Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse
Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages
“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, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.” ~Psalm 141:5
Psalm 139 is one of the most beautiful poems in the psalter. It speaks of God’s intimate knowledge of our lives. He understands everything about us, from our physical bodies to our psychological profiles. Every action plays out under His watchful eye, even when we get up from our chair and when we sit back down! Every word falls upon His ear. In fact, He knows what we are going to say before we do! It doesn’t matter where we go—or what we go through—He is with us.
God knows and watches over us because He loves us. He thinks about us all the time. “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (v. 17). Based on this, David concludes the psalm with a prayer for justice. The God who knows everything about him also knows what he’s going through. So David asks for victory over his adversaries.
Enemies lurk in this world—enemies of good, of God, and of God’s people. Perhaps they were more vividly menacing when they carried swords and shields, but they are no less real today. Here is a prayer that they will not succeed in their plotting. “Do not grant the wicked their desires, O Lord; do not let their plans succeed” (v. 8). Pray for protection and victory, and then praise the name of the One who rescues His people from evil men (vv. 1, 13).
David expresses his willingness to be rebuked by the righteous (v. 5). Getting smacked upside the head by those who love us is the rather forceful equivalent of being anointed with perfumed oil. It is intended for our blessing.
There are others, though, who want to bring us down rather than lifting us up. David prays that they will be brought down. God, deal with the rabble rousers (the “rulers”), David requests. Toss them over the side of a cliff where they can be smashed to pieces (vv. 6-7). Wow! Once again, the psalmist prays that God will bring justice to those who have brought harm to him and to those he loves. Don’t get even—get praying!
Christian freedom should not be abused. That is the issue addressed in today’s passage. We must learn a lesson from our forefathers, who used their freedom in sinful ways. Be careful about feeling so (overly) secure in your salvation that you do whatever you want to do. “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12).
If we abuse our freedom, it can lead us into sin just as it did our forefathers. Don’t ignore the lessons of the past. All those Sunday School stories about manna and murmuring and menacing destruction were written down as warnings for us!