Sunday, February 16

The Doorkeeper

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not turn my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with those who work iniquity; do not let me eat of their delicacies.
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.
When they are given over to those who shall condemn them, then they shall learn that my words were pleasant.
Like a rock that one breaks apart and shatters on the land, so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol.
But my eyes are turned toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; do not leave me defenseless.
Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I alone escape.
Ps. 141:3-10

I humbly prayed when I read Psalm 84 that God would deign to let me be a doorkeeper in God's house rather than sojourn in the tents of the wicked. And here in Psalm 141 I am bold to pray that God would be the Doorkeeper in my own God-given house. And the Apostle James tells me why I

Saturday, February 15

Something Beyond

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.
Ps. 141:2 

I need to take note of what Psalm 141:2 is saying. Outward actions and the trappings of religion are important to many. And it's not my intention to condemn them. But there are several places in scriptures that make it clear that the outer trappings are mere symbols of inner devotion. As such, they are unnecessary if the heart is right. And one of those places is right here. Incense for some is a spiritual aid. To others it's a distraction. But this verse reminds me that whether or not
it's helpful, it is unnecessary, since the smell and rising smoke of incense simply point to a deeper and more important reality: prayer.

Even sacrifices, which are called for in the law of Moses, point to something beyond themselves. And in the

Friday, February 14

In Your Presence

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor.
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your Name; the upright shall live in your presence.
Ps. 140:12-13 

Psalm 140 ends with the same theme that I read throughout much of Psalm 139, and that is God's presence. Whereas Psalm 139 is more of an affirmation of God's abiding presence, Psalm 140 speaks of it more as a promise.

And this is a wonderful promise in the context of this psalm that seems to me to speak too much of cruelty. The final verses lift my eyes from the evil surrounding me to the goodness of God. Decency may now appear

Thursday, February 13

The Terror of the Good

Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers; protect me from those who are violent, who plan evil things in their minds and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s, and under their lips is the venom of vipers. Selah
Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent who have planned my downfall.
The arrogant have hidden a trap for me, and with cords they have spread a net, along the road they have set snares for me. 

I say to the Lord, “You are my God; give ear, O Lord, to the voice of my supplications.”
O Lord, my Lord, my strong deliverer, you have covered my head in the day of battle.
Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked; do not further their evil plot. 

Those who surround me lift up their heads; let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
Let burning coals fall on them! Let them be flung into pits, no more to rise!
Do not let the slanderer be established in the land; let evil speedily hunt down the violent!
Ps. 140:1-11 

One old commentary called Psalm 140 "the cry of a hunted soul," saying that "few short Psalms are so rich in the jewelry of precious faith." While this may be true, it is also a rather vengeful psalm.  The psalm is said to

Wednesday, February 12

Standards of Conduct

Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Ps. 139:21-24 

As beautifully harmonic as Psalm 139 is, it comes close to ending on a dissonant chord. There's too much hatred in verses 21-22, and it's hard to allow for it. I'm not supposed to hate. I try to avoid it. And if I take it to God, it's to ask for forgiveness—not to present it to God as a gift, like a cat dropping a dead mouse at its master's feet. I looked at the original Hebrew, hoping for another interpretation of an ambiguous verb. And maybe it helps a little to know that שָׂנֵא could mean either hate or abhor. To have an abhorrence for something seems more visceral, less voluntary. It almost seems to be more of a reaction than an emotion.

I can make allowances for the psalmist's hatred/abhorrence—they hate those who hate God, so it's not

Tuesday, February 11

God Wrote My Biography

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
Ps. 139:16 

I love to read, and there's nothing more wonderful than savoring the words and phrases of a great writer. They can make a tragic story into something beautiful and the mundane into something fascinating. And so why should I be upset that before the universe was created, God wrote my biography? How can I complain that I am the protagonist in such a beautiful plot? Being upset about my current plight would be like lifting a single paragraph out of Great Expectations and saying Charles Dickens is a boring writer. The story began before I can remember and will go on after I'm gone, and so I will entrust my life to the One who's already got

Monday, February 10

He Descended to the Dead

If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
Ps. 139:8 

Sheol was generally thought of as a place of complete separation from God. And yet Psalm 139:8 states that if a spirit would wish to flee from God, it cannot do so in Sheol. Perhaps this is the Old Testament equivalent to what we read in 1 Peter 3—
He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey [1 Peter 3:18b-20a]
This, of course, is something that is found in the Apostles' Creed and which millions upon millions of people recite regularly. Unless, of course, they're Methodist.* Whereas for the middle part, about Jesus Christ, most