Saturday, 23 April 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
23 April 2022 (Psalm 59)

‘O my strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love’ (Psalm 59: 17) … the Catalan fortress of Fort de Salses in Salses-le-Château in southern France (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We have reached the end of the first week of Easter. Today is Saint George’s Day and this weekend is also Easter in the Orthodox calendar.

During this season of Easter, I have returned to my morning reflections on the Psalms, and 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 59:

Psalm 59 is the fourth in a series of five psalms in this section of the Psalms that are referred to as Miktams. Miktam or Michtam (מִכְתָּם) is a Hebrew word of unknown meaning in the headings of Psalms 16 and 56-60 in the Hebrew Bible. These six psalms, and many others, are associated with King David, but this tradition is more likely to be sentimental than historical. They may have formed one of several smaller collections of psalms which preceded the present psalter and on which it was based.

Miktam corresponds to the Babylonian nakamu, lid, a metal cover for a vessel, but efforts to derive a meaning for the term in the psalms have not been convincing. In modern Hebrew, the word has come to mean epigram, and numerous collections of Hebrew epigrams have used that word in their titles.

In the slightly different numbering found in the Greek Septuagint (LXX) and the Latin Vulgate, Psalm 59 is counted as Psalm 58.

Psalm 59 is described as a prayer ‘composed when Saul ordered his house to be watched in order to kill him.’ It could describes it as a ‘vigorous plea for the destruction of the psalmist’s enemies.’

The inscription reads: ‘To the leader: Do Not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when Saul ordered his house to be watched in order to kill him.’

This text, connected with an incident recorded in I Samuel 19:11–17, may be an editorial addition. ‘Do Not Destroy,’ Altaschith, may refer to an ancient song whose tune was to be used in singing the psalms.

In Judaism, Psalm 59 is one of the ten Psalms of the Tikkun HaKlali of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Verse 18 in Hebrew (verse 17 in English translations) is found in the repetition of the Amidah during Rosh Hashanah:

O my strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.

‘Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city’ (Psalm 59: 6) … a sculpture in Seville (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 59 (NRSVA):

To the leader: Do Not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when Saul ordered his house to be watched in order to kill him.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from those who work evil;
from the bloodthirsty save me.

3 Even now they lie in wait for my life;
the mighty stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,
4 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.

Rouse yourself, come to my help and see!
5 You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Awake to punish all the nations;
spare none of those who treacherously plot evil.
Selah

6 Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths,
with sharp words on their lips—
for ‘Who’, they think, ‘will hear us?’

8 But you laugh at them, O Lord;
you hold all the nations in derision.
9 O my strength, I will watch for you;
for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
my God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

11 Do not kill them, or my people may forget;
make them totter by your power, and bring them down,
O Lord, our shield.
12 For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter,
13 consume them in wrath;
consume them until they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
that God rules over Jacob.
Selah

14 Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
15 They roam about for food,
and growl if they do not get their fill.

16 But I will sing of your might;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been a fortress for me
and a refuge on the day of my distress.
17 O my strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘From Death to Resurrection,’ and was introduced on Sunday by the Revd Dr Rachel Mash, Coordinator of the Environmental Network of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (23 April 2022, Saint George’s Day) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Church of England and churches in Ethiopia and Georgia.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Church of Saint George the Martyr in Wolverton … today is Saint George’s Day (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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