This psalm has three distinct sections. The first section contains an acknowledgement of the protection God has provided in the past, “In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to thy name for ever.” (RSV) The second section consists of a complaint about the current conditions, “But now you have rejected and humbled us”. (NIV) The third section is an appeal to God for deliverance, “Deliver us for the sake of thy steadfast love!” (RSV)
What stood out for me in this psalm was the pronouncements at the beginning of the psalm about the source of the psalmist knowledge of God’s care, “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us.” (RSV) The first question that came to my mind was, “Have I been faithful in sharing the stories of how God has provided for me?”
This psalm speaks about the disfavor of God giving way to the mercy of God. It also contains one of the most beautiful promises in the Bible, “His anger last a moment; his favor last for life! Weeping may go all night, but in the morning there is joy.” (LB)
In light of the economic downturn of the past two years, verses 6 and 7 really caught my eye, “As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed.” (NRSV) I thought this was a fairly good description of how many of us have felt with the changes we have seen in the last couple of years. The question for us is when things finally turn around will we be like the psalmist proclaiming to the world “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” NRSV)
This is the first of the fifteen Songs of Ascent in the Psalter. In it we hear one of the children of God bemoaning their sojourn in a foreign land, a land of “those who hate peace.” The people of this foreign land are characterized as being deceitful. The correlation between “lying lips” and a “deceitful tongue” with “a warrior’s sharp arrows” and “glowing coals from a broom tree” speaks to the psalmist understanding of the destructiveness of this foreign society’s way of being. The call, “Deliver me, O Lord,” from the second verse is in many ways the psalmist saying, “Take me home”.
Do we as Christians see ourselves as sojourners in a foreign land? Are we truly uncomfortable with the assumptions of our modern society? Can we sing with the psalmist, “Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace”? (NRSV)