PSALM 144

A Psalm for a Ruler

Samuel Lampert, Rosalie Tepper, Kimberly Wachs

 

Text

Explication

Response

Re-Texting

TEXT
Blessed is the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for battle,
my fingers for warfare;
my faithful one, my fortress,
my haven and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take shelter,
who makes peoples subject to me.
O Lord, what is man that You should care about him,
mortal man, that You should think of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.
O Lord, bend Your sky and come down;
touch the mountains and they will smoke.
Make lightning flash and scatter them;
shoot Your arrows and rout them.
Reach Your hand down from on high;
rescue me, save me from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose oaths are false.
O God, I will sing You a new song,
sing a hymn to You with a ten-stringed harp,
to You who give victory to kings,
who rescue His servant David from the deadly sword.
Rescue me, save me from the hands of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose oaths are false.
For our sons are like saplings,
well-tended in their youth;
our daughters are like cornerstones
trimmed to give shape to a palace.
Our storehouses are full,
supplying produce of all kinds;
our flocks number thousands,
even myriads, in our fields;
our cattle are well cared for.
There is no breaching and no sortie,
and no wailing in our streets.
Happy the people who have it so;
happy the people whose God is the Lord.
 
EXPLICATION
Kimberly Wachs

Context: A self-confident king is preparing to be invaded by foreigners.

 Blessed is the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle This introduces the speaker as someone preparing for battle. In this voice he is praising God speaking of Him in the third person. The Lord is called a rock because He is steady and unfaltering. God prepares the speaker for battle and gives him power.

 my fingers for warfare; Fingers represent agility, which will also be useful in battle.

my faithful one, my fortress, my haven and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take shelter, God is represented with images of protection and stability.

who makes peoples subject to me. We see here that the speaker is a ruler, probably a king.

O Lord, what is man that You should care about him, mortal man, that You should think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. In this voice the psalmist is addressing God in the second person and reflecting on the nature of man. Both a breath and a shadow grow and then vanish; each is only present for a short time.

O Lord, bend Your sky and come down; touch the mountains and they will smoke. Make lightning flash and scatter them; shoot Your arrows and rout them. In this section the speaker is still speaking to God, asking Him to help him defeat his enemies. He evokes images of destructive forces of nature.

Reach Your hand down from on high; rescue me, save me from the mighty waters, from the hands of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies, and whose oaths are false. The speaker feels he has been deceived by foreigners. The broadness of the request to be saved "from the hands of foreigners" suggests that he might fear all foreigners. The passage could be used as a foundation for xenophobia.

O God, I will sing You a new song, sing a hymn to You with a ten-stringed harp, to You who give victory to kings, who rescue His servant David from the deadly sword. Here the psalmist is bargaining with God, promising to praise Him in return for a victory.

Rescue me, save me from the hands of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies, and whose oaths are false. The repetition of this line indicates its importance to the speaker. Repeating the sins of his enemies could be a reassurance, either to himself or the reader, that the punishment he desires fits the crime.

For our sons are like saplings, well-tended in their youth; our daughters are like cornerstones trimmed to give shape to a palace. In this voice the psalmist is speaking in the first person plural, reflecting on the state of his territory. The children are healthy and well behaved.

Our storehouses are full, supplying produce of all kinds; our flocks number thousands, even myriads, in our fields; our cattle are well cared for. Their resources are plentiful.

There is no breaching and no sortie, and no wailing in our streets. The land is peaceful. No one is rebelling or openly suffering. These statements indicate that the ruler has successfully kept his dominion free of social problems. He has demonstrated that he is worthy of God's help.

Happy the people who have it so; happy the people whose God is the Lord. In the final voice the people are happy because they have both a good ruler and faith in the Lord.
 
 
RESPONSE
Rosalie Tepper
 
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A psalm for the Japanese emperor during the Meiji period, 1868 &endash; 1912
Note: Kami are the spirits worshipped in Shinto practice.
 
Blessed is the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for battle,
my fingers for warfare;
The kami help us in battle. We must continue to worship them, and make offerings to the kami of war.
  
my faithful one, my fortress,
my haven and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take shelter,
who makes peoples subject to me.
I am your emperor; my rule is by divine right. I am a descendant of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess.
 
O Lord, what is man that You should care about him,
mortal man, that You should think of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.
We are each a part of the world around us. We must remember the importance of respecting and revering our surroundings, for kami are everywhere.
 
O Lord, bend Your sky and come down;
touch the mountains and they will smoke.
Make lightning flash and scatter them;
shoot Your arrows and rout them.
In nature we see the presence of the kami. We are reminded that they will help us if we worship them adequately.
 
Reach Your hand down from on high;
rescue me, save me from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose oaths are false.
Do not be fooled by those who do not recognize my divine power. Do not listen to those who speak of Buddhism, Confucianism, or Christianity. Those practices are foreign to Japan, and therefore inferior.
 
O God, I will sing You a new song,
sing a hymn to You with a ten-stringed harp,
to You who give victory to kings,
who rescue His servant David from the deadly sword.
The kami have already helped us greatly in recent years. The oppressive Tokugawa regime, which used Buddhist temples for government functions, went bankrupt. It disintegrated, and power was rightfully restored to me, your emperor.
 
Rescue me, save me from the hands of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose oaths are false.
The Buddhists will try to tell you that the kami are subordinate to their Buddha. Buddhist practices have been mixed with our own Shinto worship for too long. The time has come to purify our religion by abolishing all traces of Buddhism.
 
For our sons are like saplings,
well-tended in their youth;
our daughters are like cornerstones
trimmed to give shape to a palace.
Our children demonstrate the proper respect for elders, and, following our example, will grow up to value Shinto ways.
 
Our storehouses are full,
supplying produce of all kinds;
our flocks number thousands,
even myriads, in our fields;
our cattle are well cared for.
Japan does not need help from foreigners. We build shrines for kami, and in return for worshipping them they help us to provide for ourselves.
 
There is no breaching and no sortie,
and no wailing in our streets.
Happy the people who have it so;
happy the people whose God is the Lord.
With my leadership and help from the kami we will prosper and fulfill our divine obligation to control Asia.
 
TEXTING AND RE-TEXTING
Samuel Lampert
 
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TEXTING

Blessed is the Lord, my rock,

who trains my hands for battle,
my fingers for warfare;
my faithful one, my fortress,
my haven and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take shelter,
who makes peoples subject to me.
O Lord, what is man that You should care about him,
mortal man, that You should think of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.
O Lord, bend Your sky and come down;
touch the mountains and they will smoke.
Make lightning flash and scatter them;
shoot Your arrows and rout them.
Reach Your hand down from on high;
rescue me, save me from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose oaths are false.
O God, I will sing You a new song,
sing a hymn to You with a ten-stringed harp,
to You who give victory to kings,
who rescue His servant David from the deadly sword.
Rescue me, save me from the hands of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose oaths are false.
For our sons are like saplings,
well-tended in their youth;
our daughters are like cornerstones
trimmed to give shape to a palace.
Our storehouses are full,
supplying produce of all kinds;
our flocks number thousands,
even myriads, in our fields;
our cattle are well cared for.
There is no breaching and no sortie,
and no wailing in our streets.
Happy the people who have it so;happy the people whose God is the Lord.
 

RE-TEXTING

Blessed is the PARENT, my support

who prepares my heart for disappointment,
my soul for challenges;
my dependable one, my refuge,
my home and my beginning,
my shield in whom I take shelter,
who lays the world before me.
O PARENT, what is your child that You should care about him,
transient child, that you should think of him?
Children are like breaths;
their days are like a passing shadows.
O PARENT, bend Your back and come down,
tuck your child into bed and he will be warm.
Leave on lights and scatter the monsters;
shoot Your arrows and rout them.
Reach Your hand down from Your place;
rescue me, save me from the rising waters,
from the hands of strangers
who discuss the incomprehensible,
and who mislead me.
 
 
 
 

 

 
For our sons will be like saplings,
well-tended in their youth,
our daughters will be like cornerstones
trimmed to give shape to a palace.
I will fully prepare,
working to provide in all ways,
contributing significantly,
even greatly, in our world,
my product will be of highest quality.
There will be no conflict and no desertion
and no wailing in my home.
Happy the people who have it so;happy the people whose mother and father are their PARENTS.

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