The Big 6-0.

3 Feb

Ok, I am not the big 6 – 0, but this is Psalm 60 and my 95th post.  That is kinda amazing to me.  Also, just the fact we are in February and the year is racing forward.

So, about the psalm.  Let me tell you that if I could I would avoid this psalm.  It is another “tribal” psalm that is concerned with the people of Israel maintaining the land.  Even through this is a constant theme in our world, the people of Israel keeping their land, it is not a subject that I experience personally.

I realize that I am a privileged white woman who has never had to fight for land to live on.  Heck, I am even heterosexual, which means I don’t have to fight for anything for myself.

So, once more I approach this psalm from another angel than the original audience experienced it.  For the people of Israel, land was everything and the right to worship as they believed they should was extremely important.  Without land you could not feed your family or you flocks, without land you were no one.  Yet, this is not my reality, and it probably is not yours.

The pleading in the first two verses of this psalm expressed the feelings I had this week while sitting in a hospital room.  The woman was older and had had a stroke.  She was unable to communicate except by pointing her finger and she seemed terrified.  Her breathing was rapid, her eyes were wide and she had not slept in a while.  My sense was that she was afraid she would die if she let herself sleep.  As I read the beginning of the psalm, it sounded like her voice.

1-2 God! you walked off and left us,
kicked our defenses to bits
And stalked off angry.
Come back. Oh please, come back!

You shook earth to the foundations,
ripped open huge crevasses.
Heal the breaks! Everything’s
coming apart at the seams.

Perhaps you have seen someone who feels like this psalm; abandoned by God and life coming apart at the seams.  They are terrified if they let themselves rest, life will disappear.  They feel with this psalmist that God has made them look doom in the face and just given cheap wine as a comfort.  I know for the woman I sat beside and held her hand, I felt I had nothing to offer her of great worth.  Certainly, no promise of healing or a restoration of her old life.

3-5 You made your people look doom in the face,
then gave us cheap wine to drown our troubles.
Then you planted a flag to rally your people,
an unfurled flag to look to for courage.
Now do something quickly, answer right now,
so the one you love best is saved.

The psalmist is giving now the lines that have been spoken in the past.  The promises that God has given before to the people to bring them to a place of security and hope.  Again, as I sat by the bedside and saw death too close at hand, I recited the 23rd psalm for her, and for me.  The old promises of God, said out loud one more time.

6-8 That’s when God spoke in holy splendor,
“Bursting with joy,
I make a present of Shechem,
I hand out Succoth Valley as a gift.
Gilead’s in my pocket,
to say nothing of Manasseh.
Ephraim’s my hard hat,
Judah my hammer;
Moab’s a scrub bucket,
I mop the floor with Moab,
Spit on Edom,
rain fireworks all over Philistia.”

9-10 Who will take me to the thick of the fight?
Who’ll show me the road to Edom?
You aren’t giving up on us, are you, God?

refusing to go out with our troops?

It is only God who can give us help for the hard task.  It is only God’s promise that will lead us from this life into a new and eternal life with God.  When you come down to the rock bottom of our humanness, it is only God who has the power to bring life and hope and peace.  It is an amazing gift we have as people of faith.  We can stand and look at death and believe that God can even conquer that terrible, final reality.

11-12 Give us help for the hard task;
human help is worthless.
In God we’ll do our very best;
he’ll flatten the opposition for good.

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One Response to “The Big 6-0.”

  1. Phyllis Terwilliger February 5, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Mary,

    I like the way you weave your commentary in the context of the psalm. Thanks for your thoughts.

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