Sunday, 2 May 2021

Psalms 1-3 - Easter

 Having started, it is difficult to stop writing about the psalms. Christopher Page has posted on Psalms 3 here. I will post this now as a meditation on Orthodox Easter today.

As I listen to the performance under the direction of Simon Preston I am moved by the music, and following in English, Latin, and Hebrew, I think about how music conveys the summary of this poem. It is an anticipation of resurrection and a confidence that ihvh is to be trusted to bring about the gospel that is promised throughout the Scriptures from Genesis on.

A central verse foretells the lying down in the grave of Jesus, and the awakening of the same, i.e. awakening from death.

Hey, Bob - Aren't you reading a bit too much into this one poem?

Yes - but it seemed to me this morning that having completed the 'introduction' to the Psalter, that its first full poem should summarize the whole thrust of confidence that is to be built in this book.

The summary of enemies is clear in Psalms 83 (just posted), more than "a psalm placed between two better-known psalms" but also a psalm "used in the liturgies for Good Friday", (as Tate points out in his summary). Enemies and Foes persist until the end of the Psalter only to be overshadowed finally by the praise from Psalms 145-150. 

Just look at the resonances for each verse of Psalms 3: 

  1. In verse 1, we have the situation, David and his son Absalom, bringing up the story in 1 Samuel and particularly the memorable analogue of David's lament at the gates, O my son, my son, would God I had died for thee.
  2. In verse 2, straits (xrr) picks up the attitude in Psalms 2:2 against ihvh and his anointed (David and his seed on the throne - but see Psalms 89). Enemies (aib) as a word does not appear until verse 8.
  3. In verse 3, the ultimate negative is cast against the anointed: there is no salvation.
  4. But in verse 4, we anticipate a phrase in Psalms 110, the lifting up of the head. And we have ihvh as shield and glory.
  5. The anointed calls to ihvh and ihvh hears. (An allusion in Hebrews 5:7 is not too far a stretch.)
  6. So the anointed can lie down, and awake for ihvh supports me (that letter samech ס, support, Psalms 145 S).
  7. The surrounding troubles and enemies (people!) are not to be a source of fear.
  8. Resounding consequences for those who claim there is no salvation (verse 3). Surge, surge Jehova - the best bass solo!
  9. Salvation is for real - and this is really a blessing (brc).
Of course, I do draw out resonances that may not be the original intent of the poet (perhaps). Though the collectors and editors of these poems may have considered them. 

And awake is a significant word, and it means life from the dead as well as the simple act of awakening from sleep. I have used awake 7 times in my translation of the Psalter. Four other times, the root occurs as summer or brambles. Twice the phrase occurs with poignant allusion to death: Psalms 17: I in righteousness will gaze on your face. // I will be satisfied to awaken in your similitude. And Psalms 139: I awake and still I am with you.

There is both faith and hope here based on the known character of God. Have we lost something?

PS - delighted to see that Christopher's post got a spot in the April Carnival.

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