1 In wrath do not rebuke me, LORD, Or in your anger chasten me. 2 Your arrows deeply pierce my soul; Your hand lies on me heavily.
3 Because your anger rests on me, My body has no health within; There is no soundness in my bones, Because you judge me for my sin.
4 My guilt has overwhelmed my soul; Its burden is a crushing weight. 5 My wounds are foul and festering, Because my foolishness is great.
6 I am bowed down, I am brought low, And I go mourning all the day. 7 My back is filled with searing pain, And my whole body wastes away.
8 I’m feeble and completely crushed; In anguish of my heart I groan. 9 Lord, my desires before you lie; To you my sighing is well known.
10 My heart beats wildly, strength has failed, The light has faded from my eye. 11 My friends and neighbours keep away; They see my wounds and then pass by.
12 My enemies who seek my life With cunning set their snares for me; My foes conspire to do me harm, And all day long plot treachery.
13 I’m like the deaf, who cannot hear, And like the mute, who cannot cry. 14 I’m like a man who hears no sound, Whose mouth can offer no reply.
15 I wait for you, O Lord my God; And you, O LORD, will answer me. 16 I prayed to you, “If my foot slips, Let them not gloat exultantly.”
17 Indeed I am about to fall; My pain is ever deep within. 18 I must confess iniquity, And I am troubled by my sin.
19 My foes are vigorous and strong; And many hate me wrongfully. 20 My good with evil they repay; When I seek good, they slander me.
21 O LORD, do not abandon me; Do not be far from me, my God. 22 Come quickly to deliver me Because you are my Saviour, Lord.
You can hear a soloist sing this from v15 to the tune Llef here.
I wonder how easily we can relate to the words of the Psalmist in this Psalm? It seems to speak in two voices – one seeking approval or forgiveness, and the other seeking protection and safety. We are perhaps more inclined to do the latter and not the former. We tend not to consider ourselves being rebuked by the anger of a God who crushes us. Instead we prefer to find ourselves seeking the comfort of a loving God who will not abandon but will save us in the times when things go wrong.
Perhaps it’s easy to disregard this Psalm or to place it in a context of Exilic abandonment where it can have no bearing on our lives. Maybe we don’t think of our own need for approval from God, relying instead on a God who became incarnate so that we would have the promise of eternal life. Maybe we too comfortably associate with the protection and promise of God, and less on the reprimand that all wrongdoers deserve.
Any parent figure must– to a greater or lesser extent – combine the tasks of telling-off and protection; we must recognise where we have done wrong, and yet have the assurance of our own safety in difficult times. As Children of God, we occasionally act in ways that deserve God’s rebuke. But we also occasionally find ourselves in difficulties where we need to know we have God’s all-encompassing protection.
We need not redraw our images of God as one of anger or wrath, but perhaps we have much to learn about seeking God’s forgiveness and to holding our humanity before God. Perhaps we need to be able to relate more to these words of the Psalmist if we are to be Children of God who are both truly forgiven and fully consoled.
Mothering God, when we do wrong, help us to know how to correct our actions.
Mothering God, when we speak wrong, help us to find words to ask for forgiveness.
Mothering God, when we need your comfort, console us with your love and enfold us in your outstretched arms. Amen
The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, is Minister at St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton and for the Northern Synod.