This blog continues my translation with brief commentary on Psalms 42-72
To the choir leader. A psalm for David, a song.
Praise is your due in Zion, God;
Vows made to you shall be fulfilled.
Because you listen to prayer
all flesh shall come to you.
Our actions are wrong,
Our sins mount up against us
but you cover them.
How happy the one you choose,
the one you bring close
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be filled with the goodness of your house
with the holiness of your temple.
You answer us with marvels of justice,
O God of our deliverance,
hope of all the ends of the earth,
and its most distant seas;
who settles the mountains by his strength
– he is clothed with mastery –
who quiets the din of the seas,
the din of their billows,
the uproar of the peoples.
Dwellers in distant lands are in awe
of your mighty works.
you make the doors of dawn and sunset
sing for joy.
You attend to the earth and replenish it;
you enrich it lavishly.
God’s channel in the heavens is full of water
providing the people with grain
for so you will prepare the land:
You drench its furrows, levelling the ridges
You soften it with rains, blessing the shoots.
You crown the year with your good gifts
your chariot tracks ooze richness.
The desert meadows trickle with moisture
The hills put on their joyful robes,
the pastures are clothed with flocks,
the valleys dress themselves with grain:
Together they shout for joy; they sing.
This is a splendidly vivid and joyful psalm, which celebrates God’s goodness with an eye on getting him to to do it again. It reminds God of what is expected at harvest. There is an important theological development here, in that the God of Israel is praised as the God of all the earth and its fruitfulness, taking over from the traditional Canaanite vegetation gods the role of natural provider. The psalmist reckons that sin might get in the way of God’s favour so he praises God’s habit of forgiving even a multitude of sins.
Then he reflects on the ability of God to provide a good harvest. After all, this is the God who not only rescues his people and gives them justice, but also brings order out of chaos and creates the world for all its inhabitants, even those at the ends of the earth, who also recognise the creator’s might and wisdom. As the psalmist describes the actions of God his words become more passionate. Of course, this universal God is also the God of Israel’s harvest. He then provides a beautiful image of the process of God’s providing, which will remind the Creator of what he needs to do again.
Harvest is not given by miracle, the pslamist acknowledges, it starts with the irrigation of the fields. He refers to God’s own water channel, the waters which are above the earth, as full of life-giving water, which will furnsih the rains, which will irrigate the land and its crops. His use if the verb “to trickle” is particularly intimate and effective: even in the desert wadis you will be able to hear the sound of water.
God is depicted as making his way in the autumnal land in his divine chariot, the mode of transport mentioned in connection with Elijah. Everywhere it goes it leaves richness in its wake. The language of this final section of the poem is itself rich, and the rhythmic units are stately and balanced. The land prepares for harvest festivity by putting on its glad rags, its fruits and flocks and crops. Finally it bursts into songs of praise.
How could God resist such encouragement?