Psalm 141: Help me Lord to hold to my righteousness
psalm of David.
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.
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.]
David calls the Lord to respond when he prays
call to you, Lord, come quickly to me;
hear me when I call to you.
my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like
the evening sacrifice.
He asks Him to help him be careful over what he says
a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
He doesn't want to be drawn into the ways of the wicked
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.
He would rather be corrected by a righteous person than get it
a righteous man strike me – that is a kindness;
let him rebuke me – that is oil on
My head will not refuse it,
for my prayer will still be against the
deeds of evildoers.
NRSV – see Introduction]
Let the righteous
let the faithful correct me.
Never let the oil of the wicked anoint my head,
for my prayer is continually against their
When the wicked are held accountable they will acknowledge I have
rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
and the wicked will learn that my words
were well spoken.
NRSV – see Introduction]
are given over to those who shall condemn them,
then they shall learn that my words were
The wicked will surely have a violent end
will say, ‘As one ploughs and breaks up the earth,
so our bones have been scattered at the
mouth of the grave.'
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
But I try to avoid such things, secure in You, to avoid death
my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord ;
in you I take refuge – do not give
me over to death.
Help me to avoid the snares [temptations] of the wicked
me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
from the snares they have laid for me.
May they fall into their own traps while I remain secure
the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by in safety.
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.]
to Psa 142