The Word Made Fresh
1Praise to the LORD, my rock,
who readies me to do battle and prepares me for war.
2The LORD, who stands beside me and guards me,
is my fortress, my savior, and my protector in whom I am safe,
and the people under me are subdued.
3LORD, what are we mortals that you have any regard for us?
What are we that you are thoughtful of us?
4People are no more than a breath,
their days pass like a shadow.
5Bend down from your abode, LORD, and come to us;
make the mountains smoke with your presence.
6Make lightning flash and scatter the enemy;
send them running with the flight of your arrows.
7Stretch out your arm from your high throne
and rescue me from the flood of foreign foes.
8For their mouths are full of lies,
and when they reach out their hands they cannot be trusted.
9I will sing to you a new song, God.
I will play the ten-stringed harp for you.
10For you are the one who grants victory to kings
and you have rescued David, your servant.
11Protect me from the swords in the hands of foreigners
who speak lies and whose words cannot be trusted.
12Give your blessing to our sons, that they may grow strong,
and to our daughters, that they may uphold our homes.
13May our barns be filled with every kind of crop,
and may our flocks be increased a thousand-fold in our fields.
14May our cattle bear heavy burdens,
and may our walls stand unharmed
with no cries of distress heard in our streets.
15The people who receive such blessings will rejoice.
Let the people rejoice, whose God is the LORD!
Superscription: the 71st of the “psalms of David.”
1-2: Right away we see that this is the prayer of a commander of armies, perhaps a king (supposedly David) who is preparing for battle.
3-4: These verses seem to apologize to God for our being human. Verse 3 echoes Psalm 8:4 and verse 4 expresses a common theme (see, for example, Psalm 39:5, 11).
5-8: The enemy is denigrated as a pack of liars and cheats, and God is summoned to come and fight on behalf of David.
9-11: In response the king will “sing a new song” and play the harp in praise and thanksgiving. Again, the enemy is described in disparaging terms.
12-15: These verses would certainly be encouraging to the people of Jerusalem who have returned from exile in Babylon and have been hard at work rebuilding the city. The hope expressed in verse 14 in particular fits this time frame. Perhaps these verses were added later – Book 5 of the Psalms seems designed to provide a theological foundation for the people of post-exilic Jerusalem.
We may grow weary of the militant expressions in so many of the psalms, but we, too, are often under attack from those who have little or no interest in our well-being. Politics comes to mind, of course, especially in election years when candidates are quick to promise easy fixes for all our troubles. There are always salespeople who are more interested in our money than in our needs. And, of course, there are those who will engage in activities that are damaging to our environment, our neighborhood, our health. Lift them up in prayer, and put them in God’s hands.