Deliver me, O God, I pray Thee, From ruthless foes who seek to slay me; Protect me, rescue me again, And save me from bloodthirsty men. They lie in wait and will not spare me; Fierce men are plotting to ensnare me. For no trespass of mine, or fault, They run to plan their dark assault.
Arouse Thyself and come to save me, LORD God of hosts, lest they enslave me, For Thou art God of Israel, Our stronghold and our citadel. Awake to punish all the nations That taunt Thee with their provocations; Spare none of those who treacherously Plot evil and iniquity.
Like packs of savage dogs that howling Through all the city’s streets are prowling, My enemies each night return, And for my life they lust and yearn. Lo, there they are, their mouths are growling, Their lips shriek hate, their mien is scowling, For, “Who,” they think, “will hear and stay Our hands stretched out to seize our prey?”
The Biblical version of this Psalm attributes it to David. That being the case, the variation between the verses of the Psalter version would confirm David as the Psalmist. There appears to be an underlying theme of aggression in this Psalm. In the opening stanza of the Psalter version it suggests that the victim is the Psalmist himself. What is not stated is who the aggressor(s) might be, but clearly the victim is terrified by the prospect of meeting the aggressor. He considers the possibility of even being ambushed by this foe that he does not identify. When fearful, our minds can imagine all sorts of fantasies that may be far from reality.
In the second stanza the victim pleads with God to save him, or does he? Yes he pleads to God for salvation, but the theme changes to one where the victim is not so much an individual, but a nation – Israel, with David as King David. Surrounded by aggressive nations, each seeking the best land for their largely agricultural residents. A plea is made to God, not so much for guidance but rather for there to be some kind divine intervention much like the conflict between Elijah and the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18 vv 16-33)
In the third stanza, the focus returns to the individual who speculates on what might be the thoughts of the aggressor. What is not taken into account is the power of God in this situation. Clearly the aggressor does not share David’s beliefs in the power of God, much to his cost. Does our relationship with God reflect that of David or his opponents?
At times, O Lord, we find ourselves in situations in which our self confidence is at its lowest ebb. Like David, there are moments when we become fearful because the future seems uncertain. Guide us in our daily experiences so that our faith in You might be restored, as we remember the magnitude of your love for humankind and all the creatures You have created. Thank you for your love. Amen.
The Rev’d Colin Hunt, retired minister, worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex