Tag Archives: Psalm 141

About Knowing

About Knowing (CaD Ps 141) Wayfarer

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord…
Psalm 141:8a (NIV)

When I was a child, I went through all of the religious rituals associated with the church to which my family were members. My parents had me baptized as an infant. I attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I sang in the children’s choir. I participated in, and volunteered to help with, social activities hosted by the church (including the annual “Christmas bazaar” which I remember being a really big deal in my little kid perception). When I was thirteen, I attended confirmation classes and learned what the church believed. I took the test, agreed to accept the terms of membership, and then received my certificate and my own personal box of offering envelopes.

What I came to realize a year or two later was that all of the ritual, participation, knowledge and cognitive assent to a belief statement had relatively little effect on my motives, my thoughts, my words, or my actions. Knowing about Jesus was not the same as knowing Jesus and being in relationship.

That contrast came to heart and mind in the quiet this morning as I meditated on the text of today’s chapter, Psalm 141. There is little doubt that the editors who compiled the anthology of ancient Hebrew song lyrics, that we know as the book of Psalms, were deliberate in putting Psalms 140 and 141 next to each other. They bookend each other well. Both are ascribed to David and both of them feature a lot of physiological metaphors. The biggest contrast is that Psalm 140 uses the physiological metaphors to describe an unrighteous person:

  • stir up war in their hearts
  • sharpen their tongues
  • poison on their lips
  • hands of the wicked

Psalm 141, uses physiological metaphors to describe a righteous person:

  • a heart that refuses evil
  • hands lifted in worship
  • a guard on one’s mouth
  • a door on the lips
  • a head that receives accountability
  • eyes fixed on God

As I mulled over the contrasting descriptions, it reminded me of being a young man and realizing that having a membership certificate to my local church, knowledge of basic beliefs, and dutifully participating in ritual had not translated into making a difference in my self-centeredness, my selfish behavior, my relationships with others, my actions, or my words. I was a egotistical, selfish little prick much of the time. I knew that I could play a good game, but I was also really self-aware enough to know that there were ugly things at the core which needed to change. I knew about the things Psalm 141 describes, but an honest self-examination and moral inventory revealed a person more like what Psalm 140 describes.

So, about that time I stopped just knowing about Jesus, and I decided to seek to know and follow Jesus in a very different way. It’s definitely been a forty-year process and spiritual journey. In the quiet this morning I find myself mulling over the person I would be today had I not made that decision. I can only imagine a grown-up version of the young man with ugly things at the core. An arrogant, egocentric big prick with a sharp tongue, and a heart in turmoil.

I’m not perfect by any means, and I could point you to a person or two who I suspect might tell you I’m still an arrogant, egocentric prick. I have my ugly moments. But oh, how worse it would be had I not discovered the contrast between knowing about Jesus and knowing Him.

Delicacies and Darkness

A pastry infused with dark chocolate and served with dark chocolate sauce from Casa Cortes ChocoBar in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A pastry infused with dark chocolate and served with dark chocolate sauce from Casa Cortes ChocoBar in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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.
Psalm 141:4 (NIV)

Wendy and I returned home from our cruise late on Saturday night. We had an amazing time (more about that in another post). If you have ever been on a cruise, you know that there are some incredible delicacies to be experienced both on the ship and in the various ports of call. On Tuesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico we stopped in at Casa Cortes ChocoBar. The restaurant and bar infuses everything they make with chocolate. They even serve grilled cheese sandwiches with dark chocolate dipping sauce! Having just eaten at another restaurant, Wendy and I only ordered drinks and dessert, but the experience was certainly a tasty highlight of our trip.

In the psalm this morning, King David’s lyrics use the word picture of “delicacies” to embody the concept of being tempted and drawn in by evil. After a week of being mindful of my appetites amidst a seemingly endless supply of scrumptious food and desserts, it was not hard for my mind to make the connection.

Along my life’s journey I’ve observed that evil generally follows a fairly simple playbook. The strategy is to take a healthy human appetite and then feed it incessantly until it is perverted into a spiritual snare. There was absolutely nothing wrong or evil with any tasty treat on the menu this past week, but if I allow my natural appetite for food to indulge its craving over and over and over again without restraint then I will find myself trapped both spiritually and in jeans that won’t fit me any longer.

  • Our appetite for food gives way to gluttony, over eating, and unhealthy consequences.
  • Our appetite for sex gives way to adultery, pornography, and unhealthy consequences.
  • Our appetite for industry gives way to greed, power, and unhealthy consequences.
  • Our appetite for rest gives way to sloth, indulgence, and unhealthy consequences.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

We do not avoid these spiritual traps without being mindful of our appetites. Our hearts are easily drawn to delicacies which are not evil in themselves, but will stimulate our appetites to crave more than what is good for us. Today as I wrestle back into my daily routine after a week of many delicacies I am, like David, praying for a little grace and strength to keep my appetites in check.

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Chapter-a-Day Psalm 141

Pop quiz Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3 (MSG)

I went to a leadership conference last week, and I walked away with a hefty list of personal action items. There was a veritable laundry list of ways I needed to step it up. It honestly felt, at times, as if God was giving me a swift kick in the rear end. One of the items on the list was for me to guard my mouth in the way I talk about others. It's so easy for me to get cynical and sarcastic when I talk about others who, for one reason or another, drive me crazy.

As I read verse three this morning, it was like God was calling a little pop quiz accountability to last week's test. "So, Tom," God says, "how are you doing on being more gracious in how you talk about others?"

Didn't you hate that feeling when teachers called a pop-quiz and you knew you were dead meat?

Like a student who walks away from class and never cracks his textbook, I sit here busted. I haven't done much of anything to consciously guard my mouth or watch what comes out of my lips. Ouch.

We will never change without consciously taking steps down a different path.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and bdunnette