Psalm Saturday: Psalm 5

Psalm Saturday is here again! It’s been a long, hectic week for me—I know I’m not the only one. Still, not a bad week. I got started on a few papers, had a productive week at work, and last but not least, received my acceptance letter from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law! Life is changing fast for me, and it probably is for you, whether you’re graduating like me, starting a family, or just handing a stressful workweek. When things start shifting and getting tough, we have to turn to God and trust in Him. That’s just what David does in this week’s Psalm entitled, “Trust in God for Deliverance from Enemies.” 

Psalm 5: Trust in God for Deliverance from Enemies

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
2 Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
5 The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.
7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in awe of you.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.
9 For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favor as with a shield.
Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my groaning.
2 Hearken to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to thee do I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning thou dost hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and watch.
4 For thou art not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not sojourn with thee.
5 The boastful may not stand before thy eyes;
thou hatest all evildoers.
6 Thou destroyest those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men.
7 But I through the abundance of thy steadfast love
will enter thy house,
I will worship toward thy holy temple
in the fear of thee.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness
because of my enemies;
make thy way straight before me.
9 For there is no truth in their mouth;
their heart is destruction,
their throat is an open sepulchre,
they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against thee.
11 But let all who take refuge in thee rejoice,
let them ever sing for joy;
and do thou defend them,
that those who love thy name may exult in thee.
12 For thou dost bless the righteous, O Lord;
thou dost cover him with favor as with a shield.

The NRSV is on the left, and the RSV is on the right. Look, we have differences as early as verse one! The NRSV uses “sighing” instead of “groaning” here. I’m not sure what to think of this. Although I think the words are meant to convey the same idea of distress, I really like the RSV’s use of “groaning.” Sighing reminds me of a damsel in distress or a lovesick teen—but when sorrow reduces you to choking, gasping groans, it really hurts.

The next big difference skips down a verse to three. Again, I’m not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, I really like the phrase “plead my case to you.” Yes, it sounds lawyerish, doesn’t it? That phrase also helps me visualize—David on his knees praying to God, pleading with the Lord to help him. I also like the RSV’s “prepare a sacrifice,” but it can be a little confusing. However, it reminds me of Romans 12:1, which says:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 

The RSV seems to draw us back to the Scripture’s themes of redemptive suffering epitomized in Christ. Through God’s mercy and love, we can unite our suffering to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross and “offer up” that hurt for the good our brothers and sisters. While we’re dealing with the Old Testament here, I can almost see David doing just that, bearing his pain and accepting God’s will until the Lord delivers him.

Further down in verse seven, the NRSV exchanges “worship” and “fear” for “bow down” and “awe.” Though I love the use of “worship” and “fear,” the NRSV seems easier to understand; this is one of the reasons I’m beginning to really prefer the NRSV. The RSV is great, but eliminating these small archaisms in favor of more modern, clearer terms makes reading Scripture much more enjoyable. I’m no Scripture scholar by any means, but so far I think the NRSV strikes a wonderful balance between readability and accuracy.

Finally, in verse eleven the NRSV replaces “do thou defend them” with “spread your protection over them.” I really, really like this change because it parallels an image found in one of my favorite Hopkins poems, “God’s Grandeur”:

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Bearded Hopkins

Hopkins with a snazzy beard, courtesy of Wikipedia

The image in the psalm and in Hopkins’ poem is a surprisingly maternal one—God is like a mother bird brooding over her eggs or little chicks. Or perhaps, closer to the psalm’s wording, a Momma pulling a blanket over her baby. We call God Father and know Him in Jesus as Man, but this image is a powerful reminder of just how much our words fail when confronted with His awesome majesty. God is the Creator—He holds in Himself the inspiration for Mommas and Daddies—so He is above our human words. But we had to understand in our limited human way, so He asks us to call Him Father.

This psalm reminds us that God is still taking care of us and shielding us from harm even when it seems like He’s ignoring us. I also love verse eight; even with the best motives, our path can be misguided. When everything starts shifting, moving, and speeding along faster than ever, we have to keep praying and asking God to keep us safe and lead us on the straight path to Him. We have to pray so that we can hear His directions!

I’m liking this series a lot, although I’ve only done five posts! Thanks so much for reading and stopping by. Please do comment, and tell me what you think of this psalm. How does it strike you? What bits and pieces stand out? Have a beautiful, blessed Saturday! Don’t forget to pray your rosary!

In His Sacred Heart,

Erica

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