Friday, December 23, 2011

Psalm 108 – Praise, Prayer, Fear and Faith

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth. Give victory with your right hand, and answer me, so that those whom you love may be rescued.”

~Psalm 108:5-6 (NRSV)

This Compilation Psalm is a piece of Psalm 57 and a piece of Psalm 60 neatly knitted together—the first five verses are the latter half of a fugitive’s faith and the remaining eight verses speak of David’s Syrian campaign where there was the eventual victory over Edom. (In this Psalm’s tradition, of combining two divisions, I have knitted these two sections together at the fifth and sixth verse, above.)

It is justly a Battle Psalm.

And it fits us well when we, too, are at battle. When, truly, aren’t we? Life is but a series of battles and even when we aren’t battling we may reflect over one or be planning for the next one—or considering other people’s battles!

But a more pertinent concern finds for timely expression: the issue of repetition.

The Force and Benefits of Repetition

The Holy Spirit has no need of repeating himself, but the fact of the matter is much Scripture seems ‘copied and pasted’ throughout the Old Book.

This leads us to wonder the point of repetition—a lack of divine creativity or pure intention to call home important biblical truths?

Has anyone ever enjoyed a truly good sermon and not heard powerful truths resounding like a gong in a repetitive manner? Indeed, we may criticise a sermon that didn’t ‘hit a point’ or latch onto one statement, or theme, that parishioners could take away.

This two-bit Psalm occurs, perhaps, in reverse with praise preceding the solemnity of prayer; a psalmist in dire need but convicted in their faith to know that human help in such crises is worthless (verse 12).

And maybe the repetition works, also, in the liturgical sense—as history is called forth in the mind of the psalmist; those great deeds of God of help and deliverance when all seemed lost and of sanctuary when safety was sought.

The Effects of Faith in Battle

There is a shimmering hope that sparkles through this Psalm. For David to have praised the Lord first, before doubting and, so therefore, wresting back his faith, has spoken for the King’s fear: there was only God, and if no God, no hope.

But in fear was there present the faith to belong to God and no other. Faith does not exist without fear, as courage, also, would be redundant in the absence of trepidation.

The same pressure and issues as David felt nearly 3,000 years ago are felt by us today—even in our relatively small lives. Our battles come and they swallow us or we prevail; but we live to fight another day. That is enough to restore our faith.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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