Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Psalm 83

There are psalms that are not sung very often. We noted that at Ely Cathedral last week, verse 16 of Psalm 55 was omitted. (It is said that since 1920, the clergy can decide to leave out verses.) There are other imprecatory verses in Psalm 55 that were not left out - so why mess with the structure? Nonetheless, verses (like the last two of Psalm 137) or even whole psalms (58) are not even printed in some collections!

This song is full of destructive prayers. Is this what is meant by 'Pray for your enemies'? Or is the list of 'successes' at destruction (Midian, Sisera,...) meant now to guide us in re-interpreting what it means to be anointed (Psalm 2) or what God's word is to the out-of-jointness (Psalm 82) of the world? (I don't recall ever singing this song to plainsong or Anglican chant. )

A song
A Psalm of Asaph

O God not silence for you
O do not be speechless
O God do not be quiet
for behold your enemies roar
and those hating you lift up a head
against your people they determine secret counsel
and they conspire against your treasure
they have said come and let us remove them as a nation
and the name of Israel will not be remembered ever

for they plan as one heart
against you they cut a covenant
the tents of Edom and
Ishmaelites of Moab and of Hagar
Gebal and Amon and Amalek
Philistines and those living in Tyre
Even Ashur is joined with them
they have become the arm of the children of Lot
Do to them as Midian
as Sisera to Jabin in the torrent of Kishon
they were annihilated at Endor
they became compost for the earth
make their princes like Oreb
and like Zeb and like Zebach and like Tsalmuna
all their nobility
who said
let us dispossess for ourselves
even the pastures of God

My God make them as a whirl
as stubble in the face of the wind
as ash burning wood
and as a flame blazing the hills
so hound them in your tempest
and with your storm vex them
fill their faces with disgrace
so they will seek your name יְהוָה

They will be ashamed
and they will be vexed
time and time again
and they will be embarrassed and will perish
and they will know
that you
your name יְהוָה
you only
are most high over all the earth

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