This blog continues my translation of Psalms 42-72, with brief commentary
To the choir leader. A song. A psalm
Shout praise to God, all the earth;
make melody to his glorious name;
set before him glorious praise!
Say to God, How terrifying are your works!
Because of your mighty power,
your enemies will crawl before you.
The whole earth bows down to you
making music to you;
it makes music to your name.
Come and see the deeds of God,
terrifying in action towards mere mortals:
He turned the sea into dry ground;
They crossed the river dry-shod;
There we exulted in him
who rules by his strength forever
whose eyes watch over the nations –
rebels should not rise up against him!
Bless our God, his people,
the sound of his praise, let it be heard,
who has placed our soul among the living
and not allowed our feet to totter.
For you have proven us, God,
you have refined us like silver:
you led us into the net,
you gave grief to our virility,
you made people ride over our heads,
we went through fire and through water;
yet you brought us out into abundance.
I will enter your house with burnt offerings
I will make good the promises
that my lips uttered, my mouth spoke,
when I was distressed.
burnt offerings of fattened calves I will offer you
with the smell of sacrificed rams;
I will make an offering of bullocks and billygoats.
Come listen, all who fear God
and I will tell you what he has done for my soul:
I cried to him with my mouth
and with my tongue he was praised.
If my heart had taken pleasure in idolatry
the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
he has attended to the sound of my prayer.
Blessed be God
who has not laid aside my prayer
or removed his faithful love from me.
This is a psalm which reflects the experience of Israel’s defeat and exile in Babylon. The summons to praise God, who is the Creator of the ordered world, and at the same time the rescuer of Israel from the Egyptians, is not to be heard as routine. The mighty deeds of God in the exodus should remind the gentile nations not to chance their arm by challenging God’s favour to Israel, whose people remember their exultation of their God at the Sea of Reeds. Attacks on Israel are seen as arrogant uprisings against God. Doubtless the Greeks saw them as part of their foreign policy.
But God is is praised most for his faithfulness even during exile, which is interpreted as testing, as a refining process which issues in abundance. The terrible experience of exile, which “grieved the loins” that is, the virility of Israel, is interpreted as the will of God, which brings benefits.
The ritual observances of the people are presented as expression of gratitude to God; the motive for sacrifice is appreciation of God’s goodness. The affirmation that concludes the psalm speaks for the nation as well as the psalmist.
To some the psalm may seem banal; to those whose lives have contained great affliction, however, it voices a fighting faith which is not at all common.