01 April 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
1 April 2022 (Psalm 52)

‘Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery’ (Psalm 52: 2) … street art in Richmond Street, near Kelly’s Corner, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I retired yesterday (31 March 2022) after five years in parish ministry in the Diocese of Limerick, and as Canon Precentor in Limerick, Killaloe and Clonfert. However, I intend to continue in a new though as yet unknown form of ministry. This morning I am still in the John Radcliffe Hospital Oxford, waiting for further consultations and recommendations for follow-up treatement before being sent back to Milton Keynes.

Meanwhile, before this day begins, I am taking some time early this morning (1 April 2022) 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 52:

Psalm 52 is described as a Maskil, attributed to King David, and is said to have been written when Doeg the Edomite went and told Saul, and said to him, ‘David has come to the house of Ahimelech.’ In this psalm, King David criticises those who use their talents for evil.

In the slightly different numbering found used in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate translations, this psalm is numbered Psalm 51. This psalm opens the second section of the three traditional divisions of the Latin psalter. For this reason, the first words (Quid gloriatur in malitia qui potens est iniquitate ...), and above all the initial ‘Q’, were often greatly enlarged in illuminated manuscript psalters, following the pattern of the Beatus initials at the start of Psalm 1, and the ‘D’ of Psalm 102.

Psalm 52 could be classified as an individual psalm of trust, one that demonstrates an expression of trust or confidence in God’s assistant to the petitioner.

The psalm’s sub-heading refers to an event in I Samuel 21 to 22 when Doeg, the chief herdsman of Saul, the first king of Israel, informed Saul that David had been received by Ahimelech at Nob, a priestly town in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and assisted him with the means for his flight.

We might expect Doeg to be condemned. He was a man of wealth and importance as the chief of Saul’s herdsmen or, according to the Septuagint, the keeper of his mules. His tongue was ‘a deceitful tongue,’ because, although the facts he reported were true, he helped to confirm Saul in a false and cruel suspicion.

However, there are no references to the cold-blooded and sacrilegious murder of the priests at Nob. Doeg acted as Saul’s agent, but all his other officers shrank from executing his brutal order. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to suppose that the Psalm was really written by David on that occasion, unless we assume that it was composed after Doeg’s information was given but before the massacre was carried out, although this is improbable.

‘God will … snatch and tear you from your tent’ (Psalm 52: 5) … an empty tent in a Moroccan restaurant in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 52 (NRSVA):

To the leader. A Maskil of David, when Doeg the Edomite came to Saul and said to him, ‘David has come to the house of Ahimelech.’

1 Why do you boast, O mighty one,
of mischief done against the godly?
All day long 2 you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
you worker of treachery.
3 You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking the truth.
4 You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.

5 But God will break you down for ever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
6 The righteous will see, and fear,
and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,
7 ‘See the one who would not take
refuge in God,
but trusted in abundant riches,
and sought refuge in wealth!’

8 But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
for ever and ever.
9 I will thank you for ever,
because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

Today’s Prayer:

The USPG Prayer Diary this week, under the heading ‘Let my people go,’ focuses on the approximately 230 million Dalits living in India. Considered outcasts, these communities suffer systematic exclusion and discrimination under the caste system, a system of social stratification. The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (1 April 2022) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for those who are treated as outcasts and pariahs in society. May they be accepted by the wider community and know that they are accepted by God.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘I am like a green olive tree in the house of God’ (Psalm 52: 8) … an olive grove in the mountains above Rethymnon in Crere (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

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