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Messianic Psalms – Psalm 41


All who hate me whisper together against me; against me they devise my hurt (Ps. 41:7).

Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me (Ps. 41:9).

The Heel of a Familiar Friend

There are three prophecies in the Old Testament which predict Judas Iscariot in his character as betrayer of Messiah: Psalm 41:9; Psalm 109:8; Zechariah 11:12 (it does not predict him by name of course but that there would be a betrayer of Messiah). With regards to Psalm 41, we can definitely conclude that it is messianic because the Lord Jesus Himself quotes it as referring to Himself—and to Judas.

Firstly, the “Spirit of prophecy”1 has the Lord Jesus in view in verse 7 when we read: “All who hate me whisper together against me, against me they devise my hurt.” This verse is more than just an intimation of what is to follow: Judas and the chief priests plotting together, “devising” their plan to arrest Christ and covenanting together for the price of betrayal. There can be little doubt it is exactly describing Judas and his interactions with the religious leaders of Judah.

In verse 9, the Holy Spirit takes us forward to the night in which the Lord Jesus was betrayed. He was in the upper room with His disciples and had just washed their feet (Jn. 13:4–5). The foot washing scene is symbolic of the Lord’s advocacy in cleansing us from defilement in our pathway here. He had also washed the feet of Judas Iscariot; shortly following this gracious action He quotes Psalm 41:9, “He that eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me” (Jn. 13:18). Let us solemnly consider this: the very heel that had just been in Christ’s gracious hands is now lifted in treachery against Him! Judas turned his heel toward the door in leaving the upper room, and used those very feet to accomplish his betrayal of Christ (Jn. 13:18, 30). 2

The Lord Jesus, it should be noticed, did not quote verse 9 in its entirety but omitted the words, “Even my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted.” The reason is that the Lord did not really trust or confide in Judas: “for He knew who should betray Him” before it transpired. He had indicated to the other disciples that one among them was still unclean (Jn. 13:10–11).

The Poor

This Psalm opens with the Lord’s promise to the one who considers the “poor” (v. 1–2). The “poor” is a technical term often used in the Psalms to describe the future godly Jewish remnant during the tribulation period. The Spirit of Christ fully identifies with them in this Psalm, especially in the grievous betrayal and treachery they will experience in that day through the treachery of Antichrist. The Lord Jesus will be able to sympathize with them because He too experienced treachery: by one His own disciples! In light of the messianic character of this psalm we can say that the only One who fully answered to this consideration of the “poor,” was Messiah Himself. He had compassion on the poor, healed them, fed them, and they “heard Him gladly” (Mk. 12:37).

 As we look more deeply into this, and especially the actions of Judas as recorded in the Gospels, we will see the place that the term “poor” has in this psalm, for Judas claimed to be concerned for the “poor” but in reality it was the Lord Jesus who truly was (Jn. 12:4–5).

Judas Iscariot is sometimes presented in a sympathetic way by some, as a misguided individual, as a revolutionary, or even, as a hero! The question is often raised: “Why did Judas betray Christ?”  Many theories have been proffered to explain his behavior. A recurring one is that, as a patriot, he was disappointed when he realized that the kingdom would not be manifested, and overthrow the Romans, as he had hoped. It is postulated from this that his bitter disappointment turned him against the Lord Jesus. But all of the disciples were under this impression and did not understand Christ’s kingdom program (Lk. 19:11; 24:21). And they did not betray the Lord in such a treacherous manner.

The problem with these theories is that there is not even a hint of them in the New Testament. The Scripture account of what transpired is straightforward. Just prior to the betrayer’s covenant with the chief priests, Mary of Bethany had anointed the head of the Lord with precious ointment (Mt. 26:8–13). The disciples protested, led on by Judas, that Mary’s action was a waste and that the alabaster flask of ointment could have been sold and given to the poor (Jn. 12:4–5). We read that Judas was the “treasurer” but was pilfering from the money bag (Jn. 12:6); he was an unconverted thief! And when he said that it could have been given to the poor, he was really referring to himself!

Christ responded to the complaint of Judas (and those influenced by him) with: “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always” (Mt. 26:11). This was true, as it is today as well, for we still have the poor. This statement of Christ was also in complete agreement with what Moses said about the poor in the Law (see Dt. 15:11).

Immediately after Mary’s act of devotion we read: “then … Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests … and sought opportunity that he might deliver him up” (Mt. 26:16). He had hoped the ointment would have been sold and the money put into the bag. His covetous heart being disappointed at having lost this prize of stealing the proceeds, he betrayed the Lord for money to satisfy his greed. The loss of this prospective financial windfall triggered Judas into betraying Christ. Satan had entered into him to accomplish the wicked deed (Jn. 13:27), used him as his tool, and then discarded him (Mt. 27:40). Thus the “son of perdition” went to “his own place” (Jn. 17:12, Acts 1:25). How solemn!

May we never allow unjudged sin to be nurtured in our hearts for it will lead us to dishonor the Son of God.3 May the Holy Spirit keep us and preserve us. Amen.  


Endnotes

1.  Revelation 19:10.

2.  Judas left before the Lord’s Supper part of the meal but he was still there for the foot washing portion of the event, as John 13 shows.

3.  Note: believers can backslide and fall into sin, but there is always the possibility of restoration. However, the tragic case of Judas is that of one who was identified with the Lord but was not born again, he was not a believer (see Jn. 13:10–11; 6:64, 70–71; 17:12; 12:6; Acts 1:25). This fact separates him and distinguishes from the other disciples.  

By Brian Reynolds

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