The fool speaks in his heart; “There is no God,” he says. They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; none walk in godly ways.
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the human race, To see if any understand, if any seek God’s face.
They all have turned aside; corrupt they have become. Not one of them does any good— no, not a single one.
Will sinners never learn? My people they’ve devoured As if they were consuming bread; they never seek the LORD.
Struck down they are with dread, for God is with the just. You evildoers shame the poor, but in the LORD they trust.
May help from Zion come, the LORD his captives bring! And then let Jacob’s tribes rejoice; let Isr’el gladly sing
The editors of Sing Psalms suggest this is sung to either Southwell or the tune Selma which you can hear sung here.
This psalm is not for the faint hearted. It has resonances for me with the start of the story of Noah and the 40 day flood which violently birthed a new world. Genesis 6:11 “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence…”
Like God in the story of Noah, the Psalmist is frustrated with the magnitude of humanity’s corruption and ignorance to not do good, to not act wisely seeking God. Yet at the same time the Psalmist has hope, seated in a deep trust that God is the refuge for the most vulnerable to humanity’s corruption (the poor) and that God is with those still trying to do good in the midst of the corruption. The psalmist wants God to send help, deliverance.
These feelings and perceptions are real for us today. Frustration at the magnitude of humanity’s corruption as we see communities in Bangladesh flood due to global warming, or patterns of violence or prejudice passed on from parent to child. Frustration that we passively and actively collude with humanity’s corruption often in wilful ignorance, living as part of the wealthy western world.
But the Psalmist shows that alongside frustration, hope can also exist. Hope in the trust that God is with the most vulnerable and with those who work for good / justice even in situations where they seem to be working against the prevailing current. Hope that God will bring deliverance, even if that means the flooding and washing away of what are familiar but corrupt systems, practices and perceptions, in order to birth a new world.
Not for the faint hearted but deeply hopeful for all who struggle.
God of Justice and Hope We give thanks for your Wisdom; Wisdom which shows us the Way of Abundant Life for all. We bring to you the tears of people and of the planet oppressed by the corruption of foolish greed and prejudice which denies your Way. Forgive us for the active and passive ways which we have colluded with this corruption. Strengthen the hands of all who oppose its’ current and work for good. May all oppressed know you as their refuge and hope. Wash away the shackles of ignorance and corruption in our minds and world, that we may be reborn into the freedom of Abundant Life for all. Amen.
The Rev’d Fiona Bennett is minister of Augustine United Church in Edinburgh.
Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee Free Church of Scotland 15 North Bank Street Edinburgh EH1 2LS