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Frameworks: Psalm 141: Help me Lord to hold to my righteousness


A psalm of David.


[Preliminary Comments:

Difficulties: Some versions will insert the following note to this psalm: “ Meaning of Heb of verses 5–7 is uncertain”. This is one of those fairly rare times when the original is uncertain and therefore interpreters arrive at different conclusions. To illustrate this we simply insert in the text below the wording found in the New Revised Standard Version to contrast it with the NIV that is used as the text throughout these pages. We have added preliminary note-headings on the basis of the NIV rendering.

Content: David is praying [v.1,2] and is conscious of his moral frailty so asks the Lord to help in respect of what he might say [v.3] and also to keep him from the ways of the wicked [v.4]. Rather than fall into these traps he would prefer to be corrected by his righteous peers [v.5] because he knows the wicked will be held accountable for what they do and say [v.6,7]. He seeks to anchor his righteousness by keeping his eyes fixed on the Lord [v.8] and asks the Lord to keep him from falling into such traps [v.9] laid by the wicked who will themselves be destroyed by such things [v.10]. Although there are doubts about some of the wording, the overall sense is clear: David wants the Lord's help to be kept free from unrighteous words or deeds.]



v.1,2 David calls the Lord to respond when he prays


v.1  I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me;
    hear me when I call to you.
v.2  May my prayer be set before you like incense;
    may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.


v.3 He asks Him to help him be careful over what he says


v.3  Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.

v.4 He doesn't want to be drawn into the ways of the wicked


v.4  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.


v.5 He would rather be corrected by a righteous person than get it wrong


v.5  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.


[Alternative NRSV – see Introduction]  Let the righteous strike me;
    let the faithful correct me.
Never let the oil of the wicked anoint my head,
    for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds.


v.6 When the wicked are held accountable they will acknowledge I have spoken well


v.6  Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
    and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.


[Alternative NRSV – see Introduction]  When they are given over to those who shall condemn them,
    then they shall learn that my words were pleasant.

v.7 The wicked will surely have a violent end


v.7  They will say, ‘As one ploughs and breaks up the earth,
    so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.'


[Alternative NRSV – see Introduction]  Like a rock that one breaks apart and shatters on the land,
    so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol


v.8 But I try to avoid such things, secure in You, to avoid death


v.8  But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord ;
    in you I take refuge – do not give me over to death.

v.9 Help me to avoid the snares [temptations] of the wicked


v.9  Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
    from the snares they have laid for me.

v.10 May they fall into their own traps while I remain secure


v.10  Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
    while I pass by in safety.



[Additional Comments: This is a man with a sensitive conscience who wants to be able to stand before the Lord and pray righteously, with no guilt about having spoken badly, and no guilt about having acted badly. Quite an example to follow.]



Continue to Psa 142