1 O hear my prayer, LORD; My cry for mercy heed. In truth and righteousness Draw near to meet my need. 2 And do not judge me in your sight For in your presence none is right.
3 The foe has hounded me And crushed me to the ground, In darkness made me dwell, Like those in death long bound. 4 And so my spirit is afraid; My heart within me is dismayed.
5 Therefore I call to mind The days and years long gone; I ponder all your works And what your hands have done. 6 To you in prayer I spread my hands; For you I thirst, like arid lands.
7 My spirit fails, O LORD; Come quickly to my side. Hide not your face from me, Lest to the pit I slide. 8 Let morning bring your love anew, For I have put my trust in you.
To you I lift my soul; Show me the way to go. 9 I hide myself in you; LORD, save me from my foe. 10 My God, teach me to do your will; May your good Spirit lead me still.
11 For your great mercy’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life; And in your righteousness Deliver me from strife. 12 In love, put all my foes to shame; Destroy them, for I bear your name.
The editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tune Love Unknown for this Psalm which you can hear here.
Even in this Easter season it is possible to feel devitalised, drained, and overwhelmed by the seeming victory of wrongdoing in the world. In other words, one week later, it is possible to live more in Good Friday than in the hope and joy of Easter Day.
The singer here reflects on a cut throat society in which (s)he feels persecuted. So strong is the sense of psychological shock and humiliation that (s)he compares it to being close to death. Through the agency of Amnesty International today, one hears of situations in which even the judiciary cannot be relied on to administer justice. To whom then can a prisoner of conscience turn?
The response of the Psalmist is, with trepidation, to address his/her situation to the God who is defined by covenant grace. I remember God’s saving acts. I ponder the signs of God’s grace in the past and present. It emboldens me to cry out to God on behalf of myself, my family, my society, my suffering earth for relief.
My appeal cannot be based on anything other than that the judge of all the earth will act justly. Under pressure of circumstances, I take refuge in the possibilities that God will bring to light, unpredictable mercies.
In the blindness of my fear, I often want destruction. I want an end to the humiliation of the vulnerable, but more than that I want the perpetrators to suffer. That part of the singer’s prayer will not be answered. What they do to me, they do to you. So even though I am helpless, you are not, vindicate yourself.
Yet the prayer for vengeance rebounds with redeeming love, as we celebrated last week. God’s truest nature absorbs hatred and violence. We cannot linger forever on Good Friday feelings, we are called to exercise hope in God’s justice. New life flows, even in the bitterest of situations. Halleljuah!
You know our hearts, You understand our powerlessness, In the face of injustice, Our desire for retribution Is familiar to you.
Hear our cries for those in extreme situations, Grant us hope to trust in your strange victory, In the name of Jesus, Amen
The Rev’d Richard Church member of Streatham URC, Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship)
Sing Psalms! The Psalmody and Worship Committee of the Free Church of Scotland