Friday, 11 March 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
11 March 2022 (Psalms 28, 29, 30)

‘Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength’ (Psalm 29: 1) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before today begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

During Lent this year, in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

‘I cry to you for help, as I lift up my hands towards your most holy sanctuary’ (Psalm 28: 2) … inside the Church of Saint Theodore Trichinás, one of two surviving small churches in the Fortezza in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 28:

Psalm 28 (numbered in some versions as Psalm 27) may be dated to the reign of King Jehoiakim, in the late Babylonian period shortly before the exile in the year 587 or 586 BCE.

This psalm could be described as a prayer asking God whether he has abandoned his people in peril of death, and crying aloud for help, with hands uplifted towards the holy shrine (verses 1-2).

The psalm calls on God to discriminate between the people and their enemies, and to visit those enemies with retribution for their deeds (verses 3-4).

The psalm then blesses God, the strength and shield of the people, and rejoices in God as the refuge for king and people (verses 6-8).

Verse 8 says: ‘The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.’ The Jerusalem Bible suggests that the word ‘anointed’ here refers to the people of God consecrated to his service, and not the king or the high priest.

Verses 5 and 9 may be glosses that give a reason for the imprecation upon enemies (verse 5) and a liturgical petition for salvation (verse 9).

‘The voice of the Lord is upon the waters’ (Psalm 29: 3) … the waves on the beach at Skerries, Co Dublin, last weekend (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Psalm 29:

In Psalm 29, all powers are invited to acknowledge the supremacy of the Lord God and to give the glory to him.

Some Jewish commentators also see Psalm 29 as a poetic description of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachot 4: 3) relates the seven mentions of the word kol (‘voice’) in this psalm to the seven blessings of the Shabbat Amidah.

The Lord sits enthroned above the water flood, like a king on his throne for evermore. He gives strength and peace to his people as his blessings to them.

This psalm expresses God’s supremacy and universal rule and invites all powers to acknowledge the supremacy of the Lord God and to give the glory to him.

The voice of the Lord is heard in the thunder claps, the storms in the waters and in the skies, in the waves and in the thunder claps, as the storm approaches and sweeps across the land, breaking the tall trees as it moves.

The Word of God is indeed mighty. The Lord sits enthroned above the water flood, like a king on his throne for evermore. He gives strength and peace to his people as his blessings to them.

All acknowledge God’s supremacy as they cry ‘Glory be to the Lord!’

The last word of the psalm is ‘Peace.’ The former Chief Rabbi, the late Lord (Jonathan) Sacks, observes, ‘So will the storm of human history one day be transfigured into peace. Redemption stands to history as does Shabbat to the six days of creation.’

Psalm 30 is also considered the psalm for the day of Hanukkah … the Hanukkah menorah in Etz Hayyim Synagogue in Chania, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 30:

Psalm 30 (Psalm 29 in some versions) begins in the King James Version: ‘I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up.’ In Latin, it is known as Exaltabo te Domine.

In Hebrew, the opening inscription says, מזמר שיר חנכת הבית (Mizmor Shir Ḥănukkāt HaBayit), ‘A Psalm, a song for the Dedication of a House’ or ‘A psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple.’

This is a psalm of thanksgiving, traditionally ascribed to David upon the building of his own royal palace. King David dedicated his life work to be completed by his son, who built the ‘Hallowed House,’ בית המקדש (Beit HaMiqdash), Solomon’s Temple. According to the French mediaeval rabbi and commentator Rashi, David wrote this psalm to be sung at the inauguration of his temple, although he knew that this would only take place in the lifetime of his son Solomon.

In later sources, Solomon and his descendants, and not the building, are called the House of David.

Psalm 30 is a hymn of thanksgiving for recovery from a grave illness. The writer relies on a series of contrasting images to express the grace of God, which turns despair into hope.

The psalmist praises God for his recovery from grave illness, and for being rescued from ‘Sheol,’ from ‘the Pit,’ and being restored to life.

The psalmist invites all who hear him to join in giving thanks and praising God. When things were going well for him in the past and he was prosperous, he felt secure and healthy. But when he fell ill, he felt he had fallen from God’s favour. He felt he was near death and cried out to God.

God hears his prayer and restores him to health and favour. His sorrow turns to joy, his mourning turns into dancing, and he will praise God for the rest of his life.

The word חינוך (Chinuch), from the same root as Hanukkah, is the name for Jewish education, emphasising ethical training and discipline. So Psalm 30 is also considered the psalm for the day of Hanukkah, and some Jewish communities recite it in addition to, or instead of, the regular Psalm of the day.

The connecting theme in this psalm is the restoration of life as a reason for giving praise to God. The psalmist recalls a crisis when his life, once secure, is suddenly in danger. It is then that he prayed to God: ‘What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you?’ (verse 9).

So we, walking in the life of a new day, can express our sense of joy in the morning ‘so that my soul may praise you and not be silent’ (verse 12).

Psalm 28 (NRSVA):

Of David.

1 To you, O Lord, I call;
my rock, do not refuse to hear me,
for if you are silent to me,
I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
2 Hear the voice of my supplication,
as I cry to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
towards your most holy sanctuary.

3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who are workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbours,
while mischief is in their hearts.
4 Repay them according to their work,
and according to the evil of their deeds;
repay them according to the work of their hands;
render them their due reward.
5 Because they do not regard the works of the Lord,
or the work of his hands,
he will break them down and build them up no more.

6 Blessed be the Lord,
for he has heard the sound of my pleadings.
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.

8 The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
9 O save your people, and bless your heritage;
be their shepherd, and carry them for ever.

Psalm 29 (NRSVA):

A Psalm of David.

1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendour.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king for ever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Psalm 30 (NRSVA):

A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David.

1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
‘I shall never be moved.’
7 By your favour, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

8 To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
9 ‘What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!’

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

Today’s Prayer:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary this morning (11 March 2022) invites us to pray:

We pray for the Zambia Anglican Council’s Outreach Programmes. May they serve Christ by serving their communities.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘You have turned my mourning into dancing’ (Psalm 30: 11) … a folk dance in Cappadocia in Central Turkey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

No comments: