First, many thanks to our women who provided such beautiful singing and leadership in Psalm 30 on 10 April. A confident and inspiring crafting of words and flow of music liberate listeners to follow and respond to the narrative and spirit of the song.
Next Sunday, that old favourite the Shepherd Psalm — El Señor es mi Pastor. Iris reads the Spanish (lovely sound) while a men’s group sing the English. That afternoon, another old favourite (without psalms), Shakespeare>
Seen and not heard
Psalm 7 is the next in the series of ‘skips‘. At first glance, it’s another plea for justice and deliverance from attackers. But you can’t help wondering at the back-story. The heading goes like this:
שִׁגָּיוֹן, לְדָוִד: אֲשֶׁר-שָׁר לַיהוָה–עַל-דִּבְרֵי-כוּשׁ, בֶּן-יְמִינִי.
You probably won’t be any wiser when the translation is provided:
Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, concerning Cush a Benjamite.
Modern psalm song books throw little light on what a ‘shiggaion’ is, or who Cush was. So what was going on? Was it someone attacking the tribe of Benjamin and therefore the king took it on as a national threat? Or was this a song rolling out after a few beers with his beleaguered mate Cush? [I’m not completely making this up; see one definition here>.]
Dipping back into commentary by St Augustine (354-430 CE) we hear:
Now the story which gave occasion to this prophecy may be easily recognised [!] in the second book of Kings (2 Samuel 15:32-37). For there Chusi, the friend of king David, went over to the side of Absalom, his son, who was carrying on war against his father, for the purpose of discovering and reporting the designs which he was taking against his father …
Dark dealings and spies! At this stage, however, the precise circumstances do not really matter. Or, as Augustine says:
But since it is not the story itself which is to be the subject of consideration in this Psalm …
Instead, we look for some points of resonance with the modern world in which we live. Let us note briefly that they are there, including (and you will find your own) feelings of:
- sorrow at our own failings (vv. 3-5)
- hope that divine love provides a refuge and relief (vv. 1 and 17); and
- much-needed justice (vv. 6-11).
As a ‘skip’, this psalm does not appear in the RCL and therefore is hardly mentioned in some modern psalters. I could not help noticing early settings by Gabrieli (SSAATBB), Hassler (SATB); and then a trio by Lassus which might be singable by a few dedicated hands if the occasion arises.