New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 141:1

A Psalm by David.
Yahweh, I have called on You. Come to me quickly! Listen to my voice when I call to You-

David repeatedly asks God to "hurry to help me" (Ps. 22:19; 38:22; 40:13; 70:1,5; 141:1). But David had hurried (s.w.) to be obedient to God, always wanting to 'say yes straight away' (Ps. 119:60). Our response to God's voice is therefore related to His response to our voice; if His words abide in us, then we experience positive experience in answered prayer (Jn. 15:7).

Psa 141:2

Let my prayer be set before You like incense; the lifting up of my hands like the evening sacrifice-
"Set before" is also "established", and the idea my be "with the regularity of the incense". Regular prayer is part of the discipline of the spiritual life, and David is a great example in this. It seems David prayed with the literal lifting up of his hands, seeing this as the essence of sacrifice. He perhaps learnt this whilst in exile from the sanctuary under persecution by Saul. He perceived that the essence of sacrifice was the lifting up of our hearts and words to God. 

Psa 141:3

Set a watch, Yahweh, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips-
As we see throughout Ps. 119, David believed that God could grant spirituality and self control; the Old Testament equivalent to the work and possibility of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. David recognized that he had anger and temper issues, and asks God to act as a guard [a "watch"] over his mouth, lest any bad words come out.

Psa 141:4

Don’t incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice deeds of wickedness with men who work iniquity; don’t let me eat of their delicacies-
As noted on :3; Ps. 119:36, David believed that God could act deep within the psychology or heart of man, to incline us toward righteousness and away from evil. This is how the Holy Spirit works today. Solomon believed the same (s.w. 1 Kings 8:58), but only in theory; for his Gentile wives inclined or turned away his heart from God (s.w. 1 Kings 11:3,9). God will not turn our hearts anywhere we ourselves don't want to go. Solomon often appeals for us to incline our hearts to wisdom (s.w. Prov. 2:2; 4:20; 5:1; 22:17), but he himself was inclined to apostasy (s.w. 1 Kings 11:3,9). All his emphasis is upon the need to incline ourselves, whereas his father David trusted in the work of the Spirit to incline his heart to good and away from evil (Ps. 141:4; 119:36 etc.).   

"Incline" is the word used by David of how he himself inclined his heart to God's word (Ps. 119:51,112,157). But David prayed that God would incline his heart towards His word (Ps. 119:36) and away from sin (Ps. 141:4). This is how the Holy Spirit works to this day- we are confirmed in the psychological attitudes we ourselves choose to have. The word is used of God's mighty "stretched out" arm and "strong hand" in human affairs (Ps. 136:12 and often in Isaiah). This powerful hand of God is at work in human hearts, confirming us in the psychological way in which we ourselves wish to go. In this sense God turns or inclines the heart where He wishes (Prov. 21:1). Solomon in the Proverbs places all the emphasis upon a person themselves in their own strength inclining their heart toward his teaching (Prov. 2:2; 4:5,20; 5:1). He fails to appreciate what David his father did; that God's word is His word and not that of the human channel through which it comes. And he totally puts the emphasis upon human strength of will, self inclination towards God's word, rather than perceiving as David did that without God's psychological help in this, we shall ultimately fail. As Solomon himself did.

Whatever the primary reference of this Psalm, it is a reworking of David's feelings when persecuted by Saul and likewise on the run from him. For circumstances repeat in our lives, and it would be natural for David to reconsider Psalms written at the time of one exile and apply them to another, just as these Psalms were also used for others in their times of exile. "Wickedness" is the word used about Saul's persecution in 1 Sam. 24:13.

Psa 141:5

Let the righteous strike me, it is a kindness; let him reprove me, it is like oil on the head-
David was open to Nathan's "rebuke", which was not given in God's anger so much as in His appeal for David to accept His grace. The allusion is to "the oil of welcome, such as was poured upon the head of favored guests" (Lk. 7:36); the hospitality culture of the day meant that a guest should not be insulted with criticism. But David turns all that around and says that he would welcome rebuke as a welcome.

Don’t let my head refuse it; and my prayer will be for them in their calamities-
Again we see God being asked to directly grant spirituality and Godly attitudes. LXX: "The righteous shall chasten me with mercy, and reprove me: but let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head: for yet shall my prayer also be in their pleasures". David's habit of praying for Saul in his calamities in stated specifically in Ps. 35:13.

Psa 141:6

When their judges are thrown over the cliff, then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant-
Throwing off a cliff was a punishment for apostacy, as the Jews tried to do to the Lord Jesus. David was perhaps imagining how Saul and his government would come to an end; and then the prophetic words about David becoming king would be accepted as true. "Pleasant" is AV "sweet"; Ps. 119:103 records David praising the prophetic word about his kingship (see note there) as being sweet.

Psa 141:7

As when one ploughs and breaks up the earth, our bones are scattered at the mouth of Sheol-
The idea is that stones were visible on the surface of newly ploughed soil, and so were the bones of God's true people. This has perhaps been added by the exiles when this Psalm of David was appropriated by them. But it was those same bones which would be revived at the restoration, according to the dry bones vision of Ez. 37.

Psa 141:8

but my eyes are on You, Yahweh, the Lord. In You I take refuge; don’t leave my soul destitute-
Although God's people were to be slain in heaps (:7), the psalmist asks that he shall be saved. It is a characteristic of the faithful that they hold on even when all God's people have fallen away. It sometimes seems only a minority of a minority may finally be saved. Heb. "do not pour out my soul". The Lord's servant was to pour out his soul unto death (Is. 53:12). David wanted to be king as promised, and not a sacrifice.

Psa 141:9

Keep me from the snare which they have laid for me, from the traps of the workers of iniquity-
The implication is that the snares laid would have meant going astray from God's precepts. The initial reference may have been to Saul laying snares for David through getting him to marry his daughters and thereby seeking to kill him; and in Ps. 119:110 David is proud he has not fallen into those snares. But that Psalm finishes with David saying bluntly that he has "gone astray" (Ps. 119:176), as if to say that earlier  he had far overrated his own obedience to God's law.

Psa 141:10

Let the wicked fall together into their own nets, while I pass on by-
This is part of a major Biblical theme that the wicked are self-condemned, more than being condemned by God as it were against their own will. In Ps. 140:10 David envisages his opponents as being "Cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise"; pictures of final condemnation at the last day. But effectively, they had fallen into that which they had themselves wished upon David. Those who condemn, or seek to condemn, will themselves be condemned (Mt. 7:1).