URC Daily Devotion 6th August

Psalm 9
 

I’ll praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
your wonders I’ll proclaim.
I will rejoice in you, Most High,
and praise your holy name.

Before you all my enemies fall,
they turn their backs and flee.
For you upheld my right and cause
and judged me righteously.

You have rebuked the nations, LORD;
the wicked you destroyed.
You blotted out the heathen’s name—
for ever made it void.

The enemy have met their doom,
destroyed eternally.
You have uprooted all their towns;
they’re lost to memory.

The LORD for ever reigns on high;
his throne for judgment stands.
He’ll judge the world in righteousness,
with justice rule the lands.

The LORD will be a hiding place
for those who are oppressed,
And he will be a strong defence
for those who are distressed.

All those who know your name, O LORD,
in you their trust will place,
For you do not abandon those
who seek your gracious face.

Sing praises to the LORD who sits
in Zion on his throne;
Among the nations of the world
proclaim what he has done.

For he, the avenger of man’s blood,
remembers evermore;
The cry of the afflicted one
he never will ignore.

O LORD, see how my enemies
are persecuting me.
Have mercy! From the gates of death
lift me and set me free,

So that in Zion’s city gates
your praise I may declare,
And that I may exult with joy
in your salvation there.

The nations all have fallen down
into the pit they made;
Their feet are tangled in the net
which they themselves have laid.

The LORD is known by righteous acts;
his justice always stands.
The wicked are ensnared in traps,v=
the work of their own hands.

The wicked will return to where
the dead have their abode,
Where all the heathen nations go
that have forgotten God.

The needy will not be ignored,
forgotten all their days;
The hopes and longings of the poor
will not be crushed always.

Arise, LORD! Let not man prevail;
judge nations from your throne.
That they may know how frail they are,
with fear, LORD, strike them down.

This has been set to a number of tunes.  Here you can hear a congregation sing it to the tune Glasgow.  The Free Church also suggest the tune Martyrs which you can hear here.  It can also be sung to Dunfermline which can be heard here.

Reflection

Part of Israel’s hymnbook, Psalms 9 and 10 are bound together as an acrostic poem – lines begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This aids memorising the text, still an important part of Jewish tradition – though largely lost in modern Christian teaching (who still recalls prizes for learning and repeating Bible passages?)

The two psalms differ in tone: Psalm 9 is largely praise and thanksgiving; Psalm 10 one of lament and supplication. If praise coming before lament seems the wrong way round to us, it may be closer to actual life experience than we’re prepared to admit. We connect to the Psalms through the filter of memory, and their poetry can evoke deep contrary emotions in us. In life we can, and do hold apparently contradictory feelings close together eg grief and gratitude, reconciliation and resentment, greed and generosity. The juxtaposition of contrasting elements in psalms 9 and 10 is not so strange.

Psalm 9 is set in Yahweh’s court. Israel’s God is present, listening and willing to judge and act. God’s verdict is crucial for the other two parties present: the speaker – the ‘I’ who speaks for the ‘oppressed’, ‘poor’, ‘afflicted’, ‘distressed’, ‘needy’; and the ‘enemy’ – described as ‘the wicked’, ‘the nations’.

God’s actions, which are just and utterly reliable are celebrated in two ways: God’s destructive power towards enemies (‘destroyed’, ‘blotted out’, uprooted’); and God’s constructive power exercised towards faithful people (‘upheld my right and cause’, judged me righteously’, rebuked the nations’). Walter Brueggemann writes ‘In this poem the decisive party is Yahweh who governs powerfully and equitably. Yahweh is the one who takes all the decisive actions’.

The events precipitating this hearing are not hypothetical or imagined, but real. They draw on the experience of the marginalised, the powerless, the exploited, the abused: those who cannot or do not get a fair hearing in society. This Psalm assures them that their concerns do not go unheard, and divine justice shall prevail,  despite recurring appearances of evil.

Believing the truth of this today, what role shall the Church – you and I – play in God’s determination that justice and truth shall prevail? How shall Scripture’s word live in us, and make a difference?

Prayer

Gracious God,
your Son Jesus Christ
teaches us that you are just and merciful,
you bring freedom to the oppressed
and hope to the despairing.
Give us eyes to see and hearts to care
for those who suffer injustice and neglect.
May your Spirit teach us that you can use
even our small contributions
to make a difference for good in others’ lives.
So may the psalmist’s song
‘I’ll praise you Lord with all my heart,
your wonders I’ll proclaim’
be heard in many likely and unlikely places.
Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d John Young is a retired minister of the Synod of Scotland and member of Giffnock URC.

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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