PSALM 71

James Grady, Rachel Greenberger, and Nai Karimimanesh

 

 

Text

Explication

Where is the Light in Darkness?

Moses' Psalm of Awe: The Doubled Plagues

TEXT

The entire psalm may be interpreted as being in the voice of prayer. However, the lines set against the margin represent direct prayer to God, in the form of supplication, outcry, recalling to God his past deeds, etc., while the indented lines represent the psalmist's "bargaining" with God for His return and for the return of the psalmist's strong faith.

1I seek refuge in You, O Lord;
may I never be disappointed.
2As You are beneficent, save me and rescue me;
incline Your ear to me and deliver me.
3Be a sheltering rock for me to which I may always repair;
decree my deliverance,
for You are my rock and my fortress.
4My God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked,
From the grasp of the unjust and the lawless.
5For You are my hope,
O Lord God.
my trust from my youth.
6While yet unborn, I depended on You;
in the womb of my mother, You were my support;
I sing Your praises always.
7I have become an example for many,
since You are my mighty refuge.
8My Mouth is full of praise to You,
glorifying You all day long.
9Do not cast me off in old age;
when my strength fails, do not forsake me!
10For my enemies talk against me;
those who wait for me are of one mind,
11saying, "God has forsaken him;
chase him and catch him,
for no one will save him!"
12O God, be not far from me;
my God, hasten to my aid!
13Let my accusers perish in frustration;
Let those who seek my ruin be clothed in reproach and disgrace!
 
14As for me, I will hope always,
and add to the many praises of You.
15My mouth tells of Your beneficence,
of Your deliverance all day long,
though I know not how to tell it.
16I come with praise of Your mighty acts, O Lord God;
I celebrate Your beneficence, Yours alone.
17You have let me experience it, God, from my youth;
until now I have proclaimed your wondrous deeds,
18 and even in hoary old age do not forsake me, God,
until I proclaim Your strength to the next generation,
19 Your mighty acts, to all who are to come,
your beneficence, high as the heavens, O God,
you who have done great things;
O God, who is Your peer!
20You who have made me undergo many troubles and
misfortunes
will revive me again,
and raise me up from the depths of the earth.
21You will grant me much greatness,
You will turn and comfort me.
22Then I will acclaim You to the music of the lyre
for Your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing a hymn to You with a harp,
O Holy One of Israel.
23My lips shall be jubilant, as I sing a hymn to You,
my whole being, which You have redeemed.
24All day long my tongue shall recite Your beneficent acts,
how those who sought my ruin were frustrated and
disgraced.
EXPLICATION

 Context: A leader, a man known for his great faith, is beginning to doubt himself and that faith

71:1-4 I seek refuge in You, O Lord... rescue me from the hand of the wicked, From the grasp of the unjust and the lawless-- These verses describe the psalmist's steadfast belief in God and God's power to deliver him from evil which is currently manifesting itself in his life. This is a prayer, in which the psalmist recognizes God's sovereignty and beseeches God's protection, invoking metaphors such as "rock" and "fortress." The psalmist addresses God directly throughout the entire psalm.

71:5-9 For You are my hope, O Lord God...Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me!-- In this section the psalmist reflects upon his life from before birth to his more advanced years. He continues to praise and proclaim God's presence in his life; yet, he is unsure that God is still present. Despite his fear that in old age his faith is no longer as strong as that of his youth, he wishes to have his faith renewed.

71:10-13 For my enemies talk against me...let those who seek my ruin be clothed in reproach and disgrace!-- The psalmist gives an account of the current state of affairs in these verses. The psalmist feels that God may have left his side and that because of his weakened faith he is vulnerable to his enemies. The psalmist fears that his enemies' condemnation will materialize. Here an outcry is made to God to return to him and free him from the fear of his enemies. He is also pleading for God to bring justice upon those who wish him harm.

71:14-16 As for me, I will hope always, and add to the many praises of You...I celebrate Your beneficence, Yours alone. -- The psalmist begins this section by making a distinction between his actions and those of his enemies. The psalmist is expressing his belief in God while trying to convince himself that his belief has remained in this time of need. This is displayed by his inability to express his faith, despite continuing to practice it.

71:17-21 You have let me experience it, God, from my youth; and even in hoary old age do not forsake me, God...You will grant me much greatness, You will turn and comfort me.-- This is an affirmation of God's power, as the psalmist has witnessed it in his own personal past. The psalmist is at his limit, trying to keep faith, praying for God not to leave him as he advances in age. The psalmist acknowledges that God has placed obstacles in his path before and recalls that God was there to help him get through those very obstacles. He is depending on God to help him once again, and with the use of the word "will" he requires God's assistance.

71:22-24 Then I will acclaim You to the music of the lyre for Your faithfulness, O my God...how those who sought my ruin were frustrated and disgraced. -- In the wake of the petitioning that occurs in verses 17-21, in verses 22-24 the psalmist states what he will do when the requests he has made of God are granted. It is after God helps him through this trying time that he will praise God as he once did, but with a dedication similar to that of his youth. Once God in effect proves Himself to the psalmist, the psalmist will then praise Him for the redemption he has granted. He will be vindicated by God in the face of his enemies.

WHERE IS THE LIGHT IN DARKNESS?

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James Grady

 This response is set in Soviet-era Russia. The man who prays this prayer is a terrorist, a freedom-fighter, who has spent his life battling the communist regime. A man of the greatest faith in his youth, he now finds himself alone and in the dark, lacking the faith of his youth and waiting for his inevitable arrest to come.

I seek refuge in You, O Lord; may I never be disappointed. Every night, I lie awake in bed, watching the ceiling, waiting for the men to come and take me away in the night. They always come at night. When I was young, I had resounding faith, a faith that helped me sleep through the night. Where has it gone? I must resist! I must call it back! Lord, I seek, but the path is dark now. So rarely do I find You!

 As You are beneficent, save me and rescue me; incline Your ear to me and deliver me. Your goodness, Your light, abundant as the stars in heaven, was once as self-evident as anything I have ever seen. My faith has been replaced by an emptiness. Lord, save me, rescue me from that place! Prison I can bear! It is the long loneliness, through which I cannot pass without You, that will overwhelm me.... But here I lie, alone....

 Be a sheltering rock for me to which I may always repair; decree my deliverance, for You are my rock and my fortress. Once I went on a raid against NKVD [1] headquarters, early in the years when the Soviets came to power. I was part of a three man team. Ah, remember? I was nearly caught before I threw the bomb through the front door! A patrol was coming in from duty, just two hundred feet away. And my back was turned; I did not see them coming. "Hey You!" They cried out and I spun around drawing a revolver. But I was safe! Just as they came close enough to see me, a robber snatched an old lady's bag! In those days, I needed no one to watch my back, for I put my trust in You!

 My God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and the lawless. So many times over the years, You plucked me from disaster, raised me to the light. For You are my hope, O Lord God, my trust from my youth. In my youth, I never doubted. I risked life and limb without care. Dead or alive, You would have been with me! And still I hope that You will enliven in me that spirit again, that I might sleep through the night, come the KGB or the Lubyanka! [2]

 While yet unborn, I depended on You; in the womb of my mother, You were my support; I sing Your praises always. Even from the beginning You guarded and watched over me, and I have sung Your praises. Now they are empty and hollow, the words I offer up in Your church! It is a show! I have become an example for many, since You are my mighty refuge. Many will not forget the days of old, when You were still a mighty refuge to me. They remember me as a fearless youth who put his trust in God! They set me up as an example and my shame grows by the second, for My Mouth is full of praise to You, glorifying You all day long; many do not see the lie, but in my heart I cannot escape my crime. I profess to have that which I have lost.

 Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me! I am old now, and my faith has grown weak. I have seen better men suffer and die and I am cursed to be forever alone. Only in You could I hope, and now.... Do not cast me of for my weakness. If You were but to return....

 For my enemies talk against me; those who wait for me are of one mind, saying, "God has forsaken him; chase him and catch him, for no one will save him!" They see that You are gone from me. They see through the lie, and every day they spread their venom. I am a better tool to You as an example, inspiring the love of God in our freedom-fighters and the fear of God in the godless. O God, be not far from me; my God, hasten to my aid! Return! Again, show me Your grace! That I may believe! Let my accusers perish in frustration; Let those who seek my ruin be clothed in reproach and disgrace! Let me show them by my example that You are the Lord! Let them climb back into their little holes! But I am selfish, too. My enemies, they do not frighten me so much as being alone, being alone in the never-ending darkness of night. Waiting alone for the knock that one day must come. The knock that will call me from my bed and to the door. The knock that will tell me to pack only the essentials, to pack light. To pack for the Lubyanka....

 As for me, I will hope always, and add to the many praises of You. Even if it is all a lie, if it can inspire others, others who still believe, then I will continue the lie , My mouth tells of Your beneficence, of Your deliverance all day long. I will witness to Your ever-presence even though I know not how to tell it, for I do not remember it so well, anymore....

 I come with praise of Your mighty acts, O Lord God; I celebrate Your beneficence, Yours alone. Let others see, and take heart. Let them be brave when I am not, have faith where I am lacking!

 You have let me experience it, God, from my youth; I will not give in! Let me see it again! Until now I have proclaimed your wondrous deeds , and even in hoary old age do not forsake me, God, until I proclaim Your strength to the next generation, Your mighty acts, to all who are to come, Your beneficence, high as the heavens, O God, You who have done great things. And let me do it with a pure heart, with a believer's heart. O would that I could experience Your grandeur, as in the days of old! Preserve me, that my faith may return, that I may return from the bowels of fear, that I may shed the doubt of the aged! Surely You can do it, if only You will! O God, who is Your peer!

 You who have made me undergo many troubles and misfortunes for such is the way of men. No man may live untouched by sorrow, but I know that You will revive me again, and raise me up from the depths of the earth. Validate my years of faith by returning that Mystery, the Mystery of faith, to my bosom, so that I may wallow in it forevermore!

 Yes! You will grant me much greatness, You will turn and comfort me. For You are not gone so far that You cannot hear my cry!

 And when You do turn back to me, t hen I will acclaim You to the music of the lyre for Your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing a hymn to You with a harp, O Holy One of Israel. And it will be the voice of the faithful that sings, the hand of the faithful that strums, Your praises. I will be worthy of standing as an example. And You will have shown Yourself faithful to You covenant, Your obligation, O God my King!

 My lips shall be jubilant, as I sing a hymn to You, my whole being, which You have redeemed. I am not a hard-hearted atheist who doubts, Lord. I am the faithful one who doubts! Be kind, be gentle with me! I want to believe! Help me believe! Redeem me for my desire and vindicate my life! I beg of You! I demand that You let me believe! You shall, and I shall rejoice to my dying day in faith!

 All day long my tongue shall recite Your beneficent acts, how those who sought my ruin were frustrated and disgraced. O, the day is at hand! My soul stirs, it trembles, with hope. But hope is not enough! But soon, oh so soon! I must believe in that! Even if my faith is shrouded by darkness, even if my hope wanes, even if trust is broken, I must believe in that, that tomorrow will bring back my heart....

 KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! COMRADE! COMRADE! OPEN UP! IT'S TIME TO GO!

MOSES' PSALM OF AWE: THE DOUBLED PLAGUES

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(Co-Text beginning: Exodus, Chapter 3)

Rachel Greenberger

I seek refuge in You, O Lord; may I never be disappointed. Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. BLOOD.

As You are beneficent, save me and rescue me; incline Your ear to me and deliver me. Moses said, "I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight; why doesn't the bush burn up?" When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him out of the bush: "Moses! Moses!" He answered, "Here I am." And He said, "Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.

Be a sheltering rock for me to which I may always repair; "I am," He said, "the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. AIDS.

 

decree my deliverance, for You are my rock and my fortress. And the Lord continued, "I have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry because of their taskmasters; yes, I am mindful of their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of the land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the home of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. FROGS.

My God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked, From the grasp of the unjust and the lawless. Now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me; moreover, I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them. Come therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt. You shall have no other gods besides Me.

For You are my hope, O Lord God, my trust from my youth. But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?" And He said, "I will be with you, and it shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain." RACISM.

 

While yet unborn, I depended on You; Moses said to God, "When I come to the Israelites and say to them "The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" And God said to Moses, "Ehyeh-Ahser-Ehyeh." LICE.

in the womb of my mother, You were my support; He continued, "Thus shall you speak to the Israelites: the Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, The God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you: You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God.

I sing Your praises always. This shall be My name forever, GREED.

 

I have become an example for many, This is My appellation for all eternity WILD BEASTS.

since You are my mighty refuge. "Go and assemble the elders of Israel and say to them : The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has appeared to me and said," I have taken note of you and what is being done to you in Egypt, and I have declared: I will take you out of the misery of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.' Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy .

My Mouth is full of praise to You, glorifying You all day long. They will listen to you; then you shall go with the elders of Israel to the king of Egypt and you shall say to him, "The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, manifested Himself to us. Now therefore, let us go a distance of three days into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God.' Yet I know that the king of Egypt will let you go only because of a greater might. POVERTY.

 

Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me! So I will stretch out My hand and smite Egypt with various wondrous deeds which I will work upon them; after that he shall let you go. And I will dispose the Egyptians favorably toward this people, so when you go, you will not go away empty-handed. Each woman shall borrow from her neighbor and the lodger in her house objects of silver and gold and clothing, and you shall put these on your sons and daughters, thus stripping the Egyptians." PESTILENCE.

For my enemies talk against me; those who wait for me are of one mind, But Moses spoke up and said, "What if they do not believe me and do not listen to me, but say: The Lord did appear to you?" Honor your father and your mother.

saying, "God has forsaken him; "The Lord said to him "What is that in your hand?" And he replied, "A rod." He said, " Cast it on the ground." He cast it on the ground and it became a snake; and Moses recoiled from it. DESTRUCTION OF THE ENVIROMENT.

 

chase him and catch him, Then the Lord said to Moses, "Put out your hand and grasp it by the tail" BOILS.

for no one will save him!" He put out his hand and seized it, and it became a rod in his hand-- You shall not murder.

O God, be not far from me; my God, hasten to my aid! "that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, did appear to you." HOMELESSNESS.

 

Let my accusers perish in frustration; The Lord said to him further, "Put your hand into your bosom." He put his hand into his bosom; and when he took it out, his hand was encrusted with snowy scales! And He said, "Put your hand back into your bosom." He put his hand back into his bosom; and when he took it out of his bosom, there it was again like the rest of his body. HAIL.

Let those who seek my ruin be clothed in reproach and disgrace! "And if they do not believe you or pay heed to the first sign, they will believe the second. And if they are not convinced by both these signs and still do not heed you, take some water from the Nile and put it on the dry ground, and itthe water that you take from the Nilewill turn to blood on the dry ground." You shall not commit adultery.

As for me, I will hope always, and add to the many praises of You. But Moses said to the Lord, "Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." DOMESTIC ABUSE.

 

My mouth tells of Your beneficence, of Your deliverance all day long, though I know not how to tell it. "And the Lord said to him, "Who give man speech? Who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" Now go, and I will be with you as you speak and I will instruct you what to say." LOCUST.

I come with praise of Your mighty acts, O Lord God; I celebrate Your beneficence, Yours alone. But he said, "Please O Lord, make someone else Your agent" The Lord became angry with Moses, and He said, "There is your brother Aaron the Levite. He, I know, speaks readily. Even now he is setting out to meet you, and he will be happy to see you. You shall not steal.

You have let me experience it, God, from my youth; until now I have proclaimed your wondrous deeds, and even in hoary old age do not forsake me, God, until I proclaim Your strength to the next generation, You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouthI will be with you and with him as you speak, and tell both of you what to doand he shall speak for you to the people. Thus he shall serve as your spokesman, with you playing the role of God to him. And take with you this rod, with which you shall perform the signs." CANCER.

 

your mighty acts, to all who are to come, your beneficence, high as the heavens, O God, Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethero and said to him, "Let me go back to my kinsmen in Egypt and see how they are faring." and Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace." DARKNESS.

you who have done great things; O God, who is Your peer! The Lord said to Moses in Midian, "Go back to Egypt, for all the men who sought to kill you are dead." So Moses took his wife and sons, mounted them on an ass, and went back to the land of Egypt; and Moses took the rod of God in his hand. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You who have made me undergo many troubles and misfortunes will revive me again, and raise me up from the depths of the earth. And the Lord said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the marvels that I have put within your power. I however, will stiffen his heart so that he will not let the people go. DISCRIMINATION.

 

You will grant me much greatness, You will turn and comfort me. Then shall you say to Pharaoh, "thus says the Lord: Israel is My first-born-son. I have said to you, "Let My son go, that he may worship Me, "Yet you refuse to let him go. Now I will slay your first born son." SLAYING THE FIRST BORN.

Then I will acclaim You to the music of the lyre for Your faithfulness, O my God; At a night encampment on the way, the Lord encountered him and sought to kill him. So Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin, and touched his legs with it, saying, "You are truly a bridegroom of blood to me!" and when He let him alone, she added, "A bridegroom of blood because of the circumcision." You shall not covet you neighbor's house.

I will sing a hymn to You with a harp, O Holy One of Israel. The Lord said to Aaron, "Go to meet Moses in the wilderness." He went and met him at the mountain of God, and kissed him. Moses told Aaron about all the things that the Lord had committed to him and all the signs about which He had instructed him. HUNGER.

My lips shall be jubilant, as I sing a hymn to You, my whole being, which You have redeemed. Aaron repeated all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and he performed the signs in the sight of the people, and the people were convinced. When they heard that the Lord had taken note of the Israelites and that He had seen their plight, they bowed low in homage. AND DISRESPECT.

 

All day long my tongue shall recite Your beneficent acts, how those who sought my ruin were frustrated and disgraced. All the people witnessed the thunder and lighting, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they fell back and stood at a distance.

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[1] One of the "secret police" predecessors of the KGB.

[2] Lubyanka Prison was infamous even in Czarist days as a place to torture political prisoners for information, before sending them to exile or "prison." In the Soviet era, it grew to evil proportions, a gateway to the Gulag. At times, a hundred or more would have been packed into a "waiting cell," designed for twenty for days, as we read in Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago .

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