04 May 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
4 May 2022 (Psalm 70)

‘Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me!’ (Psalm 70: 1) … street art in Cashel, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before this day begins, I am continuing my morning reflections in this season of Easter continues, 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 70:

Psalm 70 is known in Latin as Deus, in adiutorium meum intende. In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and in the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is counted as Psalm 69.

The entire psalm is almost identical to the closing verses of Psalm 40 (verses 14-18 in the Hebrew, 13-17 in most English translations). The opening verse in Hebrew identifies this psalm as one of remembrance (להכיר, ‘to remember’). This opening term appears in only one other psalm, Psalm 38.

Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser (1809-1879), from Volochysk in present-day Western Ukraine, was a rabbi, master of Hebrew grammar and Bible commentator and better known as the Malbim (מלבי"ם). He wrote that Psalm 40 was written by King David when he was fleeing from Saul, and David repeated this psalm later when he was fleeing from Absalom.

The Midrash Tehillim notes a slight discrepancy between Psalm 70: 5 (‘But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!’) and Psalm 40: 17 (‘As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me’). The Midrash teaches that David was asking God, ‘Think of me in my poverty and in my need, and you will then make haste to deliver me, for You are my help and my deliverer.’

The opening verse says literally ‘God, to deliver me, to my help! Hurry!’ It is a sped up and abbreviated version of Psalm 40: 14. This is consistent with hasten used repeatedly in the opening. In some views, the first verses of Psalm 40 concern the coming messiah and his deliverance, while the later verses concern the desperate in general. It is the later verses of Psalm 40 carried over to Psalm 70.

The beginning of Psalm 70 was often set to music, especially as part of music for vespers. Claudio Monteverdi wrote a six-part setting with orchestra to begin his Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610), using a revised version of the opening Toccata of his opera L’Orfeo. It has been described as a ‘call to attention’ and ‘a piece whose brilliance is only matched by the audacity of its conception.’

Benjamin Britten set this psalm to music as part of the score he wrote for the play This Way to the Tomb (1945).

‘But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!’ (Psalm 70: 5) … a memorial to ‘two friends of the poor’ in Kilcrush, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 70 (NRSVA):

To the leader. Of David, for the memorial offering.

1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me.
O Lord, make haste to help me!
2 Let those be put to shame and confusion
who seek my life.
Let those be turned back and brought to dishonour
who desire to hurt me.
3 Let those who say, ‘Aha, Aha!’
turn back because of their shame.

4 Let all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation
say evermore, ‘God is great!’
5 But I am poor and needy;
hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay!

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Truth Tellers.’ It was introduced on Sunday morning by Steve Cox, Chair of Christians in the Media.

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (4 May 2022) invites us to pray:

Lord, let us be truthful to ourselves and to others. May we embrace each other for our authentic selves.

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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