Church Write-Up: Psalm 41 and 23:5a

Here are some items from church this morning:

A. The Bible study class was about Psalm 41. According to the pastor, the setting for this Psalm was the rebellion of David’s son Absalom against King David. David is sick and thus has not been active in pursuing his kingly duties, and Absalom takes advantage of that void by judging people’s cases at the gate. Absalom wins the hearts of the Israelites through his wise resolutions of civil disputes. David’s advisor, Ahithophel, who is renowned for his wisdom (yet whose name means “my brother is a fool”), leaves David’s side and joins Absalom. David feels betrayed: he who ate with him lifts up his heel against him, that is, kicks him while he is down. David also feels undermined by people who are pretending to be his friend: David shares with them his faith struggles, and they spread that news among the people and make David look like a bad king, one who lacks faith in God. David pronounces a blessing on the one who shows compassion to the poor. That is because David is hoping that people will show compassion to him, one who is vulnerable and sick. David acknowledges that he is in this mess due to his sins, including his adultery with Bathsheba, but he hopes for God’s mercy and deliverance. The pastor was using Psalm 41 and the story of Absalom’s rebellion in II Samuel to explain and to flesh out each other, with helpful results. John 13:8 applies Psalm 41:9 to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. The pastor engaged the question of whether David was prophesying about Judas. Unfortunately, due to Zoom problems, I missed that discussion. It will be posted on the church’s website, but I will have to learn how to listen to an m4a on my computer.

B. The church service was about Psalm 23:5a: you prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. The youth pastor applied this to reconciling with our enemies. One lamb was upset with another lamb because he was annoyed by her singing the same song over and over. But he shared his concern with her over dinner, and the two were reconciled. The youth pastor brought in Matthew 18: when one believer has problems with another believer, go to him or her and express that problem. C.S. Lewis treats Psalm 23:5a as punitive: David wants God to prepare him a table and for his enemies to watch him eat from it, as David rubs their nose in his own fortune. That is probably the meaning, in light of Psalm’s generally vengeful attitude. Still, the youth pastor’s interpretation may make sense in light of the fuller revelation of Jesus Christ, who taught and demonstrated love to his enemies.

C. The pastor related Psalm 23:5a to Mahanaim in II Samuel 17. David flees to Mahanaim from Absalom, and Shobi the Ammonite and others bring food, water, and beds to David and his weary men. The pastor said that God often provides for people through other people. In this case, they were the means by which God furnished David with a table in the presence of his enemies. This discussion overlapped with my personal prayer and contemplation over the past several weeks. I have been going through I-II Chronicles. God criticizes kings of Judah for seeking assistance from foreign nations, as God desires that they trust him alone. Should believers, therefore, refuse assistance from non-believers, trusting God alone to provide? In the case of David, God provided through non-believers, including an Ammonite. I-II Chronicles is still getting at something, though: it does not want the Judahites to depend on others in a manner that detracts from their dependence on God, to see the solution to their problems in an entirely this-worldly way and thus to ignore God.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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