Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Psalm 27

Lines Scansion

NASB (Modified in brackets [])

1    The LORD is my light and my salvation;
      Whom shall I fear?
      The LORD is the defense of my life;
      Whom shall I dread?
2    When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
      My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
3    Though a host encamp against me,
      My heart will not fear;
      Though war arise against me,
      In spite of this I shall be confident.
4    One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
      That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
      To behold the beauty of the LORD
      And to meditate in His temple.
5    For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
      In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
      He will lift me up on a rock.

6    And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
      And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
      I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.

7    Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice,
      And be gracious to me and answer me.
8    When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
      “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”
9    Do not hide Your face from me,
      Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
      You have been my help;
      Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
      O God of my salvation!
10  [If] my father and my mother [were to forsake] me,
      [Then] the LORD will take me up.
11  Teach me Your way, O LORD,
      And lead me in a level path
      Because of my foes.
12  Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
      For false witnesses have risen against me,
      And such as breathe out violence.
13  [Surely] I [have come to believe that I [will] see the goodness of the LORD
      In the land of the living.
14  Wait for the LORD;
      Be strong and let your heart take courage;
      Yes, wait for the LORD.
Effect of the Metric Center on the Psalm’s Development
Craigie (Psalms, 231-233) identifies verses 1-6 as “A statement of confidence” and verses 7-13 “A prayer for divine aid.”  Ross (BKC, I, 814-15) sees the Psalm similarly. Because of the different emphases in verses 1-6 and 7-14, some scholars suggest that two different psalms may have been brought together in Psalm 27. But such a conclusion is unnecessary when the restructuring of the Lament and the centrality of verse 6 is taken into account. Also, any scribe who may have conflated two different psalms would have certainly seen some relationship between the two parts to put them together. See Craigie (Psalms, 230-31) for a defense of the unity of the Psalm.
Westermann (Praise and Lament in the Psalms, 64) identifies Psalm 27 as a Lament of the Individual. A formally complete Psalm of this type has the following pattern:
·         Invocation
·         Lament (I, They, You)
·         Expression of Confidence
·         Petition (Hear! Turn! Intervene!)
·         Oracle (Stated or Implied)
·         Praise/Vow of Praise
Since Psalms represent real-life situations, these formal elements do not always exist nor do they always follow the “pure” pattern of the Lament. The restructuring, when it occurs, alters the Psalm’s feel and application. Whereas the “pure” structure begins with the lament and ends with praise, Psalm 27 begins and ends with positive expressions of confidence and places the vow of praise in the center. It has this pattern:
·         Praise and Statements of Confidence, 1-5
·         Vow, 6
·         Petitions, 7-12
·         Restatement of Confidence, 13-14
The Psalmist expresses his close relationship to the Lord (1-2), who has helped him in the past (2), and gives him confidence in the future (3-5). He fully expects God to help him in the present situation (6a, “and now”), and he is determined to maintain his spiritual relationship with the Lord through worship with God’s people in the temple (6b). Verse 6 embodies the center of the Psalm both metrically and thematically. The statements of confidence beginning the Psalm (1-5) culminates in the assurance of deliverance in the present situation (6a), and includes three cohortatives of resolve (Waltke & O’Connor, Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 573) in verse 6b. Verses 7-12 flow out of a personal relationship with Yahweh in a context of worship petitioning for grace, guidance, and deliverance. The above translation change from the NASB at verse 13 follows the lead of Koehler, Baumgartner, Richardson, and Stamm (The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 524) who classify the word לוּלא as a statement of affirmation that fits the context admirably and coordinates with the sentiment of verse 4. The Psalm ends with this restatement of personal confidence in the Lord and encouragement for the faithful community (13-14).
Finally, the structure of Psalm 27 provides a relevant contemporary application: An ongoing strong personal relationship with the Lord paves the way for confidence in present and future difficulties and reinforces both the desire and need for maintaining a living relationship with the Lord and with His people. Too often, as pastors will attest, many Christians who have encountered difficult or tragic circumstances in life have little to cling to for encouragement because they have neglected their relationship with the Lord during the good times.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Psalm 26

Lines Scansion
NASB (Modified within brackets [ ])

1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity,
   And I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
2 Examine me, O LORD, and try me;
   Test my mind and my heart.
3 For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
   And I have walked in Your truth.
4 I do not sit with deceitful men,
   Nor will I go with pretenders.
5 I hate the assembly of evildoers,
   And I will not sit with the wicked.

6 I shall wash my hands in innocence,
   [So that I may proceed around] Your altar, O LORD,
7 [To be heard] with the voice of thanksgiving
   And to declare all Your wonders.  

8 O LORD,I love the habitation of Your house
   And the place where Your glory dwells.
9 Do not take my soul away along with sinners,
   Nor my life with men of bloodshed,
10 In whose hands is a wicked scheme,
     And whose right hand is full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
     Redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on a level place;
     In the congregations I shall bless the LORD.

Effect of the Metric Center on the Psalm’s Development

A number of striking features leap out of this psalm: (1) The perfect aspect phrase in verse 1 (אֲ֭נִי בְּתֻמִּ֣י הָלַ֑כְתִּי) that is replicated in verse 11 in the imperfect aspect (וַ֭אֲנִי בְּתֻמִּ֥י אֵלֵ֗ךְ) establishing an inclusio and clearly marking an important dimension of the psalm. (2) The polar opposites in verses 5 and 8 (שָׂ֭נֵאתִי / אָ֭הַבְתִּי) that surround the center-focused verses 6 and 7. (3) The chiastic structure of verses 4 and 5 marked by the perfect aspect phrase beginning verse 4 (לֹא־יָ֭שַׁבְתִּי) and the imperfect aspect phrase concluding verse 5 (לֹ֣א אֵשֵֽׁב). The first two features clearly point to a central focus and the third reinforces the negative emotions of the psalmist that appears to be balanced by his positive emotions in verse 8.

Craigie, Psalms, 226, draws attention to verses 6 and 7,
Only when the hands were clean,  which in turn symbolized the inner cleansing of heart and mind (cf. v 2b and Ps 24:4), was it possible for the pilgrim to pass beyond the gates into the temple, where he could walk around the altar, the symbol of God’s presence and mercy. The altar was more than just the place of sacrifice; it symbolized God’s table, where his fellowship and presence could be known. Verses 6b-7 are anticipatory; they express the basic desire of the psalmist towards which the entire entrance liturgy was directed, namely admission to God’s house and the particular experience of his presence there, which in turn evoked from the worshiper both ‘praise’ and a recounting of God’s ‘wondrous deeds’ (v 7).

Verse 6a finalizes the psalmist’s declarations of innocence from wrongdoing that pervades verses 1-5, and verses 6b-7 focus attention on the temple, the locus on God’s presence and fellowship with those who are blameless. Not claiming perfect righteousness, the psalmist appeals to Yahweh’s mercy in verses 9-10 and Yahweh’s grace in verse 11b after reasserting his determination to walk in spiritual integrity in verses 11a. Verse 12a echoes the sentiment of verse 1 that he psalmist will not allow any slippage (אֶמְעָֽד) of his personal integrity and faith in Yahweh since he is keeping his foot on a level plane, perhaps implying the twisted thinking of the deceitful men and pretenders in verse 4. The final two elements in verse 12b also have a rearward look: The “congregations” (מַקְהֵלִ֗ים) the psalmist is determined to join contrasts with the “assembly of evildoers” (קְהַ֣ל מְרֵעִ֑ים) he hates, and the concluding statement of praise summarizes his desire expressed in verse 7.

In conclusion, the central focus of Psalm 26 provides the impetus for maintaining spiritual integrity
(אֲ֭נִי בְּתֻמִּ֣י הָלַ֑כְתִּי / וַ֭אֲנִי בְּתֻמִּ֥י אֵלֵ֗ךְ) by elevating the importance of worship and fellowship with God.