The Word Made Fresh
(For the leader: a hymn of the sons of Korah.)
1We have heard with our own ears, God,
what our ancestors have told us
about the things you did among them
in the days of old.
2You drove out the nations before them with a strong arm,
and settled our ancestors in freedom.
3They didn’t win the land with their own swords,
and they weren’t victorious by their own strength,
but your right hand and your strong arm
and the light that shown from your face
conquered the land and delighted them.
4You are my King and my God,
for you gave victory to Jacob.
5Because of you we subdued our enemies,
and in your name beat down those who attacked us.
6I dare not trust in my own bow –
my own sword cannot secure my safety.
7But you delivered us from our enemies
and have thrown their plans into confusion.
8We have boasted constantly in our God,
and we would give thanks to your name forever.
9But now you have turned away from us and humbled us;
you have not accompanied our armies.
10You forced us to retreat from our foes
and they have looted us.
11You have turned us into sheep to be slaughtered,
and now we are scattered among the other nations.
12You have sold your people for a pittance
without demanding a higher price for them.
13Because of you, our neighbors now make fun of us,
and we are met with scorn from every side.
14You have reduced us to no more than a proverb
and other nations shake their heads over us.
15All day long my disgrace confronts me
and my face is covered with shame.
16We are taunted and ridiculed
in the eyes of our enemies and would-be avengers.
17All this has overwhelmed us
even though we have not forgotten you
nor been false to your covenant.
18Our hearts have not turned back
and our steps have never strayed from your way,
19but you have broken us in the midst of jackals,
and we are thrown into deep darkness.
20If we had indeed forgotten our God’s name
or worshiped strange gods,
21wouldn’t you have known it?
You know the secrets of every heart.
22Instead, because of you we now must face death every day.
We are accounted as nothing more than sheep to be slaughtered.
23Arise! Why do you sleep, LORD?
Wake up! Don’t push us away forever!
24Why hide your face from us?
Why have you forgotten our suffering?
25We are sinking into the dust.
Our bodies are clinging to the ground.
26Arise! Come and help us!
For the sake of your steadfast love take us back!
Superscription: the 2nd of the 11 psalms ascribed to the Korahites, also called the sons of Korah.
1-3: The psalm begins with an acknowledgement of God’s providence in the distant past when their ancestors settled the land.
4-8: The switch from “we” to “I” in verse 6 may indicate that the psalm was to be used ritually, with the priests or the congregation speaking the “we” parts and the king or the high priest speaking the “I” part. The congregation has acknowledged that their victories over enemies have been due to God’s actions on their behalf; now the king echoes that sentiment.
9-14: We come to the reason for the liturgy: their armies have been defeated by an unnamed enemy. The logic used here is that if God is credited with their past victories, then God must also have willed their recent defeat.
15-22: Again the king speaks. Now he is defending the people, proclaiming their innocence and insisting that they have not violated their covenant with God.
23-26: Having declared their innocence, God’s response is sought: either present your reasons for not helping us or come quickly to our aid.
It is difficult to put ourselves in the place of the psalmist. The reference here is clearly to a situation in Israel’s history, perhaps when they had been utterly defeated and removed from their territory. But all of us can relate to times when things were going well for us, but suddenly unexpected circumstances – perhaps the loss of a job or the death of a loved one – threw us into momentary confusion and despair. The last verse of the psalm is a prayer God will hear in uncertain days.