who were working to have Jesus crucified. And did they offer Judas what he sought, when Judas came to them confessing his sin saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” did they forgive him? No, they callously said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” [14] And so Judas did. Scripture tell us that Judas hung himself - judging his own actions, strongly suggesting that Judas did not do the very thing David over and over councils you and I to do throughout so many of his Psalms, which is to "wait for the LORD."[15] Trust in the LORD,[16] ask the LORD for forgiveness.[17]

In the end Judas, who had heard Jesus say over and over again, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when He is killed, after three days He will rise,”[18] didn't trust Jesus' words. 'Oh well, that may have been a while ago, maybe it wasn't fresh in Judas' mind.' Earlier that very week, Judas would have heard Jesus say of His own body,  “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”[19] Judas went to the wrong Temple for forgiveness and being turned away by Jesus' enemies Judas did not seek out Christ Jesus for forgiveness or wait for Him. Judas had gone to the very people who privately said amongst themselves about Jesus, “When will He die, and His name perish?”  Judas went to the very ones who hurled insults at Jesus at the cross hoping that at the cross "the deadly thing" which was being poured out on Him would be Jesus' doom; and that in death Jesus would not rise again from where He lay dead.

I had asked you to tuck away what Psalm 41 says, when David writes about the man who considers the poor and how, "In the day of trouble the LORD delivers Him; the LORD protects Him and keeps Him alive,"

Jesus was not kept alive, at the cross. At the cross Jesus died. At the end of David's life David died too, at the end of your life you will die. The LORD did however keep David alive in the midst of plots to have him killed, David was spared from the spears of King Saul,[20] from the treachery of his own son Absalom and Absalom's rebellion,[21] and even in his advanced years David was spared during the plot of another of his sons Adonijah and Adonijah's plot to take the throne:[22] At that time David was spared death until he knew that Solomon would succeed him on the throne.[23] David had close friends and trusted advisors,[24] like his cousin Joab,[25] that ate with him and then 'lifted their heel' against him and yet the LORD spared David from them.

There were many times in Jesus' life before the cross where Jesus was spared in the midst of plots to have Him killed. He was spared as a child when King Herod plotted His death in Bethlehem,[26] Jesus was spared in Nazareth when the people of His home town wanted to through Him from a cliff,[27] and he was spared when men picked up stones to publicly execute Him by stoning.[28] In your life you likely don't even know all the times your life has been spared by the hand of God.

In death - the greatest "day of trouble" - in that day Jesus was protected, His body was not further defiled following His crucifixion, in fact He was anointed for death and respectfully wrapped in linen cloths for His burial. And on Easter morning He was raised up. This was not a temporary resurrection like that of Lazarus, this was and is a permanent Resurrection. Jesus is alive, alive today, alive forever. He will return on the Last Day, and on That Day King David and you and I and all those who died with Faith in Christ Jesus will be able to see with our own eyes how God has been gracious to us. How God will have raised us up in Jesus. On That Day Jesus will repay those who persecuted His church! And we will all know how the LORD delights in us, His redeemed children: Jesus' enemies will not shout in triumph over Him, or you, or I, and we will know how the LORD - has in our life - upheld us because of the integrity of Christ Jesus. On That Day God will set your resurrected body, mind and soul in His presence forever. and We will say with King David, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.

Take courage, you are not given up to your enemies, Christ has defeated them all, what can they do to you? Even if a friend would betray you it would make no difference. When you are betrayed know that Jesus knows your betrayal for He too was betrayed, betrayed even to His death. God the Father has given all things into Jesus' hands, including you and Jesus will raise you up, Jesus forgives you your sins - wait for the LORD, trust in Him, seek His forgiveness; Turn to Him in repentance. He has for you riches beyond 30 pieces of silver, riches beyond a year's wages, eternal riches the like of which pale in comparison to the wealth of this world - you may be poor to the world, but in Christ you are rich. And because He is the one who considers the poor He is blessed, and in Him you receive that blessing of the LORD, His blessing is now your blessing too. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.


[1] "Hail to the Lord's Anointed," Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, 398 verse 1.

[2] A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, John F. Burg, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, pg 429.

[3] 2 Samuel 7:12-14a,15a,16, verses 14 and 15 in their fullness deal most directly with Solomon and not specifically with Christ Jesus. They read, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you." Jesus never committed any iniquity, He was without personal sin. He was however at the cross covered in our iniquity as St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21,  "For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus therefore took, "the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men," unto death in His crucifixion. Jesus' resurrection by the Father is evidence of His Father's "steadfast love," which did not depart from Jesus and because we are baptised into Jesus God the Father's steadfast love will not depart from us.

[4] Genesis 3:15

[5] Luke 24:44-45, "Then [Resurrected Jesus] said to [His disciples], 'These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures."

[6] John 12:1-8

[7] 1 Peter 1:18-19  

[8] Mark 16:16 

[9] John 13:1-19

[10] A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, Burg, pg 426, "It is interesting that when Jesus applies verse 10 to Himself in John 13:18, He omits the words 'whom I trusted.' He always knew Judas for what he was."

[11] John 13:21-30    

[12] Acts 13:22   

[13] Psalm 51:15

[14] Matthew 27:3-10, "Then when Judas, His betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me.”

[15] Psalms 27:14, 31:24,37:7, 37:9, 37:34

[16] Psalms 4:5, 20:7, 31:6, 37:3, 37:5, 40:3

[17] Psalms 25:18

[18] Mark 9:31

[19] John 2:19

[20] 1 Samuel 18:10-11, "The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice."

[21] 2 Samuel 15 -18

[22]1 Kings 1:5-6,  "Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom."

[23] 1 Kings 1

[24] 2 Samuel 15:12, "And while Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, from his city Giloh. And the conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Absalom kept increasing."

[25] 1 Kings 1:7,  "[Adonijah] conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest. And they followed Adonijah and helped him."

[26] Matthew 2:16, "Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men."

[27] Luke 4:29-30, "And they rose up and drove [Jesus] out of the town and brought Him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, [Jesus] went away."

[28] John 8:59, "So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple."