Psalm 55; Old Wisdom for Today
I’ve always liked this Psalm, from today’s readings in the Lectionary. It captures the worst betrayal, that of a friend, with whom you have shared meals and confidences. It captures the dichotomy of diplomacy, when one speaks with words ‘soft as butter’ which are, in truth, as steely as drawn swords. It captures the curse of the violent, those who cause strife and bloodshed and who die young.
To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David.
1 Give ear to my prayer, O God;
do not hide yourself from my supplication.
2 Attend to me, and answer me;
I am troubled in my complaint.
I am distraught 3by the noise of the enemy,
because of the clamour of the wicked.
For they bring* trouble upon me,
and in anger they cherish enmity against me.
4 My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
6 And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
7 truly, I would flee far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
8 I would hurry to find a shelter for myself
from the raging wind and tempest.’
9 Confuse, O Lord, confound their speech;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
11 ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its market-place.
12 It is not enemies who taunt me—
I could bear that;
it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me—
I could hide from them.
13 But it is you, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend,
14 with whom I kept pleasant company;
we walked in the house of God with the throng.
15 Let death come upon them;
let them go down alive to Sheol;
for evil is in their homes and in their hearts.
16 But I call upon God,
and the Lord will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he will hear my voice.
18 He will redeem me unharmed
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
will hear, and will humble them—
because they do not change,
and do not fear God.
20 My companion laid hands on a friend
and violated a covenant with me*
21 with speech smoother than butter,
but with a heart set on war;
with words that were softer than oil,
but in fact were drawn swords.
22 Cast your burden* on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
23 But you, O God, will cast them down
into the lowest pit;
the bloodthirsty and treacherous
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.
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