The Word Made Fresh
(To the worship leader: according to “Lilies.” Of David.)
1Help me, God! I am neck deep in rising waters!
2I’m sinking in the mud – there’s no place to stand.
I’m out in deep water now, and the flood is washing over me.
3I’m exhausted with struggling; my throat is raw from calling.
My eyes are straining to look for my God.
4I have more enemies who hate me than I have hairs on my head.
They have no reason to hate me, but they want to do away with
How can I give back something I haven’t taken?
5You know my predicament, God.
You know full well any wrongs I have done.
6Don’t let any of those who place their hope in you
become ashamed because of me, LORD God of multitudes.
Don’t allow anyone who searches for you
to fail because of me, O God of Israel.
7I have been discredited for your sake –
that is why I am being put to shame.
8I have become a stranger to my own family.
I am alienated from my brothers and sisters.
9But I have done everything out of my commitment to you.
The insults they have uttered against you have fallen on me.
10When I humbled myself with fasting
they insulted me.
11When I covered myself in sackcloth
they turned me into a joke.
12Those who gather at the gate gossip about me
and drunks make up songs about me.
13But for my part, my prayer is raised to you, LORD.
When the time is right answer me out of your love for me
and be faithful to help me.
14Save me from sinking in the mud.
Rescue me from my enemies and from the deep waters.
15Don’t let the flood wash over me,
or the ocean depths swallow me,
or the grave shut me in its mouth.
16Answer me, LORD. I rely on your never-failing love.
Turn to me and help me out of your abundant mercy.
17Don’t turn your face away from me –
I am your servant, and I am in distress. Answer me quickly!
18Come to me and rescue me from my enemies.
19You know how they have insulted me –
how they have shamed and dishonored me.
My enemies are well known to you.
20My heart is broken and I am in despair because of their insults.
I have searched for pity, but never find any.
I have looked for comforters, but none are to be found.
21They fed me with poison when I was hungry,
and gave me vinegar to drink when I was thirsty.
22Let their own table be a trap for them and their friends.
23Strike their eyes so they can’t see, and make their stomachs upset.
24Pour your outrage over them and let your anger overtake them.
25Do away with their organization.
Don’t let anyone join them.
26They persecute those whom you have already punished,
and come after them with still more punishment.
27Show them to be even more guilty than imagined
and don’t offer them any respite.
28Remove their names from the book of life.
Don’t allow them to be counted among the righteous.
29As for me, I have suffered in deep distress.
Save me, O God, and protect me from them.
30Then I will praise God’s name with a song.
I will raise a glad thanksgiving to God.
31Surely the LORD will be more pleased with this
than with sacrificing a bull with its horns and hoofs.
32Let all those who are oppressed see this and be joyful.
All you who search for God, feel your hearts revived.
33For the LORD hears those who are in need,
and never despises God’s people in bondage.
34Let the LORD be praised in heaven and earth,
and in the seas by all the creatures abiding there.
35God will rescue Zion and rebuild Judah’s cities.
The servants of God will live there as their possession.
36The children of God’s people will inherit it,
and those who love the name of the LORD shall reside there.
Superscription: the 54th of the 72 psalms ascribed to David. Three of the psalms are presented “according to Lilies,” and each is attributed to a different author – the 45th to the Korahites, the 69th to David, and the 80th to Asaph.
1-3: All of us have at times felt that we were “up to the neck” in trouble. The psalmist is afraid of being swept away by some threat.
4-5: The situation is complicated by the fact that there are people who are making false accusations. Apparently, one of the charges against him is stealing, and the psalmist makes the complaint that one cannot give back what one has not taken.
6-8: Furthermore, the psalmist fears that friends and relatives will share in the punishment.
9-12: Apparently the author of the psalm is being targeted precisely because he makes a conscious and public effort to be faithful; he is perhaps perceived as being “holier than thou.”
13-15: His plea for help echoes the metaphors used in the opening verses – the deep waters, the mire, the flood.
16-18: The character of God is contrasted with the character of the accusers.
19-21: The complaint resumes: he has been insulted and dishonored. “Poison” and “vinegar” are not to be taken literally, but figuratively.
22-29: The psalmist begs God to let opponents experience what they have inflicted on others.
30-36: Suddenly the psalm erupts in spontaneous praise. This is a common characteristic of psalms that plea for healing or rescue. Praise is offered even before the prayer is answered, and God is thanked in advance. That’s called “faith.”
This psalm reminds me of the hymn by Charles Albert Tindley (and recorded in the 1960’s by Elvis Presley), “When the Storms of Life Are Raging.” Tindley wrote, “When the world is tossing me like a ship out on the sea, thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.” We may never find ourselves in the kind of dire situation the psalm describes, but all of us are sometimes beset by threatening situations. Psalm 69 tells us to pray rather than retaliate.