I yell with my voice to Yahweh,
With my voice I crave Yahweh’s favour.
I pour out my protest to his face;
To his face I tell my trouble.
When my spirit is feeble
You watch over my footsteps.
In the pathway where I walk
They have concealed a snare for me.
I look to my right and check
But no one stands with me;
There is no safety for me
And nobody cares for my soul.
I am shouting to you Yahweh,
“You are my shelter
My plot in the land of the living.
Please hear my pleading cry
For I am crushed.
Protect me from my persecutors
For they are more powerful than me.
Get me out of gaol
to give thanks to your name!
Holy people will gather round me
Because you have been good to me.
The original editor of the psalms related this one to the time when faced with the murderous enmity of King Saul, David went off into the highlands and took refuge in a cave, living as an outlaw.
The psalm however does not in any way deal with the complexity of David’s situation but simply presents the prayer of someone faced with personal enmity and social exclusion. Some Christian commentators have seen it as referring to Jesus and his experience of opposition.
I have chosen to translate words which have a wide range of meaning in a forceful sense: for example I have translated the Hebrew word for face literally instead of “presence” which might seem more reverential as applied to God. Similarly, the word usually translated “complaint” I have translated “protest” because the author feels that God is not doing his job. He trusts that God is watching over him, but he does not feel supported.
He is bold enough to remind God of his task: “You are my shelter, my plot in the land of the living.” The author has no other support, so Yahweh better come through with it.
If God acts then he will have the grateful thanks of the author plus the attention of all who see that the author has been rescued: there is something in it for God, an addition to his name, his reputation.