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Psalms Lesson 12 - 141:1-10

SSL 12 - Psalm 141:1-10

Prayers & Announcements

LAST WEEK: We studied Psalm 32, written by David in which he proclaimed that the blessings of forgiveness should convince us to confess our sins to God. Many scholars believe David wrote this psalm to fulfill the vow he made in Ps. 51:13, "to teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You." In writing it, David contrasted the agony he suffered to have God as his condemning judge with the tremendous joy and relief of experiencing God's forgiveness. There were two key points of practical application for us:
1. To "confess" means to acknowledge our sin to God. There are three parts to this: (a) We don't try to explain our sin or makes excuses for it, we just say, "Lord, I sinned." (b) We see our sin as serious and understand that it always causes damage: (1) to the Name of Christ; (2) to others in His body; and (3) to ourselves. Thus, we must take sin serious and our confession of sin must be sincere. (c) We see confessed sin as forgiven. No sin is too great to be forgiven. We must rest on the promise of God, that He is faithful and just to forgive us all our sin (did I say all?), yes, all our sin when we confess them to Him with humility, contrition, and complete honesty.
2. To "confess" means to accept responsibility for our sin. (a) Because sin deceives us, confession means that we remove the deceit (v.32b). Our attempts to cover-up (which is self-deception) are at an end, so that we can now be wholly transparent and honest before God. (b) Accepting responsibility mean being willing to give up the sin or sins you're guilty of. We are lying to God if we confess without the willingness to abandon the sin. (c) Accepting responsibility for sin also means confessing to others you have wronged. If you have sinned against someone else, first confess it to God, but then go to the person, confess your sin to them, and seek their forgiveness. In that way, our conscience is clear before both God and man.

THIS WEEK: We move to Psalm 141, attributed to David. Many scholars believe David wrote this psalm during the period when he was being hunted down by Saul in the rocky wilderness of En-gedi as reported in 1 Sam. 24:1-7. The main thrust of the psalm is a prayer asking God not only for protection against his enemies but also protection against himself-weaknesses in his own character that could lead him into the temptation to sin.

Read Ps. 141:1-2 - A Prayer Like Incense

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

v. 1: "O LORD...hasten to me!...Give ear to my voice!" - David began the prayer with LORD (= Yahweh), God's covenant name with the people of Israel. David's need was so desperate and urgent, he prayed that God would hurry and listen to his voice. When a child cries out to a parent, the parent hears not only the words but the voice; in like manner, the LORD hears the voice of His people when they cry out to Him, and it moves Him to action.

v. 2a: "Let my prayer be counted as incense" - David used smoke and incense as a representation of his prayer to God, a picture of smoke rising to heaven as a pleasing aroma. According to Temple ritual (note: in David's time, the Temple consisted of a tent made of animal skins), the incense had to be prepared and offered pure, and by analogy, David offered prepared and pure prayers to God. Rev. 5:8 speaks of "golden bowls of incense" as the prayers of the saints (i.e., those who believe in Jesus Christ).

v. 2b: "lifting up of my hand as the evening sacrifice" - "Lifted hands" depicts a posture of prayer that shows both praise of and dependence upon God, and in connection with the prayer as incense, is offered as an evening sacrifice, and "evening" might have been the usual time that David offered his prayers to God. In terms of "sacrifice," Heb. 13:15 describes praise as "a fruit of the lips" offered as a sacrifice to God.

Read Ps. 141:3-7 - Requests: To be kept from evil and preservation against the wicked

3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
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!
5a 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.
5b Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
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.

v. 3: "Set a guard...over my mouth...keep watch over the door of my lips" - David didn't want the same mouth that prayed to God as incense (i.e., pure) in v.2 to be used for lies or evil words. In short, as he faced his enemies, he wanted his mouth under God's control. "Door of my lips" was a Hebrew expression that pictured a man's mouth as a door through which his words came out into the world, whether good or bad. Here, David asks God to "watch" what his lips are saying and to stop them-shut the door-from saying anything evil or foolish.

v. 4a: "Do not let my heart incline to any evil...busy myself with wicked deeds...with men who work inquity" - Here, David asks God to protect more than his mouth; he asks God for the strength to overcome his own temptation to do evil things or allow himself be infected with the evil schemes of other men. As James Montgomery Boice observed, David didn't consider himself as too good for evil people, but saw himself as like them and capable of being swept up into their wicked ways.

v. 4b: "let me not eat of their delicacies" - The word "eat" could be literal or figurative in meaning. David did not want to walk in the ways (i.e., take part in the lifestyle) of "men who work iniquity," and would not permit himself to indulge in sharing their food or material luxuries. The Hebrew usage of the word "men" suggests those who held positions of rank and authority in Saul's forces. In the context of Christian's today, "iniquity" refers to the decadence of the increasingly godless culture we see around us and "men" are the people who advocate and spread this culture.

v. 5a: "righteous man strike me-it is a kindness; let him rebuke me-it is oil for my head" - Having rejected the "delicacies" of evil men, he welcomes the correction that comes from a righteous man. Spurgeon explained it this way, "Depend on it, the man who will tell you your faults is your best friend. It may not be a pleasant thing for him to do...running the risk of losing your friendship; but he is true and sincere friend, therefore, thank him for his reproof, and learn how you may improve by what he tells you." Correction is pictured like the best "oil" used for anointing the head, so that a rebuke from a righteous man should be perceived as a healing anointing from a true friend.

v. 6: "their judges are thrown over the cliff...they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant" - Many commentators say the translation of the Hebrew is this verse is difficult. It seems to say that God will bring judgment on the judges, who appear to be the leaders of David's enemies (i.e., Saul and his generals) who devise ungodly schemes to kill him. But with Saul slain and removed, "they," the people of Israel, would "hear" David's "words" as the rightful king anointed by the prophet Samuel, and his words, after the harsh enactments of Saul, would be heard as "sweet," a figure of speech for pleasant, reasonable, and just.

v. 7: "when one plows and breaks up the earth...our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol" - This verse presents another difficult translation and interpretation, and the commentaries seem to differ. The "bones" seem to refer to David's friends and followers who were cruelly killed and their bodies left to rot, unburied-a thing repugnant to Jews. "Sheol" refers to the abode of the dead.
Metaphorically, the verse could mean that David's cause-to escape Saul and become the rightful king-seemed almost as hopeless as those who are dead and whose bones are scattered.

Read Ps. 141:8-10 - A Prayer to Find Safety in the LORD

8 But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
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.

v. 8: "my eyes are toward You...in You I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless" - Despite the desperate position David describes in v. 7, he declares that he's looking for God's help not only to defend him from attack but also against the temptation to turn aside from the path of righteousness and run from his enemies. God's "refuge" was David's only place of safety and his only "defense" against the Saul and his followers. Note the use of lower-case "Lord," the Heb. Ad┼Źnai, which means "master" rather than God's covenant name Yahweh. As Christians today we are often face the same temptation to turn away from opposition rather than take a stand for God and His righteousness, and that's exactly what the devil wants us to do-render us ineffective.

v. 9: "Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers" -David's enemies were determined to destroy him and were trying to lure him into many traps and snares. The Heb. Word for "keep me," shamar, literally means to be placed within a thorny hedge of protection. In today's society there are many, many traps and snares for the unwary Christian-they are everywhere-movies, television, internet, smartphones, etc. We must keep our guard up; we must use God's Word as our shield.

v.10: "Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely" - Because his enemies were setting traps for him, David prayed that they would be caught in their own nets, just as Goliath was beheaded with his own sword after David killed him with a sling (1 Sam. 17:51) and Haman, who sought to annihilate the exiled Jews in Persia, was hanged on his own gallows (Esth. 7:10). In short, David expected God to judge the wicked because God is just. The phrase "while I pass safely" shows a lot about David's character: while the prayers of this psalm included many different requests for God's help, he ends by a request for God's divine grace, for by passing "safely," he would act with integrity and not dishonor himself before God or His people.

BROAD TRUTH OF PSALM: Above all else, this psalm not only underlines the fundamental import of our prayers in general, but the nature and content of what we ask for, our choice of words. Every word we pray is important. Think about it.

1. (vv.1-2) When we find ourselves in difficult or life-threatening circumstances, we should pray with urgency. In v.1, David began his prayer with a sense of desperation and urgency. Always remember that when we pray, we are praying as God's chosen people, so God not only hears our words but hears our voice, and we must remember that when God hears the voice of His people crying out to Him for help, He will be moved to action. And like the "incense" and "lifted hands" mentioned in v.2, our prayer should be prepared and pure (i.e., honest, with God-honoring motives) and should express both praise to God (for hearing it) and our complete dependence upon God (for the outcome).

2. (vv. 3-5) When facing a desperate situation, we should ask God to deliver us from temptation. We need to pray that God will help us control and guide our speech and also help us overcome our own temptation (heart) to say or do something that is evil in His sight (i.e., lying, dissembling, exaggerating, or avoiding or running away from the problem, etc.). We should never consider ourselves as "better" than the people we're dealing with, and as sinners, we should recognize that we are fully capable of acting on bad advice or being drawn into solutions that don't honor God. As indicated by v. 5, when a Christian brother or sister confronts us with the truth about ourselves when we are heading toward making a bad decision, instead of going on the defensive, we should accept their forewarning and learn from it.

3. (vv. 6-7) When facing a desperate situation, we should ask God for His (not our) justice and vindication. We know God is always just. No matter how desperate the situation we find ourselves in, we must place all of our hope and trust in God to judge our enemies and to ultimately vindicate us. David knew that he was God's choice as the rightful king of Israel, and although he could not predict God's timing of events, he was confident that God was complete in control of the outcome. We know from Jer. 29:11, that God has a plan of every one of us who believes in Him and His righteousness, and that His plan is to prosper us, not harm us, and to give us hope and a future, a future which, among other things, includes spending eternity with Him.

4. (vv.8-10) When facing a difficult and potentially dangerous situation, we should ask God for protection and preservation. When we pray in these situations, we should always acknowledge and tell God that He is our only place of refuge and safety. We should not only tell God we are "looking toward Him to protect us from opposition but to also guard us from the temptation to turn away from the path of righteousness and try to avoid our opposition. As Christians today, we can easily be tempted to turn away from opposition instead of taking a stand for God, which is exactly what the devil wants us to do. Likewise, we need to ask God to help us from being lured into '"traps and nets" that would cause us to dishonor Him, but to place a divine "hedge of protection" around that will keep us on His path.