The succinctness of many of the Psalms polarises such highly emotive subjects. Within Psalm 120—the very first of the Songs of Ascent—we find the lament of an alien; a peacemaker within a land torn by war or civil conflict. They hate what they see.
A Context-Setting Prayer
The solemnity of the alien’s initial prayer is as polarising as the Psalm is:
“Deliver me, O Lord,
from lying lips,
from a deceitful tongue.”
~Psalm 120:2 (NRSV)
The psalmist is stuck in both a land and a circumstance beyond their will; a fact we can draw much encouragement from, as we, too, find ourselves placed in circumstances or the topography of malevolence and disenchantment. Our prayers are surprisingly similar, though they may not always be cited in delivery from a human enemy, per se.
The psalmist clearly declares their plea in shards of bitter pain. A Song of Ascent this may be, but there is still a long pilgrimage ahead to the promised land of the Temple.
The Formation Of A Direct Threat
Verses 3-4 elucidate a most capricious vengeance upon those with lying lips. There is real spite to these words, and they reflect the way we might feel when we are in the presence of propagators of war; the strangers to peace—those mutilators of the flesh (as the Apostle Paul puts it in Philippians 3:2).
If we were to be caught in a land or circumstance of foreign morality—that which is corrupt and fervently against peace—we would expect to feel the same way. We, too, would be sorely tempted to utter such a threat, even if under our breath. It is good that the Psalms—in direct cognisance of this one—give honest voice to the adroitness of negative emotion.
When Reality Strikes
Having entertained the honesty of raw emotion, the psalmist is found, in verses 5-7, mindful of their depressing reality. Instances and periods of depression are such like. In the modality of grief, depression is that phase where reality bites and the true significance of the journey ahead begins to attend within both heart and mind. There is no escaping reality; it must eventually be tackled. The only way through grief is to wrangle with the depression.
For too long, the psalmist reflects, there has been habitation in the land foreign to peace. There is exasperation and a returning, perhaps, to the initial prayer—to be delivered of this foreign situation.
This state, circumstance or situation describes many lives—those that are betwixt by, and within, roles for torment, because other sides are at constant odds.
Being faced with unending conflict, when we pine for peace, is a sure recipe for exasperation. Our prayers for deliverance are, however, equally sure to breathe God’s revelation into these situations, eventually. Then, we will know what to do.
Further abroad, there are very real situations that many unfortunates find themselves in—aliens within home and foreign lands that are destitute of hope, viz., the many refugee crises. The question God asks: How might we help draw peace, and hope for change, into foreign conflict?
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: un.org, The Thinker by Auguste Rodin.