|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
41:1-4 The people of God are not free from poverty, sickness, or outward affliction, but the Lord will consider their case, and send due supplies. From his Lord's example the believer learns to consider his poor and afflicted brethren. This branch of godliness is usually recompensed with temporal blessings. But nothing is so distressing to the contrite believer, as a fear or sense of the Divine displeasure, or of sin in his heart. Sin is the sickness of the soul; pardoning mercy heals it, renewing grace heals it, and for this spiritual healing we should be more earnest than for bodily health.
Verse 4. - I said; rather, as for me, I said. The writer pointedly marks that he turns here from considering the blessedness of the compassionate man to contemplation of his own case - his afflictions and sufferings. Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee. The worst of all his woes - the root and origin of them all - fons et origo mall, is his own sinfulness. Unless that is cured, all other alleviation is vain. Hence, after the first general cry for mercy, he goes to the root of the matter, "Heal my soul." There, within me, in the depths of my nature, is the worst malady. Heal that, and soon all will be well with me.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I said, Lord, be merciful unto me,.... See Gill on Psalm 40:11;
heal my soul; not that it was diseased with sin in such sense as the souls of other men are; but it is to be understood as a petition for comfort while bearing the sins of others, and which Christ as man stood in need of when in the garden and on the cross; so healing signifies comfort in trouble, as in Isaiah 57:18;
for I have sinned against thee; or "unto thee", or "before thee", as the Targum; not that any sin was committed by him in his own person, but he having all the sins of his people on him, which he calls his own, Psalm 40:12; he was treated as a sinner, and as guilty before God, Isaiah 53:12; and so the words may be read, "for I am a sinner unto thee" (u); I am counted as one by thee, having the sins of my people imputed to me; and am bound unto thee, or under obligation to bear the punishment of sin; or thus, "for I have made an offering for sin unto thee" (w), so the word is used, Leviticus 6:26; and so it might be rendered in Leviticus 5:7; and perhaps may be better rendered so in Leviticus 4:3; and be understood, not of the sin of the anointed priest, but of his offering a sacrifice for the soul that sinned through ignorance, Psalm 41:2, which offering is directed to: and then the sense here is, heal me, acquit me, discharge me, and deliver me out of this poor and low estate in which I am; for I have made my soul an offering for sin, and thereby have made atonement for all the sins of my people laid upon me; and accordingly he was acquitted and justified, 1 Timothy 3:16.
(u) "tibi", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius. (w) "Obtuli sacrificium pro peccato", Gussetius, Ebr. Comment. p. 249, 923.
The Treasury of David
4 I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.
5 Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish?
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.
9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.
Here we have a controversy between the pleader and his God. He had been a tender friend to the poor, and yet in the hour of his need the promised assistance was not forthcoming. In our Lord's case there was a dark and dreary night in which such arguments were well befitting himself and his condition.
"I said" - said it in earnest prayer - "Lord, be merciful unto me." Prove now thy gracious dealings with my soul in adversity, since thou didst aforetime give me grace to act liberally in my prosperity. No appeal is made to justice; the petitioner but hints at the promised reward, but goes straightforward to lay his plea at the feet of mercy. How low was our Redeemer brought when such petitions could come from his reverend mouth, when his lips like lilies dropped such sweet smelling but bitter myrrh! "Heal my soul." My time of languishing is come, now do as thou hast said, and strengthen me, especially in my soul. We ought to be far more earnest for the soul's healing than for the body's ease. We hear much of the cure of souls, but we often forget to care about it. "For I have sinned against thee." Here was the root of sorrow. Sin and suffering are inevitable companions. Observe that by the Psalmist sin was felt to be mainly evil because directed against God. This it, of the essence of true repentance. The immaculate Saviour could never have used such language as this unless there be here a reference to the sin which he took upon himself by imputation; and for our part we tremble to apply words so manifestly indicating personal rather than imputed sin. Applying the petition to David and other sinful believers, how strangely evangelical is the argument: heal me, not for I am innocent, but "I have sinned." How contrary is this to all self-righteous pleading! How consonant with grace! How inconsistent with merit! Even the fact that the confessing penitent had remembered the poor, is but obliquely urged, but a direct appeal is made to mercy on the ground of great sin. O trembling reader, here is a divinely revealed precedent for thee, be not slow to follow it.
"Mine enemies speak evil of me." It was their nature to do and speak evil; it was not possible that the child of God could escape them. The viper fastened on Paul's hand: the better the man the more likely, and the more venomous the slander. Evil tongues are busy tongues, and never deal in truth. Jesus was traduced to the utmost, although no offence was in him. "When shall be die, and his name perish?" They could not be content till he was away. The world is not wide enough for evil men to live in while the righteous remain, yea, the bodily presence of the saints may be gone, but their memory is an offence to their foes. It was never merry England, say they, since men took to Psalm-singing. In the Master's case, they cried, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, it is not fit that he should live." If persecutors could have their way, the church should have but one neck, and that should be on the block. Thieves would fain blow out all candles. The lights of the world are not the delights of the world. Poor blind bats, they fly at the lamp, and try to dash it down; but the Lord liveth, and preserveth both the saints and their names.
"And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity." His visits of sympathy are visitations of mockery. When the fox calls on the sick lamb his words are soft, but he licks his lips in hope of the carcass. It is wretched work to have spies haunting one's bedchamber, calling in pretence of kindness, but with malice in their hearts. Hypocritical talk is always fulsome and sickening to honest men, but especially to the suffering saint. Our divine Lord had much of this from the false hearts that watched his words. "His heart gathereth iniquity to itself." Like will to like. The bird makes its nest of feathers. Out of the sweetest flowers chemists can distil poison, and from the purest words and deeds malice can gather groundwork for calumnious report. It is perfectly marvellous how spite spins webs out of no materials whatever. Its is no small trial to have base persons around you lying in wait for every word which they may pervert into evil. The Master whom we serve was constantly subject to this affliction. "When he goeth abroad, he telleth it." He makes his lies, and then vends them in open market. He is no sooner out of the house than he outs with his lie, and this against a sick man whom he called to see as a friend - a sick man to whose incoherent and random speeches pity should be showed. Ah, black-hearted wretch! A devil's cub indeed. How far abroad men will go to publish their slanders! They would fain placard the sky with their falsehoods. A little fault is made much of; a slip of the tongue is a libel, a mistake a crime, and if a word can bear two meanings the worse is always gathered upon it. Tell it in Gath, publish it in Askelon, that the daughters of the uncircumcised may triumph. It is base to strike a man when he is down, yet such is the meanness of mankind towards a Christian hero should he for awhile chance to be under a cloud.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. I said—I asked the mercy I show.
heal my soul—(Compare Ps 30:2). "Sin and suffering are united," is one of the great teachings of the Psalms.
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