1 Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.
2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
3 Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
4 Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.
5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.
6 When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.
7 Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.
8 But mine eyes are unto thee, O God the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.
9 Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.
We are often afflicted by our own weaknesses, and while we are open to reproof from the righteous, only God can protect us from our own sinful tendencies and the attacks of the wicked.
Enemies lurk without and doubts within, and the pressures seem to increase upon the mind and soul. There are traps everywhere, and then there is our own tendency to sin and fall over ourselves. Verse seven captures a sense of weakness and complete brokenness. Our very bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave. Relief comes in verse eight, as once again we declare our utter dependence upon God to pull us through these trying and difficult days.
David cries out to God as a five-year-old child cries out to his father for help. Does this seem incongruous for a mighty man of war whose sword drips with the blood of the Philistines? First and foremost, David is concerned with his relationship with the Lord of the Universe. He sees himself in the right light. When our Lord said that we must become as little children if we would enter the kingdom of heaven, this is what He meant (Matt. 18:3). As children are completely dependent upon their parents, we must be similarly dependent upon God.
The great assumption is that God is favorable to His people, and we come before God as those who have been accepted by Him. We desire that God be pleased by our offering of prayer. We lift up our hands in prayer as a sign of dependence upon God, as a drowning man lifts up his hands for the deliverer who will pull him out of the deep waters. The burning incense on the altar in Old Testament worship signifies the prayers of the saints. We desire that the words of our mouths be found acceptable in God’s sight. This can only happen when we come in faith through the mediation of Christ and by the inworking of the Spirit of God.
The psalmist is first concerned with himself—his own speech and behavior—in this song of petition. This concern is rooted in the fear of God, and a healthy apprehension of the weakness of his own flesh. While the believer does not fear death and damnation, his greatest fear is to offend His Lord. Sometimes Christians appear to be less self-assertive than those around them, because they take no confidence in the flesh. They may even be perceived as weak and timid. Nonetheless, true wisdom is rooted in the fear of God, and always includes something of a bridle for the lips. They will always be asking themselves the questions: Are these words necessary? Are they edifying? Are they truthful? Are they loving? The mouth has great potential to be either destructive or constructive, to bless or to curse. Therefore, the judicious use of tongue is one of the most accurate tests of a real work of grace in the heart of the believer.
The Lord’s Prayer contains the petition “Lead us not into temptation.” This is essentially what the psalmist is saying in verse four. It is usually ungodly company that will eventually lead astray the young man or young woman who departs from the heritage he or she received in their Christian home. Inordinate amounts of time spent with ungodly friends, ungodly Internet contacts, ungodly entertainment, and ungodly images (containing sexual content, wealth and materialism, or high fashion), will yield bad effects in the life of that young person. “Protect us from these things,” we pray to the Lord.
When a believer watches a motion picture filled with cursing, revenge, adultery, fornication, wrath, strife, envy, and idolatry (much of which plays out with impunity), he can either partake of these dainties or leave them be. Should he do the right thing by critiquing it, arguing against it, and properly discerning its content, he will not be partaking in the portions that are dishonoring to God while he is enjoying the entertainment value of the product. If he ignores all of the problems with the content, then he partakes of its ungodly dainties comfortably and thereby corrupts himself. We pray this will not to happen to us.
The believer must always be acceptant of a well-placed rebuke or reproof coming from a man wiser and more righteous than he. Nonetheless, the chastisement he receives from his brothers in no way weakens his resolve to oppose wickedness and stand for righteousness. The righteous are both humble and bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1). The righteous are confident in God’s truth, even as they realize the weakness of their own flesh. Thus, they must rely upon God’s forgiveness and the righteousness of Christ, while they confidently speak the truth. They are humble and willing to admit their own hypocrisy because the standard of truth does not come from within them.
When the rulers are wicked and judges approve of wickedness, the message of the Gospel is often silenced. The righteous are mocked and sometimes imprisoned for calling the people to repentance and faith in Christ. However, when God brings these wicked forces down and silences the devil, the sweet words of the Gospel once again become more accessible to the masses. It is therefore the mercy of God that He puts an end to these wicked powers in the stony places.
Any Christian leader who is really in the battle will face continual oppression, overwhelming opposition, intimidating death threats, and unrelenting pressures within and without. As long as he is on this earth, he will hardly ever feel the persecutions let up. He will always be impressed by his weakness in the face of these impossible odds. Verse seven is hardly an exaggeration—“our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave.” This highlights the total inability of the man to carry out the battle on his own strength. Admitting one’s brokenness or helplessness before God is the right position for the Christian. The meek, the broken in spirit, and those who cry out for mercy are the ones who inherit the earth and receive the kingdom of God. Our only hope is in God, and the only effective thing we can do is pray to God. We must not focus upon the enemy or the critic or even on our closest brothers. Our complete reliance is upon God.
Verses nine and ten do not speak of hypothetical traps, for these things are very real. Enemies of true righteousness are always out to snare the righteous. Our Lord Jesus Christ comes face to face with the worst of it in the Scribes and Pharisees. Indeed, those who follow Christ will face envy and malice among unbelievers and will be tempted to partake of their iniquities. He must respond with humility, truth, and love for his enemies. Here we pray that we not be ensnared by the temptations of the world, and thereby ruin our testimony and besmirch the Name of our Lord.
We ought to be sensitive to our own weaknesses, humble and ready to confess when our sin is made known to us. This is the proper frame of mind for the believer. As we mature, we become less trusting of ourselves and more trusting of God. So, when we receive a correction from a brother or sister, let us receive it with thoughtful graciousness. Perhaps the correction that comes from a brother or sister may not be warranted in every single case. However, there is always something to learn about ourselves. There is always more sin to be mortified in our mortal bodies, and we should be eager to address it. At the very least, let us listen when a brother, sister, mother, or father takes the time to bring us a correction.
The tongue is the best barometer of the heart. If you want to know the state of your heart, listen to the words you speak (or the words that you want to speak). We need God to enable us when it comes to guarding our lips and monitoring the thoughts and intents of the heart. This is an everyday spiritual battle.
Prayer is where worship best expresses itself, and the best way to approach God is in the spirit of this psalm—in brokenness. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” (Ps. 51:17). We begin with affliction, mourning, and weeping (Jas. 4:9,10), and then God receives us.
1. When we lift our hands in worship, what does it signify?
2. What are the four watchmen that need to be placed on the lips? Whose help do we need to put a bridle on the mouth?
3. What should be the result of a well-placed correction?
4. How does verse seven describe our weakness and brokenness?
5. How does the world try to entrap Christians?
1. What is the state of the tongue in our family? On a scale of one to ten, how much of a guard is placed upon our lips and hearts? In what ways do we need to address the sins of the tongue and the mind in our communications?
2. Are there any delicacies of the world that have corrupted our family? To what evil things might our hearts be inclined?