Psalm 141 - The Struggler
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you.
May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.
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.
Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs, and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
They will say, “As one plows and breaks up the earth, so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”
But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge – do not give me over to death.
Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers, from the snares they have laid for me.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety.
The heart of this psalm was in verse 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 evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.” That was the heart of David while writing this prayer. King David was of course a mere man like us, he struggled with sins and desired to shun temptation. This is a psalm for strugglers with sins and temptations; it is a psalm for all of us.
What do we do when we struggle with sins and face temptations? I would normally confess my sins to God and pray for strength to overcome them. God wants us to take it higher like David. When David struggled, he called to God, "come quickly to me" and "hear me when I call you".
In Psalm 142, David wrote that no one cared for him, and only God did; and God knows his way. Who else knows better about us than our God? David called to God, to come quickly to him. He desired God to come to him, do we? Or do we just want God to forgive our sins but not come close to us and see us? David desired to see God because he did not want his heart to be drawn to what is evil.
David hoped his daily prayers were “like incense” and “evening sacrifice” to God; he wanted to please God. Prayer is the most neglected thing for many Christians, especially busy Christians.
Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken Him. (2 Chronicles 13:11)
The morning and evening sacrifices were ordained by God, so that the people would be reminded of God’s saving grace. Incidentally, Jesus died at the same hour of the evening sacrifice when he uttered his last words; “It is finished”. Starting the day with prayer and ending the day with prayer were the routine of David, because he desired not to let his heart be drawn to what is evil.
As discussed at the beginning of this article, this is the central focus of the psalm. David asked of God, “Set a guard over my mouth”. He was not just careful about doing the wrong things; he wanted to be careful of saying the wrong things too. We can all learn to be more watchful of the things we say. The words we say can build people up or tear people down.
David welcomed discipling from righteous people. He had Nathan in his life. He wanted righteous people to “strike me” and “rebuke me” because to him,“that is a kindness”. He also regarded it as “oil on my head”. The anointing of oil on the head was a mark of respect and also a rite of inauguration into special positions (prophets, priests and kings). Of course David only desired rebukes from righteous people. His prayer was “against the deeds of the evildoers”. He was against what they did, and didn’t want to be like them.
David knew the consequences of the evildoers; they would be “thrown down from the cliffs” and their bones would be “scattered at the mouth of the grave”! That's a dreadful fate we'll all want to avoid. We should also want others to know the consequences of their sins too.
David said to God, “my eyes are fixed on you”, and he asked of God “do not to give me over to death” (referring to spiritual death). David was a man just like us; we all struggle with sins and pray that God will not to give us over to spiritual death. And God will not, if we fix our eyes on Him and "take refuge" in Him. God will keep us “safe from the traps” of temptations. Even when temptations are around, we will be able to “pass by in safety”.
We are all strugglers. We've just got to fix our eyes on God and take refuge in Him.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.