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During my teen years, my father was betrayed by two friends in a business deal. My father, who never cried, shed tears over what transacted.
I still remember the moment when he handled the issue with integrity at a significant cost to him. He probably didn’t think that he was teaching his sons about business ethics at that time, but we both learned a valuable lesson.
How we handle trouble and especially how we include God in problem solving makes an important impact on the lives of our children.
It is believed that this Psalm was intended to teach the people of God how to respond to problems, sickness, and betrayal. In my article, I am focusing on teaching children.
Leadership by Example
Leaders always lead by their example. Children discover the sort of character their parents have by the way they treat people who are less fortunate than they are.
Happy are those who are concerned for the poor;
the Lord will help them when they are in trouble.
The Lord will protect them and preserve their lives;
he will make them happy in the land;
he will not abandon them to the power of their enemies.
The Lord will help them when they are sick
and will restore them to health. (Psalm 41.1-3)
In 1968, South American Catholic Bishops met in Medellin Colombia and produced a document expressing the belief that God has a “preferential option for the poor.” What a striking theological phrase! Is that an accurate expression of God’s view toward the poor and vulnerable of society?
In the Beatitudes Jesus said, “Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them!” (Matthew 5.7).
When Jesus spoke about the final judgment, the evidence he used for blessing people was this: “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25.25-36).
The people asked Jesus when did they ever help Jesus out. He replied, “Whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!” (Matthew 25.40).
It seems that the Bishops were right. God does have a preferential option for the poor.
How do we educate our children concerning the kind of people that Jesus values so much? The way we speak and act toward the “least important” will become part of the educational process of our children.
The Frame is Important
One way the Biblical writers emphasized their message was to make a frame with their words. Verses 4 and 10 frame the verses in between them for the purpose of emphasis.
I said, “I have sinned against you, Lord;
be merciful to me and heal me.” (Psalm 41.4)
Be merciful to me, Lord, and restore my health,
and I will pay my enemies back. (Psalm 41.10)
The Psalm illuminates what is the pressing need, God’s mercy. As we are conscious of our sin and troubles, we come to God and appeal for his mercy.
As we model prayer before our family, we show them that we deserve nothing from God. Yet, he is merciful and acts toward us in love and grace.
Trouble Upon Trouble
It is one thing to experience misfortune. It is another thing to have both enemies and friends turn on you when times are difficult.
My enemies say cruel things about me.
They want me to die and be forgotten. (Psalm 41.5)
Even my best friend, the one I trusted most,
the one who shared my food,
has turned against me. (Psalm 41.9)
Jesus knew the pain of being abandoned. At the last supper with his disciples, he quoted verse 9 of this Psalm: “The scripture must come true that says, ‘The man who shared my food turned against me'” (John 13.18).
Once again, we teach our children valuable lessons when we are in trouble. We show them that we can rely on God, even if everyone else turns against us.
We help them realize that we can dialogue with God about real troubles in life.
Our positive and helpful actions toward people who are experiencing sickness, unemployment, relapse and similar things will provide a powerful example for them.
It is important to notice the activity of the enemies in this Psalm. They make life difficult for the vulnerable speaker in the Psalm. This is a serious contrast to the way the Psalm began with God’s blessing on those who care for the poor.
Right and Sinful
In verse 4 there is a confession of sin. In verse 12 there is a declaration of being in the right.
You will help me, because I do what is right;
you will keep me in your presence forever. (Psalm 41.12)
The speaker in this Psalm believed his sickness was a result of his sin. This was a common belief in the centuries before talk of germs and virus. Indeed, he was a sinner for “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23).
At the same time, the speaker was in the right. The contrast between his enemies and supposed “friends” and his care for the unfortunate was quite stark. His heart condition that matched God’s care for those who suffer all of the problems of life.
As we teach our children about what is right, we show them through our example that right opinions and beliefs are not enough. Right actions that reflect the heart of God are most essential.
The ending of Psalm 41 is also the ending of the first Book of the Psalms. It is only right that the Psalm ends with these words:
Praise the Lord, the God of Israel!
Praise him now and forever! (Psalm 41.13)
May We Pray for You?
Maywood Baptist Church has a prayer team who is honored to pray for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. We will pray for you.