Psalm 68, 24 May 2020

You refreshed the land when it was weary. Your people dwell there, O God, you have made provision for the poor.

Psalm 68:9, 10

In the selection for this Sunday — the first ten and last four verses of the long song — David draws this conclusion from the evidence of “when you marched forth through the wilderness”.

In bold imagery typical of early cultures and beliefs, he praises God as powerful warrior riding the ancient heavens. (v.33)

Without undermining this thrilling picture, several other psalms clearly refute reliance on weapons and armies as misguided and useless. Psalm 76 for example:

God broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war (v.3)

So under all this power and supremacy, the psalmist trusts in a caring and protective spirit who yet makes ‘provision for the poor’.

For David, these twin contrasting attributes become the basis for thanks and supplication. Calling for praise for a divine spirit that is ‘guardian of orphans and protector of widows’, he prays:

As wax melts before the fire, so let evil perish before God (v.2) 

Such standards are reflected in the later New Testament encouragement:

… to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

🎵

The writer of a responsorial musical setting must choose a verse as text for the congregation to sing. Either for didactic or exegetical purposes, it will often contain a prominent, pithy or significant message in the psalm, which the people are likely to remember by repetition in song.

For this psalm, many sources (PFAS, NCH and TEP) use triumphal verses for the repeated refrain. “Let God arise; (1) lift up your voices, shout and sing to God (4, 24, 32) who rides the ancient skies above.” (35)

Together in Song 38, however, in a refrain that refers to but does not quote verses 5 and 6, brings out the protective and nurturing intent of the divine spirit:

God in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.

(TiS 38, A P Watt.)

In these verses God is seen as ‘guardian of orphans’ and carer of the down-trodden. So if you have TiS at home turn to 38, a simple short song. However, without situating the text too much during lock-down, it is tempting to use verse 6 more literally as an antiphon:

God gives the solitary a home, and leads forth prisoners to freedom.

These words and the selected verses can easily be sung to a tune you make up on the spot in your solitary home, freely fitting the enjoyable words to a few simple notes or a quote from another song that rides the skies of your imagination from time to time.

The Beguinale refuges were run by nuns as homes for poor and solitary women cast off by society. Today they seem to exude peace and certainty. This one is in Brussels.

2 thoughts on “Psalm 68, 24 May 2020

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