Psalm 83

This psalm, last of the songs by Asaph, is a historically informed (that's Asaph for you) prayer for action against evil. Well, it's actually against Israel's enemies; but it's hard to take a prayer for violent destruction of opponents too literally in the politically correct twenty-first century. It's just as hard not to look at it as unreconstructed … Continue reading Psalm 83

Psalm 38

The third of the seven Penitentials, this psalm is glass half empty -- no, make that a quarter -- through to verse 14. The opening verses mirror those of the first Penitential Psalm, 6. The singer regrets failure, inadequacy, illness and a thorough-going weariness. Then comes the half full, and an urgent request for comfort: For in you … Continue reading Psalm 38

Psalm 39

Psalm 39 is a song reflecting on the short span of life -- 'a few hand-breadths ... a mere breath'. (verse 5)  It is not formally included, as is the preceding Psalm 38, in the list of seven penitential psalms. (Neither 38 nor 39 make it into the Lectionary.) 39 could well qualify, however, as one of … Continue reading Psalm 39

Psalms 87, 88

Here are a couple of very contrasting songs: one looking out happily to 'Zion'; the other lamenting, no silver lining. Both are 'skips' in the Lectionary but should not be ignored -- and indeed are not by those traditions that regularly sing all of the psalms within a short period of a month or so. Psalm 87 Glorious … Continue reading Psalms 87, 88

Psalms 74, 75

Book 3, as mentioned previously, is the home of the songs of the musician Asaph. His first five are not included in the lectionary, the next five are. Psalm 74 Psalms for all seasons offers but one setting, the well-known O come, Emmanuel (VENI EMMANUEL 88.88 with refrain). This is an interesting choice, since it uses … Continue reading Psalms 74, 75

Psalm 134

This short psalm, another 'skip' as it does not appear in the RCL, is a song of ascent, or gradual. Hence the illustration, one I have used for songs of ascent over several years. It took my fancy since it looks like inspiring countryside and a great view, but a perhaps a tough and indirect climb. Who has climbed … Continue reading Psalm 134