Exegetical Notes: Psalm 141

A prayer of David’s asking for protection from temptation and from his enemies.

 No particular context is given, but many scholars place this within the time of Absolam’s rebellion while David was fleeing from him in the wildreness.

1 O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you!

“Lord” – Heb. – “YHWH” David calls upon God by the reference of his covenant name. Insisting upon God’s covenant and love for His people as the basis of his request.

“hasten to me” – As in, “help me now!” David’s request makes known his intense desire to flee from temptation and his dependance upon God for divine assistance. 

The believer should rejoince in that he/she always has divine assistance in defeating temptaiton. Note: 
”Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 1 Co 10:12–14.
”But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Jn 14:26.

2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

“and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” – David’s posture in prayer echoes his desire that his prayer would rise before God as the evening temple sacrifices do.

 This posture also suggest a deep desire of David’s prayer to be heard.

3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

A request to not speak evil.

See James 1:19, 20; 3:2-12.

4 Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!

A request to not desire or participate in evil.

“incline to any evil” -One way to avoid thoughts of temptation is by meditating on God’s Word. 

”Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Ps 1:1–3.

See also: Psalm 119:1-11.

The only way an individual can have his heart turned from evil is through the gracious regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Consider Paul’s comments in Romans 3:9-ff.

“delicacies” – Either a reference to 1) pagan religous feasts or 2) pagan sensual practice.

5 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Verses 5-7 offer a bit of difficulty in translation.

Consider the following:

5 I am willing for a man of goodwill to chastise me,
or for a faithful (friend) to correct me;
it is a gesture of friendship
that I will not refuse.
But the evil done by evildoers
will not stop my prayer.
6 I said without malice:
my enemies will understand it
when their judges are thrown upon a rock.
7 As a rift opens in the earth
the world of the dead will open its mouth
to swallow their scattered bones.
Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 1144.

“man” – Two exegetical options:
 1. “man” – as in, another man helping David remain accountable. 
2. “God” – as in, a request for God to discipline or aid David in spiritual disciplines.

 Both views are exegetical possibilities and spiritually beneficial. As believers, we can pray for divine aid in sanctification as well as help (or receive) help from fellow believers in our walk with the Lord.

“oil for my head” – meaning “an honor” or “a blessing”. Perhaps a personal lesson learned from his confrontation at the hands of the prophet Nathan.

“yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds” – Whereas, David gladly accepted proper rebuke from the righteous, he prayed against those who participated in evil.

6 When their judges are thrown over the cliff, then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.
7 As when one plows and breaks up the earth, so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

Verse 7 is most likely a reference to those mentioned in 5c. A verse of judgment.

8 But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!Where to we turn in times of trouble?

Many times, we look within ourselves. However, David focused on God for deliverance.

Consider Psalm 20:7-8 – “Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.”

9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers!
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely.

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