This psalm is a cry of joy for divine guidance and deliverance.
Come and hear, you who fear our maker, as I tell how God rescued my soul. I cried to God and was answered; God’s praise is ever on my lips (vv. 8, 9)
The psalmist feels that he has been pulled through the briar bush backwards, expressing that experience somewhat more elegantly as being ‘tried as silver is tried’, rescued, refined. In another image we have encountered previously, he feels downtrodden and ‘went through fire and water‘ (v. 12) – two of the elemental foundations of our existence as seen by Aristotle. After that ordeal, God led him to ‘a spacious place’. This is an enticing phrase – we relish somehow the idea of entering a spacious place. Architects live and breathe this idea, not because they are architects but because people feel comfortable and open in such a space. Other translations say ‘a place of refreshment’.
The water lifted itself up in a heap and gave a bow, and all Your people marched across on dry land.
Music to suit this poem could be from a thousand angles. One source suggests songs as widely spread and as loosely related as ‘O little town of Bethlehem‘ and ‘All hail the power‘. Many sources of sung responses for this week’s psalm refer to the idea appearing especially in the last lines of the Lectionary selection verse 12, that of restoration after trials:
We went through fire and water; but you brought us out into a spacious place (NRSV) – or ‘a place of refreshment’ (Everett)
The first half of the psalm is in the form of a communal thanksgiving, while the second half moves to a more personal note. The full psalm is too long for us to enjoy fully the value of this juxtaposition. One writer summarises the theme of our psalm for this week as:
Make a joyful noise, God’s brought us through some rough stuff.
In slightly less exuberant tone, if not substance, Psalms for all seasons number 66A antiphon goes like this:
E D E Cry out to God in joy all the earth Give glory to the name of the Lord
Simplicity has its own power, and this is manifested in this response by overlaying a simple tune over alternating chords. The tune for the verses expands on this slightly.
Far more cogently, Isaac Everett as usual in The Emergent Psalter has fresh ideas. He firstly invites us to sing one of his characteristically syncopated swings about the fire and water experience – an attractive option. Then another off-the-wall idea with Buffy the vampire slayer’s Walk through the fire. (Tempting: but innovation and recency appeal more that its emphasis on burning.)