This morning finds me with Psalms 35 and 36, two texts that are quite unfamiliar to me. You know how we all have our “canon within the Canon,” the texts that resonate with us. I have to say that these two psalms have never really been on my radar.
But they’re powerful! Psalms of pleading, of request, asking God to be present, to fight on the behalf of those persecuted. Maybe I’ve never really noticed them, because I’ve never really been persecuted. There’s a humbling thought.
Listen to Psalm 35:
“Contend, O Lord, with those
who contend with me;
fight against those who
fight against me!
Take hold of shield and buckler,
and rise to help me!
Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers;
say to my soul,
‘I am your salvation.'” (NRSV)
This wonderful image, which immediately made me think of the image from the Bhagavad Gita, with Krishna there in the chariot, revealing the fullness of his divinity. With the psalmist, there is this pleading…an immediate situation…assistance needed… And with 36, this recognition that one has been wronged:
“Do not let the foot of the arrogant
tread on me,
or the hand of the wicked drive
One thing I noticed this morning is how, maybe, I’m uncomfortable with images of God going to battle for me, or in general. Maybe I don’t like images of war. And, that’s something to reflect on… So, when I read Nan Merrill’s translation, I immediately noticed the difference in language. Here is the same passage of 35 from her:
“Pray on my behalf, O Beloved, for those
who fight against me;
Forgive on my behalf those who abuse me!
Pour forth your strength into my heart
that I might stand strong!
Encircle with healing love those
who persecute me through fear!”
Amazing….one an image of battle, the other, images of encircling love. It makes me wonder, deep down, what’s the difference? Might not encircling, healing love be a battle? I’m not so sure Nan “took the easy way out.”