To the chief Musician upon Nehiloth, A Psalm of David.
1. Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.
2. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
3. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
4. For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.
5. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
6. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
7. But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy:and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.
8. Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.
9. For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.
10. Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.
11. But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
12. For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
By now, we’re familiar with the directions often found at the head of the Psalms. We see to whom the instruction is to go and that it is a Psalm of David. What is new in this instance is “Nehiloth.” We are told this is probably a wind instrument – most likely it is a flute.
In the first six verses David’s thoughts are on God. In them we learn about a couple of the characteristics of God. First, we learn He is a hearing God and He has been hearing the prayers of humanity ever since their creation. He still hears our prayers.
When I think that the God we pray to today is the exact same God that Adam and Eve walked with in the garden, I am overwhelmed. The prayer we pray today is heard with the same interest by the same God that heard the prayers of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,and David. There’s no sense in trying to understand how this can be – it requires belief and faith.
Verse one shows David’s approach to God as a servant might approach his master or how a commoner might approach a king. He uses the words “O Lord.” Whenever you run across this in your Bible reading, it is a translation of Jehovah or Yahweh, — the name of God.
David asks God to hear his prayer and that he would take into consideration what it is that he prays. Ever since I can remember, I have been taught that God always hears our prayers and that he always considers them – even when it appears that he does not answer them. At first this seems to run contrary to that teaching, but in reality it is an approach to God that shows humbleness and humility.
It is also important to note the word for “give ear” and “consider” is a word in the imperative form of the verb. That is, it is a command to do something – in this case, to “listen to” and “weigh” the prayer that David is about to speak. An approach such as this shows a sense of urgency or fervency – that David has conviction about what he is praying.
David calls his thoughts “meditations.” This does not mean sitting around, staring at the navel, thinking about nothing. These are more or less “concrete” thoughts that David, himself, has been mulling over and he wants to voice them to someone who can help and who has greater authority: God. The Hebrew word translates into “murmurings” or “musings.” In the New Testament, Paul talks about “groanings” of the Spirit, unsettling thoughts that we cannot put into words, (Rom 8:26,27). I think Paul’s groanings of the spirit and David’s meditations are one and the same. Perhaps David felt ill-at-ease in his heart, but couldn’t put his finger on what was bothering him so he is asking God to consider his meditations as well as his prayer. As an aside: Psalm 19:14 shows that meditation and prayer go together, each adding to the other.
Again, in verse two, David asks that God would pay attention to his prayer. And again, the word is in the imperative form — a command. It expresses urgency that God would take note of his prayer and would answer it. He declares to the Lord that He is his King and his God and vows that it is to Him that he will pray. There were many other pagan gods that were worshipped in the land in David’s day and he is vowing not bow to them, only to the one true God. That last phrase also states he will make a point of praying; that it will be a matter of conscientious routine.
David continues in verse three that he will pray in the morning and he states this not only once, but twice: “my voice shalt thou hear” and “in the morning I will direct my prayer”. Why morning? Well, a purposed prayer in the morning shows that we are dedicated and sincere. It shows that we have placed God foremost in our lives because He is the first thought that comes to our mind upon waking.
One of my pastors once asked in a sermon, “What do you think about when you have nothing that you must think about?” After a pause, he said, “That is your god!” Those words have stuck with me for 30 or more years and I use it as a reminder to myself. It is full of truth.
- The morning is a good time to pray because we are at our best: rested, relaxed, and of clear mind – we’re not tired and falling asleep from a long day of work and incessant input.
- The morning is a good time to pray because we also need to stay aligned with God from the very beginning of the day for the trials, temptations, and dangers that we are about to face.
David says, “… will I direct my prayer to thee, and look up.” When we give direction, we “send” it with purpose — like an arrow shot at a bull’s eye — whether sending a person to a specific address or directing a scene in a play. “Direct” is a powerful word in this verse. David is proclaiming to God that he will purposefully send his prayer to God in the morning and “will look up,” that is to say he will pay attention for God’s answer. But it is not only at this point in time that David is talking about, it is a promise to God that David plans to keep all his life – he will always keep watching for God’s answers to his prayers.
This is something we must do as well. If we pray intermittently and don’t pay attention, looking for God’s answer, then is it really all that important to us? Are we giving God the full attention and trust that He deserves and demands? Are you looking up?
Verses four through six show us a second characteristic of God: He hates sin and no evil can be in His presence. We should all take this as a warning and a guide that even though God is willing and even excited to hear our prayers, if we have any sin in our hearts, He will not and cannot hear our prayers because sin is one thing he will not tolerate. This is why, when we pray, we need to ask God to forgive our sins right at the beginning of our prayers. We need to be able to approach Him.
The “foolish” are people who are full of pride and boasting – people who want to out-shine everything around them. David tells us they will not be able to remain in God’s presence. “Thou hatest” is a perfect tense verb, meaning it signifies completed action. In English we use the prefect to note that it takes place in the present time — such as an attitude formed in the past and continued into the present. “All workers of iniquity” are those who labor in offences against God’s holiness.
“Thou shalt destroy” is an imperfect phrase form which means that the action is yet incomplete and will take place at some time in the future. Destroy could mean literally to perish, but it could also mean to put an end to the plans of those who lie (“lease” in the King James Version). God abhors or detests murderers and those who commit fraud or treachery.
Then, in verses seven and eight, David states plainly what his relationship to the Lord will be. He says he will “come into” the house of the Lord. The word for house in this instance is literally a building. The Lord’s house is the temple, so David will enter into the temple of the Lord “in the multitude of thy mercy.” “Multitude” is used in Gen 16:10 in a way that suggests an amount that is too large to count. Mercy is a word that is often defined as undeserved favor. The particular word that is used in this verse is more commonly translated to lovingkindness. David is saying is that God has infinite lovingkindness.
Still in verse seven, he says he will stand in awe (fear) of God and will bow down (worship) “toward thy holy temple” or in public. In verse one David had his meditations – private thoughts. In this verse he has gone public, he is in the temple with others. The prayer in verse eight is a prayer for himself, that the Lord would show him the path of righteousness because of his enemies. His enemies were constantly spying on him, watching for an improper move on his part. David had to be sure that he would avoid sin at every corner so that his enemies would have no just cause with which to charge him. He asks the Lord to guide him, to show him the righteous path in light of his enemies’ spying.
He talks about his enemies in verses nine and ten, saying there is no truth (faithfulness) in their words. “Their throat is an open sepulchre” is an interesting phrase. The dead were often buried in caves or in rooms carved out of a suitable rock such as limestone as well as being buried in the earth. A proper burial was a kindness which included sealing the entrance and spoke of approval of the deceased. Sealing the entrance kept wild animals out and would also seal in the smells of purification. Coupling this phrase with the former phrase regarding the lack of truth in their words, we discover he is saying his enemies would like to find fault with him and bury him. Astronger interpretation is that David saw the image of the throat as an open sepulchre to mean that the words they speak are words of death and they smell of death.
They flatter with their tongue – what they say and what their intent is are two very different things. Everybody wants to hear people speak good of them; to give praise, adoration, even, but when the praise is empty, it is flattery and flattery always hides feeling that are less than true.
In verse ten, David states in no uncertain terms what he would like to see God do about these people who speak flattery to his face. He is not pleading with God. Does David actually ask God to destroy them – to kill them? One variation of the word says that, but the next phrases shed light on his intent:
“let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.”
This reveals that David is petitioning God not to destroy in the sense of causing them to die, but to destroy them (show their guilt) by allowing them to fail (“let them fall by their own counsels“) and scatter them (“cast them out“) because of the innumerable wrongs (“multitude of transgressions“) they have done – the greatest of which is rebelling against God, Himself.
The final two verses talk about those who walk in the righteousness of God. It seems he is asking God to sustain the reason for the people’s joy: the trust, protection, and love that they have in God. After all, if a person walks with God, then he is bound to receive the trust in, the protection of,and the love of and forGod and thereforecan feel nothing but joy if he is attentive to the work that God does in his life. I don’t thinkDavid is asking that God make them joyful just to make them happy, but instead, to provide those things that automatically bring joy from following God.
The Psalm ends with an affirmation of one of the truths about God: He will bless and surround the righteous with grace and mercy in every aspect of life — “with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.” It is not a shield that we normally think of — one that protects just one side of the person who holds it — but a shield that surrounds the whole person on every side.
Verse twelve is a truth that we need to grasp hold of and never forget. If we follow the Lord we will be blessed. Plain and simple. God has worked in my life and in the lives of my family in so many ways from protection to giving provision and in every way in-between. It is not that I always see God’s hand at work at the time – I am often too anxious about the situation and I have “blinders” on my eyes – but it is after the solution that I see. When I finally see, I just have to smile and sometimes feel like kicking up my heels in joy.That is not to say we and all Christians have times of trouble or heartbreak — I do say that it makes all the troubles easier to bear.
If you have never felt the joy of knowing that someone bigger is looking after you – my suggestion is to start considering a relationship with your Creator, the One David calls Yahweh at the beginning of this Psalm. There are no pre-conditions toyour acceptance into His kingdom because there is nothing you can do to make yourself better and more acceptable to Him. All you need to do is ask and start looking up.