Years ago, when I was learning to ski, I followed my son Josh down what appeared to be a gentle slope. With my eyes on him I failed to notice he turned down the steepest hill on the mountain, and I found myself careening down the slope, completely out of control. I cratered, of course.
Psalm 141 shows how we can easily find ourselves slipping down sin’s slope. Prayer is one of the ways we stay alert to those slopes: “Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil” (v. 4) is a plea that echoes the Lord’s Prayer almost exactly: “Lead [me] not into temptation, but deliver [me] from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). In His goodness, God hears and answers this prayer.
And then I find in this psalm another agent of grace: a faithful friend. “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” (Psalm 141:5). Temptations are subtle. We’re not always aware that we’re going wrong. A true friend can be objective. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6 nkjv). It’s hard to accept rebuke, but if we see the wounding as a “kindness” it can become an anointing that puts us back on the path of obedience.
May we be open to truth from a trusted friend and rely on God through prayer.
What slippery slopes do you gravitate toward? In what ways can you set a guard over your heart?
We easily understand David’s prayer, “Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers” (Psalm 141:9). But we can also relate to his plea for protection from himself: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (v. 3). David may have been fleeing from King Saul when he wrote this psalm. The restraint in his words matches his behavior toward Saul. David refused to harm “the Lord’s anointed” when he had the opportunity (1 Samuel 24:1–7; 26:7–24). He understood the temptation to say something inflammatory or to succumb to the “advice” to assassinate Saul (26:8). This may explain his reference to the “wicked deeds” (Psalm 141:4) he wished to avoid. David sought justice but left it up to God.