The Word Made Fresh
(For the worship leader. To the tune of “A Son’s Death”. A psalm of David.)
1I will give whole-hearted thanks and gratitude to God:
I will tell of the wonderful things you have done.
2I will rejoice and take delight in you.
I will sing your praises, for you are God Most High.
3When my enemies fled in retreat,
It was because they had lost the battle in your presence.
4You have been with me and for me all along.
From your throne you have judged with righteousness.
5You have chastised the other nations and defeated their wickedness.
You have permanently erased their name.
6Our enemies have disappeared, utterly defeated.
Their cities are destroyed; even the memory of them has perished.
7The LORD rules forever and sits in judgment.
8The LORD is righteous and judges all the nations.
All the people are judged fairly.
9The LORD is a fortress for the oppressed in times of trouble.
10All who know you, LORD, can trust you,
because you have not turned away from any who search for you.
11So, praise the LORD whose dwelling is in Zion!
Declare the LORD’s works to everyone!
12The LORD knows us all and is our avenger of blood.
God never forgets the cry for help from those in need.
13Protect me, LORD; protect me from those who hate me.
Lift me up and save me from death’s door,
14And I will praise you again and again,
and at Zion’s gates I will exult in your deliverance.
15These other nations have sunk in their own pits.
Their feet are held fast in their hidden traps.
16The LORD has appeared and has judged them.
The wicked are caught in their own snares.
17All the nations that forgot God
are on their way to the grave.
18Those who are in need will not be forgotten.
The hope of the poor will not perish forever.
19Rise up, LORD! Don’t let mere humans take over!
Instead, you be the judge of the nations.
20Put your fear in them, LORD,
and let the nations know that they are, after all, only human.
Superscription: the 7th “Psalm of David.” “Muth-labben” is a curious term which seems to refer to the death of someone, perhaps “death of the son,” or “death of the fool.” The latter seems more likely given the content of the psalm. Another possibility is that the term is an instruction about the way the psalm is to be sung or who is to sing it or what instruments are to accompany it. The problem is complicated by the fact that the term appears nowhere else in the Bible.
1-2: The psalm begins with exuberant praise, hinting that some momentous and happy event has taken place.
3-4: It is often difficult to discern what is meant by “enemies” in the psalms. In any case, whether the reference here is to an actual battle or another kind of dispute, the psalmist has been delivered from some difficulty brought about by those who wish to do him harm.
5-6: Here, however, it seems that the difficulty has had to do with a clash of nations, and the psalmist is rejoicing that the enemy has been utterly defeated.
7-10: God is pictured as the righteous judge who protects the innocent and grants favor to those who bring God their petitions.
11-12: God is acclaimed and praised as the victorious avenger of the oppressed.
13-14: Now the psalm turns to a personal plea for help; in return the psalmist will publicly acknowledge God as the deliverer.
15-17: In the mind of the psalmist, justice consists in the wicked being caught in their own trap. This is a common view that we will find expressed often in the Psalms. The words “higgaion” and “selah” at the end of verse 16 are thought to be directions for the use of the psalm in worship – perhaps a pause or a musical interlude of some sort. They are omitted in many contemporary translations.
18-20: God is the champion of the poor and needy. This is an important element in Israel’s faith, hearkening back to their rescue from slavery in Egypt. The psalm ends with a striking phrase that occurs nowhere else in the Bible: “they are, after all, only human.” The psalmist is denying the existence of the gods of the pagan nations with which Israel often quarreled.
The peoples and nations of the Middle East seem to have always been in tension with one another. Even today that part of the world is filled with strife between nations and faith groups and peoples. In the time of the Old Testament that tension was constantly erupting in war and other means of power exertion. This psalm expresses the never lost conviction that somehow God will protect God’s people.