Here are some wonderful promises for those who consider the poor. But what does it mean to "consider the poor"?
The Hebrew word in verse 1 translated as "considers," sakal, is quite interesting. One Hebrew lexicon defines sakal as "to look at; to look at with the mind; to consider; to attend to." As Hebrew is a picturesque language, the word runs the gamut of possible definitions. It begins with looking at something, then mentally investigating it, and finally, all the way to attending to it. It is a word, then, that encompasses a process.
The definition continues, giving more figurative meanings: "To be or become intelligent, prudent, or wise. It implies maturity of understanding or judgment." We can now plug these definitions back into verse 1: "Blessed is he who intelligently, prudently, or wisely, with maturity of understanding and judgment, considers the poor."
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, page 877, comments on this word: "Sakal relates to an intelligent knowledge of the reason. There is the process of thinking through a complex arrangement of thought resulting in a wise dealing and use of good practical common sense. Another end result is the emphasis upon being successful.'"
So, what is David truly saying? By using this word, he does not say simply, "Blessed is he who sees people in need." We could take it that way, as the most basic definition of sakal is "to look at," but by using sakal,? with its gamut of definitions, he implies a great deal more. He is really saying, "Blessed is he who sees a need, and then looking at the complex situation surrounding it, thinks through how he could best, most intelligently, and wisely bring about a successful solution to it."
That is the essence of this word, sakal. It is not just seeing a problem that needs fixing. It is seeing a situation—a person in need—then taking stock and determining what one has to give that will fulfill what the other person really needs, investigating the needy person's situation and attitude (as much as possible), considering God's involvement, and extrapolating what actions and methods one may take to produce the best possible solution. After all that, one must actually do what needs to be done to bring the situation to a successful conclusion.
That is a lot of work! There is a great deal involved when a Christian goes about doing good (Acts 10:38)!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"
This should not be the major reason for being kind. Yet God, who is ever ready to give and bless, has of His own will inspired these words for our benefit, so we understand that our efforts in glorifying Him and His way do not go unnoticed. It is a promise we can claim whenever we get into a bind. He who enabled us to be kind and generous to others in their need will respond by providing us a helper in our need. Jesus says in Luke 6:38:
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.
This is very wonderful motivation for those who believe God's Word, but perhaps there is even greater. Being merciful and kind is evidence that God has given us His Spirit—that the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts and is producing fruit. For proof of the importance of passing on God's kindness—expressed in His calling, forgiving, giving us His Spirit, and promising we will receive yet more mercy for being merciful—listen to Jesus' words in Matthew 25:34-36, 40:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, "Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." . . . And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Psalms 41:1: