Sunday 26 May, 2013

Psalm 31

1 Lord, I have gone to you for safety. Don’t let me ever be put to shame. Save me, because you do what is right. 2 Pay attention to me. Come quickly to help me. Be the rock I go to for safety. Be the strong fort that saves me. 3 You are my rock and my fort. Lead me and guide me for the honor of your name. 4 Free me from the trap that is set for me. You are my place of safety. 5 Into your hands I commit my very life. Lord, set me free. You are my faithful God. 6 I hate those who worship worthless statues of gods. I trust in the Lord. 7 I will be glad and full of joy because you love me. You saw that I was hurting. You took note of my great pain. 8 You have not handed me over to the enemy. You have put me in a wide and safe place. 9 Lord, show me your favor. I’m in deep trouble. I’m so sad I can hardly see. My whole body grows weak with sadness. 10 Pain has taken over my life. My years are spent in groaning. I have no strength because I’m hurting so much. My body is getting weaker and weaker. 11 My neighbors make fun of me because I have so many enemies. My friends are afraid of me. Those who see me on the street run away from me. 12 They have forgotten me. I might as well be dead. I have become like broken pottery. 13 I hear the lies many people tell about me. There is terror all around me. Many have joined together against me. They plan to kill me. 14 But I trust in you, Lord. I say, “You are my God.” 15 My whole life is in your hands. Save me from my enemies. Save me from those who are chasing me. 16 Let your face smile on me with favor. Save me because your love is faithful. 17 Lord, I have cried out to you. Don’t let me be put to shame. But let sinners be put to shame. Let them lie silent in the grave. 18 Their lips tell lies. Let them be silenced. They speak with pride against those who do right. They make fun of them. 19 How great your goodness is! You have stored it up for those who have respect for you. While other people watch, you give it to those who run to you for safety. 20 They are safe because you are with them. You hide them from the evil plans of their enemies. In your house you keep them safe from those who bring charges against them. 21 Give praise to the Lord. He showed me his wonderful love when my enemies attacked the city I was in. 22 I was afraid and said, “I’ve been cut off from you!” But you heard my cry for your favor. You heard me when I called out to you for help. 23 Love the Lord, all of you who are faithful to him! The Lord watches over the faithful. But he completely pays back those who are proud. 24 Be strong, all of you who put your hope in the Lord. Never give up.

The image and understanding of God as a rock, fortress and refuge is a really comforting and powerful one for me. When David writes about the “shelter of God’s presence” in vs 20 along with the other language of fortress and refuge, it really helps me to understand the level of trust and intimacy that God wants to have with us. It also makes me think of Jesus’ call for us to “abide in him” – The notion of resting and abiding in Christ is challenging if we think of Christ as a man, but if we think of his as a fortress-refuge, this idea becomes a little easier to grasp and imagine.

While I love the encouraging language of trust and the themes of steadfast faith that run through this psalm, it is impossible to ignore the scary bit right in the middle: verse 9-13 seems to escalate in panic, and I can almost hear the music of the psalm rising to a crescendo as it reaches verse 13, before returning to the calm, trusting rhythm of 14 onwards.

I often wonder what the psalms would have sounded like in their original music and language… I’m sure David will play some for us in heaven.

Written by Justin Ware

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