But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God. —Psalm 40:17
Corrie ten Boom (1892–1983) was a Dutch Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II, and was imprisoned for it. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to the Vught transit concentration camp in the Netherlands, and from there to the Ravensbrück death camp in Germany. Toward the end of the war, the camp population at Ravensbrück grew to more than ten times the originally planned number. Imprisoned women were forced to work in many kinds of slave labor, inmates were hardly fed, and living conditions in the barracks for prisoners were deplorable almost beyond description.
One morning, Corrie awoke with a bad cold. Without so much as a handkerchief for her runny nose, she felt she simply could not bear it. “Why don’t you pray for a hankie?” Betsie asked. Corrie almost laughed! Here they were, surrounded by unspeakable suffering and death, and her sister suggested praying for a handkerchief! Betsie, however, was not deterred by her sister’s lack of faith. She prayed a simple prayer in the Name of Jesus, asking for a hankie because Corrie had a bad cold. Corrie just shook her head and walked away.
A short time later, a fellow prisoner who worked in the camp hospital approached Corrie and held out a small package, saying, “I bring you a little present.” When Corrie opened it, she found a handkerchief! She asked the woman, “Did Betsie tell you? Did you know I had a cold?” The woman responded, “I know nothing. I was busy sewing handkerchiefs out of an old piece of sheet, and there was a voice in my heart saying, ‘Take a hankie to Corrie ten Boom.’ So, there is your gift, from God.”
When telling this story later, Corrie commented, “That pocket handkerchief, made from an old piece of sheet, was a message from Heaven for me. It told me that there is a heavenly Father who hears if one of His children on this planet prays for even just a little thing like a hankie.”(1)
God does hear our prayers, and He has ways of communicating that precious truth to His own. In today’s focus verse, the psalmist expressed a similar perspective when he stated that in spite of the innumerable evils which surrounded him, the Lord was mindful of him and would be his Help and Deliverer.
Consider, for a moment, the magnitude of that thought. Most likely the mayor of your town does not know your name. The governor of your state never heard of you. The president of the country has no knowledge that you exist. Yet the God of Heaven, the Creator of the whole universe, knows you by name! Not only that, He is aware of your every need. You matter to Him — in fact, He is thinking about you at this very moment!
There may be times when evil surrounds us, trials sweep through our lives, and our hearts nearly fail from fear. In those moments, we can do as David did and pray, “O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me…O Lord, make haste to help me” (Psalm 40:11,13). He will never fail to be our Help and Deliverer!
Traditionally ascribed to David, Psalm 40 is dedicated to the chief Musician, indicating that it was probably sung. It has two distinct parts: verses 1-10 are a song of praise, while verses 11-17 are a personal lament. Verses 13-17 are nearly identical to Psalm 70, so possibly this section was detached for liturgical use and later became a separate psalm. Some commentators suggest that this song was written after David was restored to the throne following Absalom’s rebellion.
The psalm provides a beautiful picture of God’s concern for His children. The Hebrew word translated inclined in verse 1 literally means “stretched out, bent down towards.” The same word is translated in other parts of the Old Testament as “stretched out” (see Exodus 7:5,19, 14:21, etc.)
Psalm 40 is classified as a Messianic psalm, as verses 6-10 are quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7 as having been spoken by Jesus. The phrase “innumerable evils” in verse 12 in the original Hebrew is the most comprehensive term describing the bad or harmful aspects of life. Though David’s words in verses 6-12 refer to his own experience, they prophetically look ahead to Christ’s suffering at the time of His crucifixion. For this reason, portions of this psalm are often read in Christian churches on Good Friday.
Psalm 41 is dedicated to the chief Musician. While primarily a song of lament, the psalm addresses a variety of subjects: compassion for the poor, sorrow for sin, abandonment, and healing.
Jesus quoted verse 9 in John 13:18 saying that one close to Him (Judas) would betray Him. David’s betrayer was someone who pretended to be his friend (“he speaketh vanity”) in order to gather information about his condition and spread it to his enemies.
This may have been a reference to Ahithophel (see 2 Samuel 15:12,31).
In verse 10, David pleaded with God to heal him so that he could “requite them,” seemingly in reference to those who had plotted evil against him. While the psalmist usually left vengeance in the hand of God, he may have felt it was his duty as king to dispense justice to those who were guilty of insurrection and betrayal.
Psalm 41 completes Book I of the Psalms. Verse 13 is a doxology — an expression of praise. The other four books of the Psalms also conclude with praise.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
We can be assured that in every situation and in every trial we face, God is mindful of us and our needs.
1. Corrie ten Boom, Jesus Is Victor, Fleming H Revell Co.,1984, pages 481-482.