1 Save me, O LORD, from evil men; From vi’lent men protect my way, 2 For evil schemes are in their hearts, And war they stir up every day. 3 Like snakes, their tongues have sharpened tips With vipers’ poison on their lips.
4 Keep me, O LORD, from wicked hands; From men of vi’lence set me free, For they conspire to trip my feet. 5 The proud have hidden snares for me; They spread the meshes of their net, And on my pathway traps are set.
6 O LORD, I say, “You are my God.” LORD, listen to my cry for aid. 7 O Sovereign LORD, my Saviour strong, In battle you protect my head. 8 Refuse the wicked their desire; To shame them, make their plots misfire.
9 O LORD, let those who hem me in Be overwhelmed by their own lies. 10 May they be thrown into the fire Or miry pit, and never rise. 11 May liars find no place to stay, The violent be swept away.
12 I know it is the LORD alone Whose judgment vindicates the poor; It is the LORD who will uphold And make the needy’s cause secure. 13 To you the righteous praise will give; The upright in your sight will live.
The Editors of Sing Psalms suggest either the tune Leicester which you can hear here or the tune Ryburn which you can hear here.
This is a Psalm for a time of disorientation.
The Psalmist is lamenting. He has been viciously stung by venomous slander. He cries out to God to save him from the evil, violent folk who have campaigned against him with such malice, and who seek with callous determination to entrap him in situations of torment and harassment. And then he states in faith: “You are my God”. And as he does so, the Psalmist remembers the ties of devotion that bind him to God, and turns in confidence to the divine warrior, his proven ally. His enemies are presumed to be God’s enemies as well. He urges God to annul their plots and give the lying schemers their just deserts.
The language is strong. Imprecations such as here in verses 10 and 11, are often seen as an embarrassment to the Church and omitted from our lectionaries. Surely we are called to love our enemies, not to curse them! But is there not still a place for these verses in our scheme of things? After all, we too have to face up to fake news, abuse and calculated malice, both personal and public. We are indeed called to love our enemies but this calling must be exercised in the context of the claims of justice – if there is injustice, that must be made right.
The Psalm ends on a note of confident affirmation God alone vindicates the poor and needy. God liberates those who lack security and comfort; God saves them even when there is no immediate outward sign of this happening. And so, this Psalm shifts the way things are. The opening list of complaints ends in the conviction that God will listen to the Psalmist and change his circumstances and those of his world for the better.
God of all truth, in the circumstances of my life today, give me greater constancy in my love of you and of my neighbour. May I be patient in hope through Jesus Christ who for the joy that was set before him endured the Cross, despising the shame and is now seated at your right hand in glory. Amen
The Rev’d Fleur Houston, retired minister, member of Macclesfield and Bollington URC.