1 LORD, listen to my prayer,
And hear my cry for aid.
2 Hide not your face from me,
For I am so afraid.
Incline your ear to me in need;
And, when I call, be swift to heed.
3 Like smoke my days are gone;
My bones are burned away.
4 My appetite is lost;
My heart is parched like hay.
5 Because of my incessant groans
I am no more than skin and bones.
6 I’m like a desert owl,
An owl midst tumbled stone,
7 Or bird upon a roof—
I lie awake, alone.
8 My foes revile me all day long;
My haters mock my name in song.
9 For ashes are my food;
I weep incessantly
10 Because in your great wrath
You have abandoned me.
11 My days like evening shadows pass;
I wither like the sun-dried grass.
12 But you, O LORD, are set
For ever on your throne;
Through each succeeding age
Endures your great renown.
13 You will arise in mighty power;
On Zion mercy you will shower.
The set time now has come
To bless Jerusalem.
14 Her stones your saints hold dear;
Her dust is mourned by them.
15 Nations will fear your name, O LORD;
All kings on earth your praise record.
16 For God will yet appear
In glorious might to reign;
The LORD in grace will build
17 The prayers of the poor he’ll heed;
He will not spurn their cry of need.
18 Let this be written down
To teach a future race,
So people yet unborn
May magnify his grace:
19 That from his holy place above
The LORD looked down in tender love.
From heav’n he viewed the earth
Observing all mankind,
20 To hear the groans of those
In prison cells confined,
And to deliver from on high
A multitude condemned to die.
21 In Zion will be praised
The LORD’s exalted name;
His praises will be sung
22 When peoples and their kingdoms throng
To serve the LORD with cheerful song.
The Editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tune Love Unknown for this Psalm. You can hear it here.
The direct clarity of these words allows the images to speak for themselves – and deeply to us.
Verses 1-11 cry out with such anguish that we cannot but be taken to the dark-side of our human condition and to recollections of worldly and personal distress.
Jerusalem has been destroyed and the dust of her renown is mourned.
Then the groaning gives way to trust and hope with the simple word ‘but’.
It is a small word, yet very powerful. It causes a pause; a moment to stop the tumbling words of pain and to think again.
We humans face so much pain, ‘but’…
Post-Brexit Britain is deeply divided, ‘but’…
We are judged, stereotyped and separated, ‘but’.
Social media can glorify eating disorders, suicide and hate speech, ‘but’…
Some folk can sit at home all week; seeing no-one, ‘but’…
I am so busy with family, work and everything else, ‘but’…
So many creative moments and times in our daily lives, full of potential, when we need to stop, to pause, to consider another truth; to change the narrative – ‘but… you, O Lord, are set forever on your throne’.
In these ‘but’ moments, receive the truth sent down the years
God hears us
God does not want groaning and wrath for us or for any.
God delivers us.
God loves us.
‘Let this be written down to teach a future race, so people yet unborn may magnify his grace: that from his holy place above the Lord looked down in tender love.’
God, the depth of my being,
you cause me to pause and you fill those moments with such possibility;
to take a breath from anguished words,
to stop and see
the flame of hope in the dark,
to see your truth written through succeeding years;
you are with me in tender love.
May I know this in the here and now.
May I share this through your Spirit.
The Rev’d Martin Knight, Minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon
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