The Word Made Fresh
(For the worship leader; accompanied with stringed instruments. A song of David.)
1Hear my prayer, God!
Don’t ignore my petition!
2Listen, and give me an answer,
for I am troubled and made distraught
3by the voices of enemies and the noise of the wicked.
They are the cause of my troubles,
and they love to angrily accuse me.
4My heart beats in agony within me,
and I am terrified at the threat of death.
5I live in fear and trembling,
overwhelmed with terror.
6I wish I had wings like a dove,
so that I could fly away to a safe place.
7I would flee far away
and live in the wilderness.
8There I would find a hiding place,
away from the raging storms of life.
9Confuse them, LORD, and make their words sound like nonsense,
for violence and suffering threaten the city.
10They walk around on the walls day and night,
and promote trouble and vice.
11They will bring the city to ruin through lies,
which will promote gloominess among the people.
12It isn’t my enemies who are taunting me.
That, I could handle.
It isn’t that my opponents are a problem for me.
I can handle that as well.
13Rather, it is you, my equal,
my companion and familiar friend,
14someone whose company I have enjoyed
when we walked together in God’s house with the crowds.
15I wish my enemies would die and go down to the grave,
because their homes and even their hearts are full of wickedness.
16So, I make my plea to God,
and I know the LORD will rescue me.
17I raise my prayers in the evening, and the morning, and at noon.
I lift up my complaint and groan, and God will hear me.
18God will protect me from all harm from the battles I fight,
even though I have a lot of enemies standing against me.
19God, who has ruled the earth since the dawn of time,
will hear my plea and put all of them in their place
because they never change and don’t respect God.
20My companion attacked a friend
and broke a promise to me,
21with buttery words, but a heart set on violence.
His words were soft as oil
but had the effect of drawn swords.
22Cast your burdens on the LORD. The LORD will uphold you.
God will never allow the righteous to be overwhelmed.
23You, O God, will throw them down into the deepest grave,
and those bloodthirsty cheaters will never live to old age.
But I will put my trust in you, LORD.
Superscription: the 8th “maskil,” or song: the 42nd Davidic psalm.
1-2: The psalm begins as many others do, with a general complaint that “enemies” are causing unspecified troubles.
3-8: The suffering the author is experiencing is an inner turmoil. It is said that the fear response of the amygdala (the brain’s emotional control center) is either fight, flee, or freeze. The psalmist obviously wants to flee the situation, to fly away to safety.
9-11: He returns to the danger, though, which we now learn is more widespread than first indicated, and describes a systemic problem, a cancer in the fabric of the community.
12-15: Now we are told the true nature of the problem and why it has resulted in such anguish: it is not an enemy but a close friend who has betrayed him. Still, the danger comes from “them,” not from an individual. We might guess that this friend has conspired with others to oppose him in some way.
16-19: The author expresses confidence in God, however, and is certain of God’s protection.
20-21: More details are provided: this “friend” has deceived him and conspired with others to do harm to another friend whom the author obviously believes is innocent.
22: I wonder if this verse is addressed to the friend who has been wronged, as a word of encouragement from the author who has now discovered the true nature of the situation and is determined to come to his real friend’s aid.
23: The psalm ends with the familiar statement of trust that God will see justice prevail.
The psalm presents a situation that people in leadership positions often experience, although not perhaps with the threat of violence that the psalmist worries about. When we are opposed in some endeavor that we deem important, the best recourse is to seek support and guidance from the LORD.