Psalm 141:5 Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me–it is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers.
Looking at the English I was struck by the first part of this verse, but then when I read it in Japanese, I was struck equally by the last part, and I like the first part even better. The NIV in a footnote says that this could be translated, “Let the Righteous One,” and that is how the Japanese takes it, making it a request for kind correction from Christ. It also makes the middle a request: “Make it so that my head does not refuse it.” We generally don’t respond well to correction, so it is significant that David is asking for it. When correction comes, we are all too prone to refuse it! That is all well and good, but it is the last line of the verse that struck me most forcefully, but only in the Japanese translation. That says, “Even if their evil deeds pile up, I will pray even more.” That’s powerful! Our response to evil should never be to yield to it or be defeated by it, but it is also not to try to rise up against it in our own strength. Our first response should be to pray, asking God for guidance as to the proper action and asking His strength to operate in and through us. Genuine righteous indignation is not bad, but we must remember that “man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20) We are not to be passive about evil, but we must remember that God is the answer to evil in others.
I have quite a history of responding poorly to correction, so this verse is very meaningful to me. In my mind I desire God’s correction, but when that correction comes through another human being, I am often defensive. That doesn’t do anyone any good, and it can do great harm. David had a track record of making mistakes, but then accepting correction. Since we all make mistakes, that’s an excellent example! As a pastor and teacher, I am often in the place of correcting others in one way or another, so it’s quite ironic that I haven’t responded to correction so well myself. I am to respond to evil in others with prayer, and to evil in myself with immediate repentance, so that God will be free to work in and through me as He desires.
Father, every day brings reports of evil of all sorts. News media certainly seem to focus on that aspect of life! Rather than getting tied in knots over it, help me be faithful in prayer and intercession. Help me also be more welcoming of correction, and to project that in my interactions. I’ve been told people are afraid to try to correct me! That’s not good. Help me walk in genuine humility, as well as the assurance of Your love and guidance, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!