Psalm 141

Psalm 141
A psalm of David

(1) I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you.
(2) May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

(3) Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.
(4) Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evil doers; do not let me eat their delicacies.

(5) Let a righteous man strike me- that is a kindness; let him rebuke me- that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

(6) Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs, and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
(7) They will say, "As one plows and breaks up the earth, so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave."

(8) But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge- do not give me over to death.
(9) Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers, from the snares they have laid for me.
(10) Let the wicked fall into their own nets while I pass by in safety.

David was in distress when he penned this psalm, pursued, it is most likely, by Saul, that violent man. Is any distressed? Let him pray; David did so, and had the comfort of it.

Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714

Psalm 141 is titled, Give Ear to My Voice (ESV); A Prayer Not to Sin (ICB); Prayer for Safekeeping from Wickedness (NKJV); and An Evening Prayer for Sanctification and Protection (NASB).

Bible scholars and translators are perplexed by the middle portion of this psalm- a number of the verses are hard to understand/translate. One commentator claimed the “colorful Hebrew” made discovery of meaning difficult. Charles Spurgeon said, “it’s meaning lies so deep as to be in places exceedingly obscure.”

But the first verses are clear and meaningful. We would do well to memorize these and sing them to the Lord each and every morning,

O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
Psalm 141:1-2 ESV

O LORD, I am calling to you. Please hurry! Listen when I cry to you for help! Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.
Psalm 141:1-2 NLT

In the Old Testament, the required daily gifts to the Lord were very specific, including a morning and an evening offering (Number 28:4). God set these rules up as soon as the people were freed from slavery in Egypt. While many of the rituals are foreign to us today, God commanded them, at that time, to keep the eyes of the Israelite people upon Him. To keep them focused daily- morning and evening. It’s often too easy to look around at what others have or how others do things and be led astray.

There is a lesson and an expectation for us today: speak with God first thing in the morning and last thing before you close your eyes to sleep.

Like bookends to your day.

If David did write this while he fled Saul all those years, then he did not have access to the tabernacle and the daily rituals that he believed strongly in. Therefore, his prayer to God was that He would “accept my prayer as incense before you. May my prayer in the morning be sufficient to keep my eyes upon You.” Then ended his day in the same way, “and my hands held high in praise as the evening sacrifice.”

And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God's people.
Revelation 5:8 NLT

As incense is carefully prepared, kindled with holy fire, and devoutly presented unto God, so let my prayer be.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

Let my prayer be like incense placed before you. (ICB)

Lord, help me control my tongue. Help me be careful about what I say. Don't let me want to do evil or join others in doing wrong. Don't let me eat with those who do evil. If a good man punished me, that would be kind. If he corrected me, that would be like having perfumed oil on my head. I shouldn't refuse it. But I pray against those who do evil. Let their leaders be thrown down the cliffs. Then people will know that I have spoken the truth: "The ground is plowed and broken up. In the same way, our bones have been scattered at the grave."
Psalm 141:3-7 ICB

Good men pray against the sweets of sin.

Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714

David did not want the same mouth that prayed incense for the Lord in the morning to become wicked and deceitful the moment he set foot in front of others. Someone tended to lead him astray, and every morning David prayed against this battle. David is clearly asking God to reveal sin and wickedness. David wants to see it clearly so that he won’t step in it and fall into its trap.

Although David fights the trap of sin, he welcomes the righteous to correct him, to point out sin’s trap ahead, the trap that he sometimes fails to see.

Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! (NLT)- Although it’s not easy when someone says, you’re going the wrong way, it is a kindness. David reminds us that our eyes should remain on the Lord. When we look to heaven and the life beyond, the temptations of this world fall away in comparison.

The reminder: do not seek to please men, instead, seek the Lord always. Like oil on my head.

These words are confusing,

For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked. Their judges are overthrown by the sides of the cliff, and they hear my words, for they are sweet. Our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave, as when one plows and breaks up the earth.
Psalm 141:5b-7 NKJV

But I pray constantly against the wicked and their deeds. When their leaders are thrown down from a cliff, the wicked will listen to my words and find them true. Like rocks brought up by a plow, the bones of the wicked will lie scattered without burial.
Psalm 141:5b-7 NLT

David speaks to the righteous again here. He prays against the schemes of the wicked. He sees the day when their judges/leaders fall. It is then, that the people must hear the words of David as comfort and hope. Meaning (possibly?) when Saul falls, which he will because God told David so, the people will turn to David and David will speak of God’s faithfulness and His promises. A promise that David, as God’s anointed king, will not harbor ill will but will see them through.

Note the differences in verse 7.

Whatever the meaning of verse 7 (whose bones are scattered?) it is bad. Like a body buried, then dug up and the bones scattered around from animal scavengers or grave robbers or worse. Complete disrespect of the dead. Does David fear the future for himself or his people? Is David speaking metaphorically about what Saul has done to the Israelites, scattered them, broken them, caused disunity? Or is he speaking of the day that Saul will fall and the evil people that follow him are scattered?

How often have good men thought thus of the cause of God! Wherever they have looked, death, division, and destruction have stared them in the face. Cut and cloven, hopelessly sundered! Scattered, yea, scattered at the grave’s mouth!

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

Whew, thank goodness for the last three verses then. What is a believer to do? Look up!

I look up to you for help, O Sovereign LORD. You are my refuge; don't let them kill me. Keep me from the traps they have set for me, from the snares of those who do wrong. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, but let me escape.
Psalm 141:8-10 NLT

But God, dear Lord, I only have eyes for you.
Psalm 141:9 MSG

I look up to you Lord.

I only have eyes for you.

My friend, where are your eyes set today? Are worries and fears keeping you up at night? Is something or someone pulling you away from the Truth of God’s love for you? Is it your own heart or head telling you lies about your worth? Do you fear the traps that so easily entangle us?

May we take David’s example in Psalm 141 (and others!) to seek God in the morning, first thing, and again in the evening before we close our eyes to sleep.

Even when we do not feel it, God’s love and strength are being poured out upon us. Even when we doubt His faithfulness, He remains faithful. We see it throughout every page of the Bible. Thank the Lord that His faithfulness does not rely upon ours.

How do we keep our eyes on the Lord? How do we walk this earth/this life blamelessly? How do we see the trap of temptation ahead? How do we stop the fear and worries of this world creeping into our hearts and minds?

Book end your day with the Lord. With His word. With prayer. With praise.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Deuteronomy 31:8

Father in heaven, we call to you now. Hear our prayer like incense in the morning, and the raising of our hands as the evening sacrifice. We keep our eyes on you. We look to you for strength and for deliverance. Keep our feet upon the path of righteousness. Thank you for your word and for your faithfulness throughout time and even now. We love you. Amen.

Heidi xoxo

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