16 March 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
16 March 2022 (Psalms 36)

‘For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light’ (Psalm 36: 9) … fountains at Argiroupoli, in the mountains above Rethymnon in Crete (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.

Psalm 36:

Psalm 36 is known in Latin by its opening words, Dixit iniustus. In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, it is Psalm 35.

This psalm is a hymn psalm, attributed to King David, and the text of the psalm refers to its Davidic authorship, for the chief musician of the temple. It may be that David wrote this psalm after being attacked, either by Saul or by his son Absalom.

The psalm may be understood as a prayer of the persecuted person who has taken refuge in the temple, or figuratively, of one who has taken refuge in God. The psalmist takes pride in the goodness of God in which he finds safety.

Verse 1: The wording in the Authorised or King James Version, ‘The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, raises some difficulties. Alexander Kirkpatrick suggests that it is ‘unnatural to regard transgression as uttering its oracle in the Psalmist’s heart.’ and he argues that the reading of the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac texts and Jerome, ‘within his heart’ is a preferable reading. The Revised Standard Version (1946, 1952) has the wording, ‘in his heart,’ and the New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses the words ‘in their hearts.’

After decrying the ‘sinfulness of sin’ in the verses 1-5, David goes on to praises God’s goodness towards all people and creatures.

Verse 6: The juxtaposition here of humans and animals (‘you save humans and animals alike’) has had many interpretations. The Talmud (Chullin 5b) says that ‘beast’ or animals refers to ‘people who are wise in understanding but make themselves simple like a dumb beast.’ The Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 33: 1) interprets this verse as meaning that God saves humanity in the merit of the animals. This verse is also seen by Jewish ethicists as endorsing animal welfare and animal rights. Saint Augustine suggests that this verse proves that animals also receive salvation.

Verses 8-11 are recited by Jewish men after the wrapping of the tallit during the morning prayer service.

Verse 9: The phrase in this verse referring to the fountain of life has been used in the context of preservation of the natural environment.

The psalm concludes with a plea to God to bless those who honour him with his justice, and protect them from the snares of the wicked.

‘Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds’ (Psalm 36: 5) … evening lights above Sutton seen from the end of the West Pier in Howth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 36 (NRSVA):

To the leader. Of David, the servant of the Lord.

1 Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in their hearts;
there is no fear of God
before their eyes.
2 For they flatter themselves in their own eyes
that their iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
3 The words of their mouths are mischief and deceit;
they have ceased to act wisely and do good.
4 They plot mischief while on their beds;
they are set on a way that is not good;
they do not reject evil.

5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgements are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

10 O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart! 11 Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me, or the hand of the wicked drive me away. 12 There the evildoers lie prostrate; they are thrust down, unable to rise.

Today’s Prayer:

The USPG Prayer Diary has a particular focus on Ireland and the Church of Ireland this week, and I introduced this theme in the prayer diary on Sunday (13 March 2022). The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary this morning (16 March 2022) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the people of Rathkeale and West Limerick, as they seek to welcome others into their community.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains’ (Psalm 36: 6) … Mount Olympus seen from Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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

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