Continuing my translation of Psalms 97- 150
I love him because he has heard my voice,
Because Yahweh has listened to my longings.
Because he has bent his ear towards me,
As long as I live I will cry out to him.
The cords of death had caught me
The grip of the underworld had grasped me
I was grasped by anguish and grief.
Then I yelled out Yahweh’s name;
Yahweh, now, please, save my soul!
Yahweh is gracious and just;
Our God is gentle in caring;
Yahweh is a saviour of the simple;
I was humiliated and he helped me.
Recover your quietness, my soul,
For Yahweh has done good to you!
For you have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears and my feet from falling.
I will walk before the face of Yahweh
In the land of the living.
I remained steadfast even when I said,
I am harshly oppressed.
In my haste I proclaimed,
Humanity is without hope.
What may I yield to Yahweh
For all his benefits to me?
I will lift the cup of liberation
Announcing the name of Yahweh;
I will pay what I promised to Yahweh
In the presence of all his people.
Weighty in the eyes of Yahweh
Is the death of those who hold him dear.
Certainly Yahweh I am your slave,
The son of your slave girl,
But you have broken my bonds.
I will offer you a thank-offering
And acknowledge the name of Yahweh.
I will pay what I have promised to Yahweh
In the presence of all his people,
In the courtyards of the house of Yahweh,
In your midst, Yerushalem.
Oh Praise Yah!
This has been called an anthological psalm as it borrows phrases from psalms 18 and 56. That’s a nice way of saying it steals. But in a culture where individual authorship was barely known, it indicates knowledge of a tradition and skill is using it.
It is unclear what brought the author near to dying, some kind of illness seems likely. Again here we can see Israel’s trust in the action of God: whatever happens is God’s doing. In this case, the person recovers, and therefore thanks Yahweh. This means that there is no event which is not God’s will. Living by a faith which allows God no wiggle room must have been a constant drama. In this case it leads to humility before God and gratitude for life. This man drinks the cup of liberation, that is he appreciates the gift of life. In the New Testament Jesus is offered a very different cup and resolves to drink it.
The psalm reveals a faith which seems strange to me, but which I know to be lived by many believers. I also live with faith in resurrection, which was not part of biblical Judaism. In its depiction of the practice of Jewish faith in the face of trouble I find the psalm very direct and beautiful.