Psalm 107 (we read the first nine verses with 43 tacked on the end) recalls the gathering in from all points of the compass of a fragmented and wandering people, hungry and thirsty, into safety under the ‘steadfast love’ of the divine hand.
It’s likely that the catalyst was originally the deliverance of the Israelites from exile. The song goes on to enumerate other crises, storms at sea and sickness, in which comforting divine love is to be praised.
The post for March 2015 drew attention to the relevance of this picture to the present days of displaced persons, families and even tribes seeking a home in troubled places of the world. Steadfast love is much needed in Australia and elsewhere against rising fears and harsh responses. (1)
A still earlier post (November 2014) referred to some suitable refrains by regular writers:
- Isaac Everett provides a great three-part setting that is thoughtful and fun to sing with a little practice.
- Marty Haugen’s simple Consider the steadfast love of God (v.43) is found in the New Century Hymnal
- Paul Kelly’s Meet me in the middle of the air is a great song — but is not based on Ps 107.
I even find one in the Library that I wrote, using slightly differing verses, for St Patrick’s Day — I now have no idea why, nor whether we ever sang it. Must be the Irish in me.
And speaking of different verses, that evocative phrase ‘Those who go down to the sea in boats’ inspired Henry Purcell to write a motet on those middle verses.
Psalm 107 concluded by urging some deep thought:
Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of God (v.43)
Psalm 49, in the alternative readings, invites the same, but to music:
The meditation of my heart shall be understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp (vs 3, 4)
The song continues with a reminder that all people, of estate high or low, are equal and subject to mortality. Riches, pomp, status and wealth count for nothing.
Giving heed to these things, solving this riddle with or without the harp will surely lead to a conclusion that people should be treated equally and with steadfast love while, as the Dalai Lama says, we are visiting this planet.
Few classical settings appear for either of these psalms. Our more modern psalters similarly have few good antiphonal settings available; PFAS 107C is actually a repeat of one by Everett from The Emergent Psalter (2), telling us we can’t take it with us.
A good way to consider this psalm in depth would be to write your own tune. You may have to imagine the harp. Or as the psalmists often say (see comments on 150 for example), find any stringed instrument, trumpet, cymbal, timbrel or tambourine — whatever is to hand.
Notes: Continue reading