Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, I attempted to pick up the discipline. I got part-way through that month, and so after a long hiatus, am determined to get going. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:
- What is this Psalm about?
- What does this Psalm teach about God?
- How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.
On the 7th of November, here’s Psalm 69:
1 Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
3 I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God.
4 Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.
5 You, God, know my folly;
my guilt is not hidden from you.
6 Lord, the Lord Almighty,
may those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me.
7 For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
8 I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
10 When I weep and fast,
I must endure scorn;
11 when I put on sackcloth,
people make sport of me.
12 Those who sit at the gate mock me,
and I am the song of the drunkards.
13 But I pray to you, Lord,
in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
answer me with your sure salvation.
14 Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters.
15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
or the depths swallow me up
or the pit close its mouth over me.
16 Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
18 Come near and rescue me;
deliver me because of my foes.
19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
20 Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
21 They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
22 May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and[b] a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
24 Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
25 May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27 Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous.
29 But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
may your salvation, God, protect me.
30 I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
32 The poor will see and be glad—
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
33 The Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and all that move in them,
35 for God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
36 the children of his servants will inherit it,
and those who love his name will dwell there.
What is this Psalm about?
Record scratch. Various Psalms in the Psalter (the name for the book of Psalms, which is actually five books, but that’s another story) fall into different categories – it is a Psalm of individual lament (Broadly verses 1-21), an imprecatory Psalm (in which God’s people ask God to act in judgement, would be one definition – broadly verses 22-28), and a Psalm of thanksgiving (broadly verses 29-30, but peppered throughout part 1). It’s also, interestingly enough, the most frequently cited Psalm in the New Testament after Psalm 22. So there is a lot going on! One could divide into three parts, as alluded to above, but for the sake of this blog post series, I want to treat it as one. Unscratch. Psalm 69 begins with David’s lament to God about his situation, continues with his request for God to judge his enemies, and closes with a call to worship and glimpses of God’s coming kingdom. There is a lot going on, but let’s consider some of the things that Psalm 69 teaches us about God.
What does this Psalm teach about God?
Psalm 69 is addressed to God as the one who can save (v. 1) – and a personal God (v. 4, 5) who is also ‘The Lord Almighty’ (v. 6). The Psalm zooms in and out, focusing on both David’s intimate relationship with God, and God’s lordship over creation (v. 34). The Psalm is bracketed by – and perhaps this is a key theological poin – the idea of God ‘saving’. It opens (v. 1) and closes the Psalm (v. 35, the thought rolling into v. 36) and makes sense of much of the threads in the Psalm. The idea of God hearing – and potentially acting – is also a key theme here.
How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
The way that this Psalm has three parts – lament, imprecation, and thanksgiving – is a helpful reminder that life is rarely monochrome, rarely all bad or all good. Even as the waters (metaphorical or literal) rise (v. 1+2, 14+15) we can cry out to God – and we can do so confident that he will act, and that ultimately he will save, because that is such a vital aspect of his character. One aspect of the Psalm that resonates as a challenge to me is around loneliness – David is painting a picture or portrait of an isolated man, drowning in sorrow, crying out to God. God’s people should be the first, sometimes as an act of God’s intervening mercy, to befriend the lonely and comfort the mourner.
A prayer drawn from Psalm 69
God, you know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you. Lord, the Lord Almighty, may those who hope in you not be disgraced. God of Israel, may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me. Help me see those around me with your eyes, and show me to whom I can draw near on your behalf. Amen.