Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Psalms of the 3rd Day
The gates of awe are open in His psalms. To return to them after journeying far is to come home to His arms open in embrace, to His welcoming face. The psalms of the third day waited for me to arrive, and here I am. Though I am unworthy, they treat me as if I were the Son of God, breaking the vial of precious ointment over me, to soothe my spirit, and to strengthen me for all that lies ahead. Following the Son of God, we too must needs be drenched in the divine mercy, for only mercy can win us for ourselves, and the world for Him. And so, after meeting Him here in the vesper light, I want to linger and celebrate Him in song, to return to Him love for love, yes, grace for grace, all that is His He made mine, and mine His.
Yahweh, who has the right to enter Your tent,
or to live on Your holy mountain?
The man whose way of life is blameless,
who always does what is right,
who speaks the truth from his heart,
whose tongue is not used for slander,
who does no wrong to his fellow,
casts no discredit on his neighbor,
looks with contempt on the reprobate,
but honors those who fear Yahweh;
who stands by his pledge at any cost,
does not ask interest on loans,
and cannot be bribed to victimise the innocent.
If a man does all this, nothing can ever shake him.
Psalm 15 Jerusalem Bible
The Hebrew text is a little different, scattering more light. ‘Looks with contempt on the reprobate’ seems somehow out of character with the rest. The Hebrew says, ‘the contemptible person in his eyes is repulsive,’ enabling us to grasp the disfigurement of sin, what it does to others, but also to myself, ‘who of all sinners am the chief.’ Yes, let us honor the saints, those who fear the Lord, but let us despise all that is vile and contemptible in ourselves, yes, in myself. The psalmist, holy prophet-king David, is right to sing these words, to assure us who struggle, that we cannot be shaken if we do these things. And how are we to do them, without God's help?
Look after me, God, I take shelter in You.
To Yahweh you say, ‘My Lord,
You are my fortune, nothing else but You,’
yet to those pagan deities in the land,
‘My princes, all my pleasure is in you.’
Their idols teem, after these they run:
shall I pour their blood libations?—not I!
Take their names on my lips?—never!
Yahweh, my heritage, my cup,
You, and You only, hold my lot secure;
the measuring line marks out delightful places for me,
for me the heritage is superb indeed.
I bless Yahweh, who is my counselor,
and in the night my inmost self instructs me;
I keep Yahweh before me always,
for with Him at my right hand nothing can shake me.
So my heart exults, my very soul rejoices,
my body, too, will rest securely,
for You will not abandon my soul to She’ol,
nor allow the one You love to see the Pit;
You will reveal the path of life to me,
give me unbounded joy in Your presence,
and at Your right hand everlasting pleasures.
Psalm 16 Jerusalem Bible
No, I can only do what is right if He takes me by the hand and leads me, and so I pray, ‘Look after me, God.’ My accusers rise up and attack, taunting my trust in the only trustworthy One, throwing in my face their own blasphemies and insinuating me into their number. But no, even if I fall, no, when I fall, He bids me rise, graciously forgiving me all before I ask, making me loyal by His unconditional love. ‘Shall I pour…? Not I! Take their names…? never!’ To them who accuse me by day and by night, inside and out, I confess, ‘Yahweh, my heritage, my cup…’
For it is all true what the psalmist declares. My security, yes, my very sanity, is secure because He holds me. I need not wander, indeed I cannot wander. Why? Because ‘the measuring line marks out delightful places for me.’ The world I have chosen to live in is His world, and though from the outside it seems small and confined, it is instead immense, its frontiers are beyond human reach, its ceilings are vast ‘and veiled in mysteries.’ By day He leads me in His paths, while others sleep in ignorance and call it ‘life.’ By night He teaches me, who is my ‘inmost self’ who ‘instructs me,’ while the world wastes itself in debauchery.
Following behind Him, ‘I keep Yahweh before me always,’ who reveals ‘the path of life to me’ and closes the gates of Hades to me forever, having ‘trampled down death by death and to those in the tombs bestowed life.’
Yahweh, hear the plea of virtue,
listen to my appeal,
lend an ear to my prayer,
my lips free from dishonesty.
From Your presence will my sentence come,
Your eyes are fixed on what is right.
You probe my heart, examine me at night,
You test me yet find nothing, no murmuring from me:
my mouth has never sinned as most men's do.
No, I have treasured the words from Your lips;
in the path prescribed walking deliberately
in Your footsteps, so that my feet do not slip.
I invoke you, God, and You answer me;
turn Your ear to me, hear what I say,
display your marvelous kindness, Savior of fugitives!
From those who revolt against You
guard me like the apple of Your eye;
hide me in the shadow of Your wings
from the onslaughts of the wicked.
My enemies cluster around me, breathing hostility;
entrenched in their fat, their mouths utter
arrogant claims; now they are closing in,
they have eyes for nothing but to see me overthrown.
They look like a lion eager to tear to pieces,
like a young lion crouching in its hide.
Rise, Yahweh, subdue him face to face,
rescue my soul from the wicked with Your sword,
with Your hand, Yahweh, rescue me from men,
from the sort of men whose lot is here and now.
Cram their bellies from Your stores,
give them all the sons that they could wish for,
let them have a surplus to leave their children!
For me the reward of virtue is to see Your face,
and, on waking, to gaze my fill on Your likeness.
Psalm 17 Jerusalem Bible
I wonder at prophet-king David as I hear him singing ‘my mouth has never sinned as most men's do,’ but then I pause to consider this: ‘I have treasured the words from Your lips; in the path prescribed walking deliberately in Your footsteps.’ So, it is no accident, then. We do not slip quietly into peace and safety, not here, not now, not in this world or in any other. The psalmist prefaces, ‘hear the plea of virtue.’ He is not saying to God, ‘Hear me, because I am virtuous.’ No, he understands full well that only virtue itself, unswerving loyalty to Yahweh the Holy One and God of Israel, can say such things.
Yet he mouths the words, as one practicing to speak a new language rehearses dialogues. With the prophet-king I also know that following Him, I may speak His words, for ‘the word of God is my utterance’ and ‘I have treasured the words’ from His lips. So, it is a choice. We can speak His words, or theirs. Whose? Those who ‘breathing hostility, entrenched in their fat… utter arrogant claims… the sort of men whose lot is here and now.’ Even here, Christ speaks through His prophet the psalmist, teaching us the ‘pray for your enemies and those who spitefully use you.’
Yes, Lord, help me to pray with sincerity as You have commanded, ‘Give them all the sons they could wish for, let them have a surplus to leave their children,’ even if they have robbed me for it, because ‘for me, the reward of virtue is to see Your face, and, on waking, to gaze my fill on Your likeness.’ Yes, ‘this is the day of Resurrection. Let us be radiant in the festival! Let us embrace one another. Let us call brothers, even those who hate us, and forgive all things…’
I love You, Yahweh, my strength,
my Savior, You rescue me from violence.
Yahweh is my rock and my bastion,
my deliverer is my God.
I take shelter in Him, my rock,
my shield, my horn of salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge.
From violence You rescue me.
He is to be praised; on Yahweh I call
and am saved from my enemies.
The waves of death encircled me,
the torrents of Belial burst on me;
the cords of She’ol girdled me,
the snares of death were before me.
In my distress I called to Yahweh
and to my God I cried;
from His Temple He heard my voice,
my cry came to His ears.
Then the earth quivered and quaked,
the foundations of the mountains trembled—
they quivered because He was angry—
from His nostrils a smoke ascended,
and from His mouth a fire that consumed,
live embers were kindled at it.
He bent the heavens and came down,
a dark cloud under His feet;
He mounted a cherub and flew,
and soared on the wings of the wind.
Darkness He made a veil to surround Him,
His tent a watery darkness, dense cloud;
before Him a flash enkindled
hail and fiery embers.
Yahweh thundered from heaven,
the Most High made His voice heard;
He let His arrows fly and scattered them,
launched the lightnings and routed them.
The bed of the seas was revealed,
the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at Your muttered threat, Yahweh,
at the blast of Your nostrils' breath.
He sends from on high and takes me,
He draws me from deep waters,
He delivers me from my powerful enemy,
from a foe too strong for me.
They assailed me on my day of disaster,
but Yahweh was my support;
He freed me, set me at large,
He rescued me, since He loves me.
Yahweh requites me as I act justly,
as my hands are pure so He repays me,
since I have kept the ways of Yahweh,
nor fallen away from my God.
His judgments are all before me,
His statutes I have not put from me;
I am blameless in His presence,
I keep sin at arm's length.
And Yahweh repays me as I act justly,
as my purity is in His sight.
Faithful You are with the faithful,
blameless with the blameless,
pure with the one who is pure,
but crafty with the devious,
You save a people that is humble
and humiliate eyes that are haughty.
Yahweh, You Yourself are my lamp,
my God lights up my darkness;
with You I storm the barbican,
with my God I leap the rampart.
This God, His way is blameless;
the Word of Yahweh is without dross.
He it is who is the shield
of all who take shelter in Him.
Who else is God but Yahweh,
who else a rock save our God?
This God who girds me with strength
and makes my way without blame,
who makes my feet like the hinds'
and hold me from falling on the heights,
who trains my hands for battle,
my arms to bend a bow of bronze.
You give me Your saving shield—
Your right hand upholds me, with care You train me—
wide room You make for my steps under me,
my feet have never faltered.
I pursue my enemies and overtake them,
nor turn back till an end is made of them;
I strike them down, and they cannot rise,
they fall, they are under my feet.
You have girt me with strength for the fight,
bent down my assailants beneath me,
made my enemies turn their backs to me;
and those who hate me I destroy.
They cry out, there is no one to save,
to Yahweh, but there is no reply;
I crush them fine as dust before the wind,
trample them like the mud of the streets.
You deliver me from a people in revolt,
You place me at the head of the nations,
a people I did not know are now my servants,
foreigners come wooing my favor,
no sooner do they hear than they obey me,
foreigners grow faint of heart,
they come trembling out of their fastnesses.
Life to Yahweh! Blessed be my rock!
Exalted be the God of my salvation,
the God who gives me vengeance
and subjects the peoples to me,
who rescues me from my raging enemies.
You lift me high above those who attack me,
You deliver me from the man of violence.
For this I will praise You, Yahweh, among the heathen
and sing praise to Your name.
His king He saves and saves again,
displays His love for His anointed,
for David and his heirs for ever.
Psalm 18 Jerusalem Bible
at 3:30 AM