This blog continues a project of translating and commenting upon the second book of Psalms
Defend me, God!
plead my case against a people without conscience!
save me from the crafty man and his injustice!
For you, God, you are my stronghold;
so why have you thrown me out?
Why do I go mourning
under my enemy’s oppression?
Oh, send out your light and your faithfulness!
Let them guide me
and bring me to the holy hill
Which is your dwelling place.
Then I will go to the altar of God
to God my dear delight.
Yes God, my God,
I will praise you on the harp.
Why are you beaten down, my soul?
Why are you clamouring inside me?
Put your trust in God
for I will once more praise him,
rescuer of my honour, and my God.
Most modern scholars think that this is part of the previous psalm, 42. That seems likely to me but I am not a scholar.
God is characterised here as an advocate, friend of the plaintive, who considers that he has been wronged or slandered. In a society where one’s honour was a means of living in community and doing business, loss of honour could mean disaster. The enemy in this case is described a goy, that is, as no better than a foreigner, without respect for God, or God’s Law.
Oppression causes “mourning” a state of sadness and hopelessness. The sufferer calls to God for light and faithfulness. How will this be manifested? not by some supernatural means but by the psalmist finding his way back to Zion and its temple, to the holy place where God has promised to be available.
Today this very Jewish Psalm could be more justly sung by Palestinians, led into danger by Hamas, and massacred by Israeli troops, who refuse to distinguish between protestors and jihadis. They must feel the mourning that long oppression brings; they must feel thrown out by God; they may cry out for God’s light and faithfulness. Christian people believe that they find God’s justice in the holy place which is Jesus and his assemblies, where no division into Jew and Gentile is accepted.
The beautiful description of God as the psalmists’s dear delight will only make sense to those whose faith has been sorely tested, and who have felt the companionship of the suffering God. This tough faith gives the psalmist hope that he/she will always be able to join others in thanksgiving to God.