Monday, 18 April 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
18 April 2022 (Psalm 54)

‘Give ear to the words of my mouth’ (Psalm 54: 2) … (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent this year, I was reflecting each morning on the Psalms. Then, during the two weeks of Passion Week and Holy Week, my morning reflections drew on the Stations of the Cross in the Church of the Annunciation, Clonard, Wexford, and the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes.

It was good to take part in the Easter celebrations in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford, yesterday (Easter Day, 17 April 2022). This morning (18 April 2022), I am returning to my morning reflections on the Psalms.

In the coming weeks, 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 54:

Psalm 54 is attributed to David, and was written for one who finds oneself betrayed by a friend. In the slightly different numbering system used in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is Psalm 53.

Verses 1 and 2 in the Hebrew Bible correspond to the designation in English translations:

1, To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David,
2, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, ‘David is in hiding among us

Verses 1-7 in English translations correspond to verses 3-9 in the Hebrew text.

The Ziphites lived in the wilderness of Ziph, a district to the south-east of Hebron in the Judaean mountains.

The historical setting of this short Psalm is given in its title, almost a direct quotation from I Samuel 23: 19, a similar style of historical setting as found in Psalm 52.

This is considered one of the psalms containing prayers against false accusations, linked with an ordeal, the taking of an oath, or an appeal to the ‘higher court,’ as indicated in the following points:

The phrase ‘vindicate me’ (verse 1);

A royal perspective of opponents as ‘the insolent,’ ‘strangers’ or ‘the ruthless’ (verse 3), and ‘enemies (verse 5);

A prayer before battle appealing to God as personal saviour with a covenant ‘faithfulness’ (verse 5).

Psalm 54 can also be described as a lament, prayer, or complaint of an individual.

Verses 1-3 pray for help and answer.

Following an appeal (verses 1-2), the psalmist describes the danger facing him (verse 3), but maintains his confidence in God.

In the second half of the psalm (verses 4-7), the poet, in the certainty of being heard, rejoices in help, and makes a vow of thanksgiving. He promises to sacrifice a freewill offering to express ‘the voluntary gratitude of a thankful heart’ (verses 6-7, another example of the ‘certainty of hearing’).

‘With a freewill-offering I will sacrifice to you’ (Psalm 54: 6) … (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 54 (NRSVA):

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, ‘David is in hiding among us.’

1 Save me, O God, by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
2 Hear my prayer, O God;
give ear to the words of my mouth.

3 For the insolent have risen against me,
the ruthless seek my life;
they do not set God before them.
Selah

4 But surely, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
5 He will repay my enemies for their evil.
In your faithfulness, put an end to them.

6 With a freewill-offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
7 For he has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

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 yesterday by the Revd Dr Rachel Mash, Coordinator of the Environmental Network of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (18 April 2022) continues the Easter theme and invites us to pray:

We give thanks for opportunities to celebrate Easter with friends and family.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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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