Lectio THEN: Psalm 7 (June 7, 2009) New Jerusalem Bible
“Yahweh, my God, I take refuge in you”
Except that I don’t. I’ve been like a turtle taking refuge deeper and deeper inside myself. But it’s dark and scary in here because the only things I have taken with me are the things that I’m worried, anxious and stressed about.
I remember bringing the bones with me into the garden and laying them on the picnic table. I remember the Holy Spirit breathing on them and that I trusted her and left them there.
I pray that I would take these stones – that I carry around, fretting over and caressing – and no longer take them down inside myself. Even turtles don’t have gizzards to process stones! Maybe I could take the stones and leave them with the bones.
A while back, a friend told me about an icebreaker they did at work – “which sea animal would you be and why?” I would be an otter. But instead of being the otter who frets and worries over the little trinkets I collect, I pray that I would be like the otter who plays joyfully and swims freely. And rather than being the fearful turtle stuck in its shell, help me, God, to remember that “God is a shield that protects me.”
I feel so scared and so vulnerable. God, I know that you protect me. But only my head knows. Help my heart to know. Help my head to connect all the things it knows, and teach them to my heart. Thanks for who you are and all that you do. You’re amazing.
Lectio NOW: Psalm 7 (October 10, 2010) NJB
“Judge me, Yahweh, as my uprightness and my integrity deserve.”
Sometimes it can be very difficult for a Mennonite to read the psalms, let alone to pray the psalms. How can a person from an historic peace church in the Anabaptist tradition pray for a justice that consists of not sparing “one who attacked me unprovoked” (v. 4)? On the contrary our ethics, based on the Sermon on the Mount of chapters 5 – 7 of the Gospel of Matthew, call for us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Sometimes I really wonder how the psalms can be ‘sacred’ readings.
But we take the Bible seriously, and however difficult and problematic this psalm and others like it are, Scripture they remain. And so I try to pray through this psalm.
I am first struck, in a terrifying way, by verse eight: “Judge me, Yahweh, as my uprightness and my integrity deserve.” Eek! If I were to truly and honestly pray that, I would expect to be immediately struck by lightening. I’m too much of a mess, too petty, too insecure. No way.
I’m surprised too (but really, should I be?) that David, to whom this psalm is attributed, has the guts to pray it either. I realize that David is a much beloved biblical figure, but really, if one reads the entire account closely, that may be a difficult sentiment to maintain. David is a man with much blood on his hands. Unfortunately, we don’t know the details of the particular story referenced by this psalm, as the account mentioned in the superscription doesn’t appear in the stories of David in the Bible.
As I continue to read, thinking of David and all his purported righteousness, this psalm begins to feel a bit like a juridical parable, in which a story is told to evoke the listener to pronounce judgment on themselves. No one is telling the psalmist a story, but as God is being invoked to pass judgment, I have the nagging sense that when we pray for our enemies to fall into their own traps, that is the moment we set our own.
God, sometimes I don’t understand this sacred text, and I don’t share the perspectives of the writer, and I don’t want to even deal with it. I take hope, though, in that when David was confronted, as in the story of his sin against Bathsheba, he did repent. And after all that he did, if he can still be called ‘a man after God’s own heart’, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us, too. I can only pray, please don’t judge me “as my uprightness and my integrity deserve”, because you are merciful and your love is unfailing. Only then can I pray with the psalmist “I thank Yahweh for his saving justice” (v. 17), because God’s justice is characterized not by revenge and retribution, but by unending steadfast love.