A psalm of David.
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 ploughs 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;(Ps. 141:1-10 NIV)
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 Psalmist is faced with an immediate trial and he senses that he is in danger of saying or doing the wrong thing. He calls out to the Lord in urgent need of God to come quickly to his aid. He desires for his prayer to ascend like the incense that was offered with the burnt offering of the evening sacrifice. The lifting up of the hands was an expression of total dependence upon God.
Evil was all around, and the Psalmist was facing temptation. When faced with lying accusations it is tempting to respond in an angry way that might lead to a sinful behaviour. In order to avert sins of speech the Psalmist asks the Lord to put a guard over his mouth. Controlling our speech is one of the big themes in the book of Proverbs. It is part of wisdom teaching to emphasise the need to exercise control over the words we use. James in the NT teaches about the need to control the tongue. Mastery over our words is part of the wise way to live. The words we speak are an indication of the relationship that we have with the Lord. Referring to the door of his lips sees the mouth as the door that opens to allow the words to flow out from the heart. The heart is the wellspring of life and the condition of our hearts is revealed by the words that we speak. The Psalmist also asks the Lord to guard so that his heart is not led down an evil path.
The wicked acquire dishonest gain from their evil deeds. The delicacies are the product of evil gains and the Psalmist refuses to partake in this evil gain.
The Psalmist is humble enough to accept criticism and rebuke from a righteous person. A wise person responds to wisdom and sees a wise rebuke as an expression of love. Pouring oil upon the head was part of a custom. To honour his guest a host would anoint their head with oil. As a guest would be honoured by this action so the Psalmist is honoured by the words of rebuke. Such a rebuke he would never refuse.
The Psalmist prays for the downfall of the wicked, especially those in positions of authority who use their position to resist the godly. Every person who uses their position to advocate for unbiblical practices will one day have to give an account to God for their actions.
V7 is very difficult to translate but the sense seems to be that as the farmer ploughs the field and breaks up the soil so the bones of the wicked will be scattered and they will be denied a proper burial.
While the activity of the wicked rulers is distressful, the Psalmist is going to keep his eyes fixed upon the Lord and finds refuge for his heart in the Lord. The Psalmist’s heart is at peace because he has brought the matter of the wicked before God in prayer and he is content that the Lord will in His own time deal with the wicked. The important point to note is that the Psalmist leaves their judgement in the hands of God. The Psalmist’s life is potentially at risk and so he places his life into the hands of the Lord. The Psalmist still has to live his life among the evil people. He asks to be protected from the snares that they have set and that the wicked my become entrapped in the snares that they have made for him.
Lord help us to guard what we say and how we say it, so that we will not be guilty of sinning against You or against our brother or sister in Christ. Mount a guard over our hearts that we might meditate upon that which is pure and wholesome. Help us to hide Your word in our hearts that we might not sin against You for Christ our Saviour’s sake in whose name we pray. Amen.