1 O my God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, be not still. 2 See how all your foes are stirring, eager to move in and kill. 3 For they plot against your loved ones, make their cunning plans, and say, 4 “Come, let us destroy their nation; Israel’s name we’ll sweep away.”
5 With one mind they plot against you; they are allies for the fight— 6 Tents of Hagar and of Moab, Edom and the Ishmaelite, 7 Gebal, Amalek and Ammon, Philistines with men of Tyre. 8 Now Assyria has joined them; Lot’s descendants strength acquire.
9 Treat them as you treated Midian at the river Kishon drowned— 10 Sisera and Jabin slaughtered, left like refuse on the ground. 11 Make their chiefs like Zeeb and Oreb, Zeba and Zalmunna too, 12 When they said, “We’ll take possession of God’s pasture-lands from you.”
13 Like the tumble-weed disperse them, like the chaff before the breeze. 14 As the flames lay waste the mountains or the fire consumes the trees, 15 So pursue them with your tempest; may your storm bring fear and shame. 16 LORD, bring them humiliation, so that they may seek your name.
17 May they be ashamed for ever; let dismay be on their face. May they be destroyed completely; let them perish in disgrace. 18 LORD, make known your name among them; show that you alone are God— That you are the Most High, ruling over all the earth abroad.
The Editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tune Genevan 42 for this. The recording is a tad slower than it could be for a bouncy “Genevan jig”.
This is one of the most challenging things I have ever had to write.
Both in its Biblical form, and in this metrical version, this Psalm is one of the most violent, vengeful pieces of writing in the whole of the Bible. Indeed it reminds its readers that there are many times when the nation has been in peril but that warriors have come to the nation’s rescue. It lists the ten ancient enemies and provides the people with the words to ask God to raise up such champions again – or even better – destroy them yourself God! It is your reputation that is really at stake, implies the writer, God you need to show your power and majesty, and we will be vindicated because you will have won.
Like so many people, the people of God fall into the trap when faced with threats, especially violent threats, that they seek to look to an heroic past when they were great and victorious and they assume that is where they should be now. What they don’t see is their part in creating the situation they are in. It is everyone else’s fault not ours. The opening of the Psalm recognises that God is silent and there is a reason for that; the silence, if allowed, begins to give the space for self-reflection and self-examination and if the vengeful thoughts can run their angry course; only then perhaps the voice of God might be heard. A child in a tantrum is best left to exhaust his or her self so that the parent can step in and scoop them up in their arms and show love and tenderness. So this Psalm/hymn can be left to exhaust itself out too so that God can come with the words of tenderness and care. Perhaps it reminds us that we sometimes need to let out all our anger and frustration so that we can again be scooped up by God and embrace by his love.
God When we are angry with the world, with you, with our own self and shout out our pain, watch over us
As we exhaust ourselves with our outburst, hold us As we encounter the silence, enfold us Wrap your love and tenderness around us and grant us your peace. Amen
The Rev’d Hilary Collinson a minister in the Tees and Swale Pastorate
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