By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.
These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.
Dr. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) comments on this psalm, “It is a prayer of a harassed soul, tempted to slacken its hold on God, and therefore betaking itself to Him.” Listen to the heart cry of one harassed by cruel hate, as we read in Psalm 141, “Lord, I cry out to You; / Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, / The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; / Keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, / To practice wicked works / With men who work iniquity; / And do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; / It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; / It shall be as excellent oil; / Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked. Their judges are overthrown by the sides of the cliff, / And they hear my words, for they are sweet. Our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave, / As when one plows and breaks up the earth. But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord; / In You I take refuge; / Do not leave my soul destitute. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, / And from the traps of the workers of iniquity. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, / While I escape safely.”
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe explains, “Even a casual reading of [Psalm] 140 and 141 reveals that the two are related and use a similar vocabulary—heart, tongue, hands, snares, the righteous, and so forth. The enemy was after David again and he needed immediate help. . . . Life is built on character and character is built on decisions. This psalm reveals David making a number of wise decisions as he faced the attacks of the enemy.”
Allow me to share three heartfelt desires of David that may be ours as well.
I. David desired to be acceptable in his prayer life.
From Psalm 141:2 we read, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, / The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
The mention of “incense” brings Revelation 5:8 to mind where we read, “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” In addition, we read in Revelation 8:3-4, “Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.”
David’s mention of “the evening sacrifice” might link this psalm with Psalm 4 and Psalm 63, known as “evening psalms”. His mention of “sacrifice” reminds us that Samuel the prophet said to King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22-23, “So Samuel said: ‘ Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, / As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, / And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, / And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, / He also has rejected you from being king.”
David prayed, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; / Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). Prayer must be acceptable to God to be effective. On another occasion David prayed in Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart / Be acceptable in Your sight, / O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” This is the heart cry of David, who received this acclaim from God, David was “a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22).
David prayed, “Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, / To practice wicked works / With men who work iniquity; / And do not let me eat of their delicacies” (Psalm 141:4).
David sought to avoid the association of evil men. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Paul writes, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them / And walk among them. I will be their God, / And they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them / And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, / And I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, / And you shall be My sons and daughters, / Says the Lord Almighty.” In addition, Paul writes in Ephesians 5:8-14, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, / Arise from the dead, / And Christ will give you light.”
David sought to avoid the imitation of evil men. Dr. Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) observes, “All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.” We should choose our friends biblically. Proverbs 22:24 warns us “make no friendship with an angry man.” Solomon also tells us “a companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). Remember the warning of Paul the apostle, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). From Proverbs 24:1-2 we read, “Do not be envious of evil men, / Nor desire to be with them; / For their heart devises violence, / And their lips talk of troublemaking.” From Proverbs 4:23 we read, “Keep your heart with all diligence, / For out of it spring the issues of life.”
David sought to avoid the celebration of evil men. On the request, “And do not let me eat of their delicacies” or “Let me eat not of their dainties”, Dr. Adam Clarke (1762-1832) explains, “This may refer either to eating things forbidden by the law; or to the partaking in banquets or feasts in honor of idols.” From Proverbs 4:14-17 we read, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, / And do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; / Turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; / And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, / And drink the wine of violence.”
We read in 1 Peter 4:1-5, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
In the words of William D. Longstaff (1822-1894), “Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; / Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word. Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak, / Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.”
II. David desired to be accountable in his personal life.
This demonstrates the importance of godly friends and godly fellowship. From Proverbs 27:17 we read, “As iron sharpens iron, / So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
A. David prayed, “Let the righteous strike me; / It shall be a kindness” (Psalm 141:5a).
We see that David made himself accountable to others. There should be those in your life who will hold you accountable. In Proverbs 27:6 we read, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, / But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
B. David prayed, “Let him rebuke me; / It shall be as excellent oil” (Psalm 141:5b).
Nathan rebuked David for his sin of adultery and murder in 2 Samuel 12:1-15, where we read, “Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.’ So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.’ Then Nathan departed to his house.”
C. David prayed, “Let my head not refuse it” (Psalm 141:5c).
David received the rebuke of Nathan and repented as we read his heartbroken confession of sin recorded in Psalm 32 and 51. Please note his confession is marked more about his sin against God than the temporal consequences of his actions.
David explained in Psalm 141:5 that he desired to hear constructive criticism of truly righteous men. He knew the wisdom of seeking the company and the counsel of godly men. We read in Psalm 1:1a, “Blessed is the man / Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.”
From Jeremiah 17:9-10 we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things, / And desperately wicked; / Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, / I test the mind, / Even to give every man according to his ways, / According to the fruit of his doings.”
III. David desired to be accreditable in his public life.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the term “accredit” means “to give official authorization to or approval of: a: to provide with credentials; especially: to send (an envoy) with letters of authorization; b: to recognize or vouch for as conforming with a standard.” Therefore, to be accreditable means you are able to be accredited. David was on a mission to do the will of God and he wanted to be right with God.
Paul the apostle writes in 2 Timothy 2:20-22, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
David wisely prayed in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; / Try me, and know my anxieties; / And see if there is any wicked way in me, / And lead me in the way everlasting.”
Dr. John Newton (1725-1807) explains, “Prayer is the great engine to overthrow and rout my spiritual enemies, the great means to procure the graces of which I stand in hourly need.” We read in Psalm 141:5d-6, “For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked. Their judges are overthrown by the sides of the cliff, / And they hear my words, for they are sweet.”
Dr. Albert Barnes, (1798-1870) comments, “It seems to me that the most plausible interpretation of the passage is founded on that which has been assumed thus far in the explanation of the psalm, as referring to the state of things recorded in 1 Samuel 24:1-7. David was in the wilderness of En-gedi, in the midst of a rocky region. Saul, apprised of his being there, came with three thousand chosen men to apprehend him, and went into a cave to lie down to rest. Unknown, probably, to him, David and his men were in the ‘sides of the cave.’ They now saw that Saul was completely in their power, and that it would be an easy thing to enter the cave, and kill him when off his guard. The men urgently advised David to do this. David entered the cave, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe, showing how completely Saul was in his power, but he proceeded no further; he did not follow the suggestions of his friends; he did not take the life of Saul, as he might have done; and he even regretted what he had done, as implying a want of due respect for the anointed of the Lord, 1 Samuel 24:11. Yet he had the fullest confidence that the king and his forces would be overthrown, and that it would be done in a way consistent with open and manly war, and not in an underhanded and stealthful way, as it would have been if he had cut him off in the cave. With this in view, it seems to me that the difficult passage before us may be explained with, at least, some degree of plausibility.
Their judges [Psalm 141:6a] By the judges, are to be understood the rulers of the people; the magistrates; those in office and power—referring to Saul and the officers of his government. ‘Their judges;’ to wit, the judges or rulers of the hosts in opposition to me—of those against whom I war; Saul and the leaders of his forces.
Are overthrown [Psalm 141:6b] Are discomfited, vanquished, subdued; as I am confident they will be, in the regular prosecution of the war, and not by treachery and stealth.
In stony places [Psalm 141:6c] literally, ‘in the hands of the rock;’ or, as the word ‘hands’ may sometimes be used, ‘in the sides of the rock.’ It might mean ‘by the power of the rock,’ as thrown upon them; or, ‘against its sides.’ The essential idea is, that the ‘rocks,’ the rocky places, would be among the means by which they would be overthrown; and the sense is, that now that Saul was in the cave—or was in that rocky region, better known to David than to him—Saul was so completely in his power, that David felt that the victory, in a regular course of warfare, would be his.
They shall hear my words [Psalm 141:6d] The followers of Saul; the people of the land; the nation. Saul being removed—subdued—slain—the people will become obedient to me who have been anointed by a prophet as their king, and designated as the successor of Saul. David did not doubt that he would himself reign when Saul was overcome, or that the people would hear his words, and submit to him as king.
For they are sweet [Psalm 141:6e] They shall be pleasant; mild; gentle; equitable; just. After the harsh and severe enactments of Saul, after enduring his acts of tyranny, the people will be glad to welcome me, and to live under the laws of a just and equal administration. The passage, therefore, expresses confidence that Saul and his hosts would be overthrown, and that the people of the land would gladly hail the accession to the throne of one who had been anointed to reign over them.”
David continues his prayer recorded in Psalm 141:7-10, “Our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave, / As when one plows and breaks up the earth. But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord; / In You I take refuge; / Do not leave my soul destitute. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, / And from the traps of the workers of iniquity. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, / While I escape safely.”
You can sense the danger as David looked up to the Lord seeking deliverance from “snares”, “traps”, and “nets”. He prays in Psalm 141:10, “Let the wicked fall into their own nets, / While I escape safely.” Here David requests a simultaneous action from the Lord. David also writes in Psalm 7:15-16, “He made a pit and dug it out, / And has fallen into the ditch which he made. His trouble shall return upon his own head, / And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.”
Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) cites a sentence in Latin: “Nec lex est justioir ulla quam necis artifices arte perire sua- [translated into English as follows] No law can be more just than that the architects of destruction should perish by their own contrivances.” This is “poetic justice” or “what goes around comes around”. The prime illustration of “poetic justice” is found in the Book of Esther, when they hanged Haman on the gallows he made for Mordacai (Esther 5:14, 7:9-10).
In his English Annotations on the Holy Bible (1685), Rev. Matthew Poole (1624-1679) cites an example of how God answered David’s prayer in Psalm 141:10, “For David was strangely kept out of harm’s way when Saul and others of David’s enemies were cut off by the Philistines, 1 Sa 31:1-13.”
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe concludes, “Life goes on and there is work to do, so we must not allow tough situations to paralyze us but to energize us in trusting the Lord. Life’s trials are not excuses for doing nothing; they are opportunities for claiming God’s promises and experiencing His miraculous power.”
Dr. Thomas L. Constable comments, “In this evening prayer, David asked God to protect him and enable him to continue living for God’s glory. . . We who are God’s people should pray regularly for our own sanctification, and for protection from the evil individuals who oppose us, as we seek to walk with God.”
David desired to be acceptable in his prayer life.
David desired to be accountable in his personal life.
David desired to be accreditable in his public life.
Before we can be “a man [or a woman] after [God’s] own heart, who will do all [His] will” (Acts 13:22), like David, we must have a new heart and a new spirit. From Ezekiel 36:26 we read, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Paul the apostle writes in Romans 10:9-13, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Earlier in Romans 1:16-17, Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Jesus warns His followers in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”
In 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul the apostle affirms, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
John writes in 1 John 3:13, “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.”
Therefore, when you face vicious attacks and vile abuse as a believer for the sake of Jesus Christ may you desire to be acceptable in your prayer life, accountable in your personal life, and accreditable in your public life. Then you will properly raise up the heart cry of one harassed by cruel hate.
Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms: Psalms XC-CL (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1894) , p. 398
Warren W. Wierbse, The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Wisdom and Poetry, (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), p. 369
Clive Staples Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Reprint ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1959), p. 54.
Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the New Testament, Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp.
Available from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/accredit Accessed: 09/16/12
Available from: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/accreditable Accessed: 09/23/12
Bob Phillips, Find It in the Bible: Lists, Lists, and More Lists (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing Co., Inc., 2004), p. 229
Albert Barnes, Notes, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, on the Book of Psalms, in Three Volumes, Vol. III, Psalm 141: 6, (London: Hamilton, Adams and Company, 1868) , p. 337
An Exposition of the Old and New Testament: Wherein each chapter is summed up in its contents, the sacred text inserted at large in distinct paragraphes, each paragraph reduced to its proper heads, the sense given, and largely illustrated: with Practical Remarks and Observations: by Matthew Henry, late minister of the Gospel, to which is prefixed, The Memoirs of the Life, Character, and Writings of the Author, by J. B. Williams, Esq. F. S. A., Stereotype edition, with a Portrait of the Author, in Three Volumes, Vol. II., (London: Joseph Ogle Robinson, MDCCCXXVIII ), p. 453
Matthew Poole, Annotations Upon the Holy Bible, Wherein the Sacred Text is Inserted, and Various Readings Annex’d . . . by the Late Reverend and Learned Divine Mr. Matthew Poole in Three Volumes, Vol. I, Genesis –Isaiah, (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, MDCCCLIII , [orig. pub. (London: Parkhust,1700)], p. cxli 
Warren W. Wierbse, The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Wisdom and Poetry, (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), p. 370
Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Psalms, 2012 Edition, p. 241, Available from: http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/psalms.pdf Accessed: 09/18/12
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
© September 23, 2012 All Rights Reserved