31 May 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
31 May 2022 (Psalm 97)

‘The Lord is King! Let earth rejoice’ (Psalm 97: 1) … a stained glass window in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (31 May 2022). Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections in this season of Easter, including my morning reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary 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 97:

Psalm 97 was the appointed psalm in the Revised Common Lectionary readings on Sunday (29 May 2022). It is sometimes known by its Latin name Dominus regnavit exultet terra. In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, this psalm is counted as Psalm 96.

Psalm 97 is the fifth in a series of psalms (Psalms 93-99) that are called royal psalms as they praise God as King. Biblical scholars note numerous thematic and structural similarities between Psalm 96 and Psalm 97, which are both psalms about the kingship of God.

Psalm 97 is a hymn celebrating God’s kingship, and it speaks of his’s supremacy as Lord of the earth, his sovereignty, his enactment of justice, and the widespread rejoicing that will ensue. ‘The Lord is king!’ (verse 1), in other words, he has won the battle for world kingship over the forces of chaos. May the whole earth rejoice!

Verses 2-5 are a theophany, a description of how God has appeared as he has visited earth: in a cloud and in a burning bush during the Exodus, etc. He rules with righteousness and justice. He is ‘the Lord of all the earth’ (verse 5).

The word ‘all’ occurs three times in verses 6-9, emphasising God’s omnipotence. Verse 7 says that those who worship images or idols will realise the error of their ways. Other gods recognise God’s supremacy. Then, in verse 8, the people of Israel rejoice in God’s justice.

Verses 10-12 tell us the kind of rule God exercises. Those who hate evil are faithful to him, and he rescues them from the ways of the wicked. Light shines on the righteous, who rejoice and who give thanks to God.

In Jewish tradition, Psalm 97 is the third of six psalms recited during the Kabbalat Shabbat or ‘Welcoming the Shabbat’ service. These six psalms represent the six days of the week, with Psalm 97 corresponding to the third day, Tuesday. Verse 11, ‘Light dawns for the righteous ...’ is recited by Ashkenazi Jews at the start of the Kol Nidre service on Yom Kippur.

The Masoretic text version of Psalm 97: 7 reads ‘worship him, all ye gods,’ but the Septuagint equivalent reads ‘προσκυνήσατε αὐτῷ πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτοῦ’, ‘worship him, all ye his angels.’

In his commentary on Psalm 97, the former Chief Rabbi, the late Lord (Jonathan) Sacks, writes: ‘History is not destined to be an endless story of the victory of right, the powerful over the powerless. At the heart of reality is a force that makes for justice, giving strength to the weak, and courage to the oppressed. “Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart”.’

‘Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart’ (Psalm 97: 11) … dawn breaks over the mouth of the River Slaney at Ferrycarrig in Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 97 (NRSVA):

1 The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
7 All worshippers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
8 Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgements, O God.
9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Global Day of Parents.’

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (31 May 2022, The Visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth) invites us to pray:

Lord, may we witness to you with those whom we hold close. Help us to follow your calling and walk alongside our fellow Christians.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary to Saint Elizabeth … a panel from the triptych in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral … 31 May is the Feast of the Visitation (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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