The Midweek Devotional on Psalm 141
The Psalmist was living in times of trouble- troubles, trials and tribulations.
Alexander Maclaren commented on this Psalm- “It is a prayer of a harassed soul, tempted to slacken its hold on God, and therefore betaking itself to Him.”
In the early church when people faced persecution, they turned to the Psalms and used them regularly in worship.
We learn about the importance of faithful prayer.
v1 Lord, I cry out to You; Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You.
Trouble puts an edge on our prayers because it creates a sense of urgency in our lives. The Psalmist cried out and asked God to move, and to give ear to his voice. When a child cries out to their parent, the parent hears the words but also the voice. The Lord is moved to action by the cry of his people and hears their voice.
v2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
This is a reference to what the priests had to do in the tabernacle or the temple in the Old Testament. In the tabernacle there was an outer courtyard, and the worshiper went through the gate and the first thing he saw, on the right hand side, was the altar of brass with four horns, one at each corner, and he would see sacrifices burning there. As he went further along he would come to a laver, like a pedestal, and a bowl with water, and this is what the priest used for washing the sacrifices, and his own ceremonial cleansing before entering into the Holy Place.
Inside the Holy Place he saw three things- on the left was the seven-branched candlestick, which was the only source of light in the Holy Place. On the right hand side was a table, the Table of Shewbread, on which every week twelve fresh loaves were put made out of unleavened bread. They symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel. The table is the symbol of the fact that as God’s people we are guests in the presence of God. He is the Host, and the Lord of the House.
A little further in, before he got to the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, there was a small incense altar. It was not for blood sacrifice, it was for incense and the priest would light it and it would give a smoke off and a perfume. It would send a fragrance throughout the whole of the tabernacle, the Holy Place.
David in the Psalm asked that his prayer would be acceptable to God.
It brings to mind Revelation 5:8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Revelation 8:3-4 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.
We want to pray things that are acceptable to God and the Word and the Spirit are our guides. Every day the priests offered to God the continual burnt offering. As they went through the gate into the first court where the worshipers were, on your right hand there was a large brass altar where animals were offered in sacrifice to God. There was a continual sacrifice.
The reason was to show the people their only standing with God was on the basis of the sacrifice. He says, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. These are the kinds of prayers God requires of us.
We learn about the importance of faithful speech.
v3 Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.
God has given us eyes to see, ears to hear and a mouth with which to speak.
The lips serve as the door for our speech. So David says, keep a watch over the doors of my lips. A watch is a sentry, and a sentry is a soldier who is armed. If you go to a military installation, it is always guarded. There is a sentry who watches who is coming and going. That is what David uses as an illustration. We can do a lot of harm with our speech.
James 3 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
Lord, set a watch in front of our lips. Our example is Jesus. Remember when he was taken to the high priest’s house after his arrest? In answer to the question of the high priest he simply said, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil and if not why do you smite me?” John 18. We see gentleness, and kindness from the Lord.
1 Peter 2 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
When he was reviled, he reviled not.
We learn about the importance of a faithful heart.
v4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies.
The heart in the Bible represents the real you, the you that God knows. The heart represents your personality, mind, will, and affections. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing- there are so many evil things around us and yet God gives us grace to overcome them.
Guard your heart- Proverbs 4:23 Above all, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Do not let me eat the delicacies of the evil- this implies friendship. Friendship with the world is enmity with God.
C.S. Lewis- There is a subtle play of looks and tones and laughs as those to whom he is speaking. He will assume, at first only by his manner, but presently by his words, all sorts of cynical and skeptical attitudes which are not really his. But they may become his. All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.
David was close to God and yet knew he could be pulled into sin if he wasn’t careful. He refers to the danger of associating with evil people. He also refers to the danger of the imitation of evil people. We learn about the importance of faithful surrender.
v5 Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it.
This part of the prayer is for a teachable spirit. Nobody likes to be rebuked, in fact we sometimes get angry when it happens. David prays for the ability to take a rebuke. Remember when Aaron allowed the Jews to make a golden calf in the camp while Moses was up on the mountain? When Moses came down judgment was executed for what they had done. Moses said to his brother- Exodus 32:21 And Moses said to Aaron, What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?
It was a timely word. It was a well-deserved rebuke. Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Hezekiah the king who was a good man, got slack and showed the Babylonian ambassadors all his treasures of gold, and silver (2 Kings 20). Isaiah came to him and said what did you show them? Hezekiah- everything. Isaiah said a day is coming when they all will be carried away to Babylon in judgment. It was a strong rebuke.
Nathan rebuked David for his sin of adultery and murder in 2 Samuel 12:1-5.
Do we take it well when we are rebuked? David prayed God would give him the humility of surrender ultimately to God to see wrong and get it right. Humility empowers us to receive spiritual correction when we need it.
v10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I escape safely.
With a focus on God and placing our trust in His plan, we will be able to walk safely through many dangers and temptations.