3rd blog in a new series on Psalms
A Psalm. A song for the Sabbath Day
It is good to give thanks to Yahweh
To make music to your name, Most High One;
To declare your lovingkindness in the morning
Your faithfulness at nightfall,
With the harmony of the ten-stringed harp
With the lilting notes of the lyre.
You have made me happy by your deeds;
I will shout for joy at your handiwork.
How great are your works, Yahweh God,
Very deep your decisions.
The dull man does not know
The fool cannot fathom it:
criminals growing up like grass
And every wrongdoer resplendent
So that they may be doomed to eternal destruction,
While you, Yahweh, are supreme forever.
For yes, your enemies, Yahweh,
Yes, your enemies shall come to their end;
All the wrongdoers will be routed.
But as the wild ox lifts its horns in pride
So you have lifted my head;
I am anointed with new oil.
My eyes have foreseen my foes lying in wait;
My ears overhear my assailants’ plans.
But just people put out leaves like the palm tree:
They grow lofty as a cedar in Lebanon;
They are planted in Yahweh’s house;
They grow tall in the temple courts of our God;
In their grey years still yielding fruit,
For they are full of sap and new greenness;
That they may judge that Yahweh is just:
My rock, in whom there is no wrong.
This is a lovely psalm of praise from someone who shares in the observances of the temple, and sees the rest of life from that viewpoint. The musical instruments mentioned at the beginning are still a matter of argument among lexicographers, but as a musician I have tried to make sense of them.
The psalmist praises Yahweh’s deeds, which are both cosmic and historical in his relationship with Israel. Especially however the psalmist relishes the wisdom in which Yahweh allows people the freedom to do the evil which will destroy their lives. This seems a splendid strategy to the psalmist, who after all is numbered as one of the just people.
The list of the advantages of a just life uses conventional material which imagines them growing in Yahweh’s house, emphasising their fruitfulness into old age. The language is not original but remains intimate and persuasive: the reader wants to share the reward of the just people.