1 O thank the LORD, for he is good; His steadfast love endures always. 2 Now let the house of Israel say, “His love will last through endless days.”
3 And let the house of Aaron say, “His love for ever will endure.” 4 Let those who fear the LORD declare, “His love will stand for ever sure.”
5 I cried in anguish to the LORD; He answered me and set me free. 6 The LORD is with me; I’ll not fear. What harm can people do to me?
7 The LORD is with me constantly; He is the one who gives me aid. I’ll look in triumph on my foes; I will not need to be afraid.
8 It’s better far to trust the LORD Than look for help to man’s defence. 9 It’s better far to trust the LORD Than in a prince have confidence.
10 The nations all surrounded me; In God’s great name I made them fall. 11 They hemmed me in on every side; In God’s great name I slew them all.
12 They chased me like a swarm of bees; But like a heap of thorns aflame They very quickly met their end. I slew them in the LORD’s great name.
13 I was pushed back and nearly fell; The LORD himself gave help to me. 14 He is my song and source of strength; The LORD gave me the victory.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing Psalm to the tune Crasselius (from v 25) here
The verses are clearly a call to celebration; the speaker calls on the congregation to join him in thanking God and goes on to relate the occasions that leads him to worship God. Having been surrounded by enemies, God helped him in destroying them. The Psalm is a procession song to the sanctuary, where the individual leads in expressing gratitude on behalf of himself, and then the whole congregation.
The Psalmist goes on to describe the anguish that he had been facing; caught up in a war, his nation overrun, and his land invaded. All seemed hopeless, but, somehow, God delivered and gave him victory. Problems swarmed him like bees, but God saved him. He was pushed back, but the Lord helped him. God does the same for us too, when we are anguished, attacked, pushed back, swarmed, invaded, and hopeless.
Like the Psalmist, when I look back over the (many) years of my life, like you, I can clearly see God’s intervention at times of great need. I remember when I was desperately unhappy at work and could not see a way forward. A, supposedly, coincidental meeting with a URC minister, who told me that there was a vacancy at the Eastern Synod office, changed my life. If she is reading this, she will recognise herself! Know that I am truly thankful.
This Psalm also forms part of the ‘Hallel’, which is a Jewish prayer – a verbatim recitation from Psalms 113–118 recited by observant Jews on Jewish holidays as an act of praise and thanksgiving. It is still sung traditionally during Passover in celebration of the Exodus. We sometimes forget that Jesus was a practicing Jew who would have known the Psalms very well. He may well have recited the complete Hallel with his disciples, at his last Passover celebration. Think of that!
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the things that link us: for shared worship, fellowship in prayer, opportunities to read and study the Bible together, the forging of bonds and friendship, ways to express together a caring, loving spirit in our congregation,
our home and community that all can see who we owe our allegiance to and whom we serve. Accept our love and thanks, in the Saviour’s name.
Ann Barton, member and a lay leader at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod
Sing Psalms (C) The Psalmody Committee, the Free Church of Scotland