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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 141

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-4


This psalm is primarily about uprightness of heart in the midst of trials and temptations. The desire of the God-fearing is to be close to God. This desire is not only for a safe place, for protection, but also for spiritual counsel and support.

Prophetically, in Psalms 141-143 we find the people of Israel in distress. In Psalm 140 we see the threat of the enemy, now these enemies are on their way to Israel. In Psalm 141 we find the prayer of the remnant, in Psalm 142 it has become supplication and in Psalm 143 it is supplications (plural). The need increases as the enemy approaches.

Prayer in Temptation

For “a Psalm of David” (Psalms 141:1) see at Psalm 3:1.

It seems that David penned this psalm during the time when he is being chased by Saul and his henchmen. He knows that only the LORD can help him. In any case, the distress he finds himself in, the opposition he experiences, is great, which is evident in the way he addresses the LORD. He calls upon Him, he begs Him to hasten to him, he asks Him to hear his voice as soon as he calls (Psalms 141:1).

He asks not primarily for deliverance from his adversaries, but that his prayer will “be counted as incense” before God (Psalms 141:2; cf. Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:1-Deuteronomy :). Incense speaks of what is pleasing to the LORD. David, and this includes the remnant of which he is a type, is not himself pleasing to the LORD, nor is his prayer.

Prayer becomes pleasant because incense is added to the prayers (Revelation 8:3). That incense speaks of the pleasantness of Christ before God. That is the reason that the prayer of the remnant received power and ascends to the LORD. For us, too, our prayers are pleasing to God only because the prayer is sent up in the pleasing of the Lord Jesus.

David asks that “the lifting up” of his hands may be counted “as the evening offering”. The lifting up of the hands is a prayer attitude (Psalms 28:2; Psalms 63:4Psalms 134:2; 1 Timothy 2:8). The evening offering speaks of the work of the Lord Jesus. The evening offering is the evening burnt offering that was to be offered each day (Exodus 29:38-Mark :). It was done at the ninth hour, which is three o’clock in the afternoon our time.

At that hour, while offering that offering, Elijah received an answer to his prayer (1 Kings 18:36-Zechariah :). At that hour, centuries later, Daniel also received an answer to his prayer (Daniel 9:21). At the ninth hour, the hour of prayer and of the evening burnt offering, Cornelius received a visit from heaven in response to his prayer (Acts 10:1-Numbers :). It is also the hour when the Lord Jesus received no answer when He cried out (Matthew 27:46). In doing so, He laid the basis for God to accept every prayer as incense.

He also longs that God, under the pressure of the evil in the midst of which he lives, will set a guard over his mouth and keep watch over the door of his lips (Psalms 141:3; cf. Micah 7:5). We can in principle be honest and upright in taking sides with the Lord, but an impatient or reproachful word spoils our testimony. As a result, the enemy gets a hold of us because we are no longer in right relationship with God. He who can restrain his tongue is a perfect man, “able to bridle the whole body as well” (James 3:2).

David doesn’t want to get along with wicked people when it comes to responding to something he doesn’t like. From that, in Psalms 141:3, he asks the LORD to keep him. In Psalms 141:4, his request is that he will be kept from joining with wicked people in their dealings, joining with them in “any evil thing”. He prays in accordance with what the Lord Jesus teaches His disciples to pray: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

He recognizes the danger of this, the tendency towards it in his heart. David is a wise man, for he pays attention to what is in his heart (cf. Proverbs 4:23). An evil thing would bring him “to practice deeds of wickedness”, along “with men who do iniquity”. The pursuit of an evil thing brings one to act wrongly and in the company of wrong people.

These men are men of influence. They have status in the community and can present evil very attractively, as “delicacies” (cf. Proverbs 4:17). David asks that God ensure that he will not “eat” of the delicacies of the wicked. Eating expresses fellowship. He does not want that (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14).

What the wicked present to believers is like bait: it looks tempting, but it is directed against their lives (cf. Proverbs 1:10-Psalms :). The only means that keeps them from coming under their influence is not to be in their company (1 Corinthians 15:33; cf. Psalms 1:1).

Verses 5-8

Struck Down, but Not Destroyed

David does not want to participate with evil people even though they present an evil work as attractive (Psalms 141:4). He is open to being corrected (Psalms 141:5). Should he go a wrong way, and “the righteous” would smite or reprove him, he would greatly appreciate it (cf. Proverbs 9:8; Proverbs 15:31Proverbs 17:10; Proverbs 19:26Proverbs 25:12). “The righteous” is Christ. The Hebrew word for “kindness” here is chesed or covenant faithfulness. That is, the LORD’s discipling is done on the basis of His faithfulness to the covenant.

The LORD disciplines His people in order to bless them. Therefore, the wound inflicted by the LORD is always treated with “oil” to ease the pain (cf. Hosea 6:1) Through His disciplining, we come to know His Person and His ways (cf. Hosea 6:3). Often when we are punished, we feel attacked and hurt rather than grateful. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1).

Often we fail to see our own mistakes. If we recognize and acknowledge that, we will be grateful for people – our wife, children, friends – who point out things we are blind to. This should be appreciated as a benefit, as a kindness, and as oil on the head.

Oil on the head is also a symbol of honor for a welcome guest (cf. Luke 7:46). When a reprimand is seen as a benefit, as a symbol of honor, a reprimand will not be refused. Then we also accept the discipline God brings upon us as evidence of His love (Hebrews 12:6-Judges :; Hebrews 12:11).

The last line of Psalms 141:5 seems to be about those who pursue him, David, that is, Saul and his henchmen. Opposite the Righteous Who strikes him out of love, there is Saul who wants to kill him. David spared this ruthless enemy twice when he could have killed him (1 Samuel 24:1-Ruth :; 1 Samuel 26:1-2 Kings :). Saul and his followers, in all their misery – for they are the ones who are truly in misery because they want to kill God’s chosen king – have been an object of his prayer.

The judges who had been hunting him at Saul’s behest “are thrown down by the sides of the rock” (Psalms 141:6), that is, he did not kill them, but spared their lives. They heard his words, “for they are pleasant”. These are the words David speaks to Saul after he has spared Saul’s life (1 Samuel 24:9-Esther :).

In contrast to David’s sparing attitude and pleasant words is the murderous action of Saul and his men toward him and his men (Psalms 141:7). It feels to him that his bones and those of his men lie just before the realm of the dead, “at the mouth of Sheol”. The ground on which they live he experiences as cleft and split. Nowhere is firmness, while death lurks. Prophetically, this is about the destructive attack of the king of the north with his – probably Muslim – allies (Psalms 79:1-Leviticus :; cf. Jeremiah 14:16; Zechariah 13:8; Zechariah 14:2).

At the same time, the picture of the farmer plowing and breaking open the earth as he plows it is a picture of hope. After plowing and breaking open the soil, he sows new seed in the ground. It is a work of preparation to make the ground ripe for new seed (cf. Isaiah 28:23-Lamentations :). In this way the Lord also brings us into difficult circumstances to bring us to repentance, so that the seed of the Word may take root in our hearts. His work is a work of hope. We therefore see in this verse a reference to the resurrection.

While he is in danger “every hour”, so to speak, and dies “daily” (1 Corinthians 15:30-Obadiah :), as he says in Psalms 141:7, his eyes are toward the “GOD, the Lord” (Psalms 141:8). He expects his help from Him Who is the faithful God of the covenant, “GOD” or “LORD”, Yahweh, and Who is the sovereign Ruler, “Lord”, Adonai. To Him he has taken “refuge”.

With boldness he asks: “Do not leave me defenseless.” In doing so, he is asking God to fulfill His promises to him, for at the moment he is a defenseless man, although he is God’s anointed. Literally it says “do not pour out my soul”, that is, ‘do not leave me helpless and dying’. The issue here is literally life or death. The psalmist is asking here if he may remain alive.

The eyes of the robber on the cross next to the Savior are toward the Savior (Luke 23:42). He thinks not of his suffering, but of his soul, and asks the Lord to think of him when He comes in His kingdom. He takes refuge in Him and asks that His soul not be left defenseless. He receives more than he asks for: he may be with the Lord Jesus in paradise immediately after his death (Luke 23:43).

Verses 9-10

Preservation and Retribution

David knows that his enemies are still there and want to do him harm. Therefore, he asks to be kept safe from cunning snares and traps in which, if he is not careful, he may just be caught (Psalms 141:9). He does not imagine that he will be able to outwit his enemies and that they will not catch him. The Only One Who can keep him is the LORD.

In Psalms 141:10 he turns the matter around. He asks the LORD to “let the wicked fall into their own nets”. This is to happen to them all so that there is no one left who is a danger to him. The LORD must maintain that situation until he has passed and achieved the goal God has in mind for him.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 141". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-141.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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