Tag Archives: psalm

Trusting Him: a Response to Psalm 93

Psalm 93 is one of the great psalms of confidence and reassurance in the stability and steadfast love of God, a reassurance we have all desperately needed over the course of this pandemic. As we have experienced a second and even a third wave of the virus we can all relate to those verses:

The floods are risen, O Lord, the floods have lift up their voice: the floods lift up their waves.

The waves of the sea are mighty, and rage horribly: but yet the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier.

I have picked up on that image of ‘wave after wave’ in my response, but also I hope, returned, as this psalm does, to the sure foundation we all have in the God who loves us, and knows us, and has come to meet us in Christ.

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it is available from Amazon Here.

XCIII Dominus regnavit

And trusting him until the day I die,

I will not fear the surging of the sea,

Though troubles in a flood-tide rise so high;

 

Wave after wave of panic surges through me

And other people’s fear and rage increase

My own, until the toxic mix is deadly.

 

But when it seems these troubles never cease

I sense beneath them all some solid ground,

A sure foundation and an inner peace,

 

And, over-arching them, the starlit round

Of heaven’s firmament. Though in between

The storms of life rage on, with all their sound

 

And fury, I still trust that all unseen,

Founded below and glorious above,

My saviour stands and keeps my soul serene.

 

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Delight In All His Works: A Response to Psalm 92

After the lamentations and trials of some of the earlier psalms, 92 is a delightful psalm of pure praise. I particularly love the way the psalmist turns, to nature, to ‘all God’s works’ and sees the glory of god shining through them:

For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works: and I will rejoice in giving praise for the operations of thy hands.

O Lord, how glorious are thy works: thy thoughts are very deep.

Indeed this psalm seems to recollect the beauty and assurance of psalm 1, for it returns to that archetypal image of the righteous person as a deeply rooted tree, bringing forth fruit in due season:

The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree: and shall spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus.

Such as are planted in the house of the Lord: shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God.

They also shall bring forth more fruit in their age

All these things were in my mind when I wrote my poetic response for David’s Crown.

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it is available from Amazon Here.

XCII Bonum est confiteri

My Lord will bring me through my darkest hour,

And I will praise him in the morning light

And contemplate his wisdom and his power

 

Meeting together on the cross. By night

His truth will nurse and nurture me in dreams

And in the day my mind will still delight

 

In all his works and wisdom. The rich themes

Of his wise teaching shine through all I see:

The rushing winds and swiftly flowing streams

 

Will teach me of his spirit, the green tree

Will show his rooted fruitfulness, and I

Myself will flourish in his house and be

 

A tree that lifts its branches to the sky

Still bearing fruit for him in my old age

And trusting him until the day I die.

 

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He Shall Deliver Thee: A Response to Psalm 91

We come now to psalm 91, one of the most beloved in the whole psalter, and for good reason. It is a beautiful psalm of reassurance, of close and intimate trust in God’s loving purposes for us. And yet it is also a psalm that we must handle with the greatest care. Why? Because we know that this is the very psalm that Satan used to tempt Jesus! Our enemy took those beautiful verses:

For he shall give his angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.

They shall bear thee in their hands: that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone.

And suggested to Jesus that he could therefore throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple and God would be sure to catch him! And the deeper temptation of course was to put God to the test, to destroy the intimate and trusting relationship he had with his Father by setting little tests and traps. So Jesus rightly replies, not just for himself but for all of us: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. I see that during the course of this pandemic Satan has been trying out the very same temptation with the very same psalm, and sadly some Christians have succumbed. ‘You don’t need a mask or a vaccine’, the tempter says, this time, ‘Look you’ve got psalm 91! Go ahead and throw yourself into the path of the pandemic unprotected, and even likely to infect others, and see, God will look after you because you are a special ‘super Christian”. But Jesus as has told us already not to abuse this psalm, for its deepest message is not about some temporary shield from earthly suffering, no Christian is promised that, but a much deeper assurance that God will be with us through every trial and suffering, and that in the end he will give us the thing we need most, and which no one can take away, which is salvation itself! And so the psalm ends:

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him up, because he hath known my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will hear him: yea, I am with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and bring him to honour.

With long life will I satisfy him: and shew him my salvation.

So my poetic response to this psalm focuses on that central promise and the deep comfort it brings through any and every trial.

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

XCI Qui habitat

He shares our grief and wipes away our tears

And even in this life he shelters us

Beneath the shadow of his wings. Our fears

 

And hopes are known to him. His faithfulness

Will be our shield and buckler. We can trust

His constancy and know he will be with us;

 

With us through the best and through the worst.

I may be threatened by the passing harm

Of outward pestilence, but still I trust

 

He gives his angels charge, and with his arm

He shelters and embraces me. No power

Can separate me from his love. His Name

 

Is my protection and delight. I pour

My heart and soul to him in songs and psalms,

And he will bring me through my darkest hour.

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Our Brief Lives: A Response to Psalm 90

Psalm 90 is a meditation on time and eternity and it contrasts the brevity of our lives on earth with God’s eternal years, and yet it also speaks of how God, even from eternity comforts us, as we live in time, comforts us from one generation to another:

  1. LORD, thou hast been our refuge: from one generation to another.

  2. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made: thou art God from everlasting, and world without end.

The key image for the brevity of our lives is the image of cut grass withering and fading:

As soon as thou scatterest them they are even as a sleep: and fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green, and groweth up: but in the evening it is cut down, dried up, and withered.

This image in the psalm put me in mind of Cut Grass, the poignant poem by Philip Larkin which begins:

Cut grass lies frail:
Brief is the breath
Mown stalks exhale.
Long, long the death

It dies in the white hours
Of young-leafed June…

I allude to the Larkin poem in my own response but I also turn the psalm around by meditating on how Christ has stepped out of eternity into time, to share our journey with us, to help us bear our griefs and wipe away our tears.

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

XC Domine, refugium

A cosy comforter, a lucky charm?

Not with this psalmist, for he praises God

From everlasting ages, in his psalm.

 

A God of refuge –yes – and yet a God

Who knows the death that comes before each birth,

Who sees each generation die, a God

 

Before whom all the ages of the earth

Are like a passing day, like the cut grass

In Larkin’s limpid verse: ‘brief is the breath

 

Mown stalks exhale’. So we and all things pass,

And God endures beyond us. Yet he cares

For our brief lives, his loving tenderness

 

Extends to all his creatures, our swift years

Are precious in his sight. In Christ he shares

Our grief and he will wipe away our tears.

 

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Who Knows This Agony? A Response To Psalms 88 &89

We come now to psalm 88, the lowest point of lament and despair in the entire psalter, the only psalm which does not have a ‘yet’ or a ‘nevertheless’ to redeem its pain, but, considered as a psalm in itself, ends in the same agony and loneliness with which it began:

My lovers and friends hast thou put away from me: and hid mine acquaintance out of my sight.

That is the end of the psalm, but it is not the end of the psalter, the book of praises. In fact, as Paula Gooder points out in the Introduction to David’s Crown, it is, in terms of the number of verses in total, the exact mid-point of the psalter, it is the middle, and not the end of the story. This is vital for us to remember: both that we can freely tell God our worst fears and feelings, as the psalmist does here, and also that we can know that those fears and doubts are not the end of our story, any more than they are the close of the psalter, for the psalter re-ascends from this darkness and closes with praise. It is this, which enabled me, in my response to psalm 88 to trust God with the uncensored bleakness of my own personal experience of darkness and depression.

And for that reason also, I have decided not to post this psalm alone but to pair it with psalm 89, indeed my poems for 88 & 89 are on facing pages in the middle of David’s Crown so that they can be read together. and the opening verse of psalm 89 is:

  1. MY SONG shall be alway of the loving-kindness of the Lord: with my mouth will I ever be shewing thy truth from one generation to another.

In my answering poem our agony, expressed in the poem on 88, is met by the agony of Christ who comes, in his compassion, to share our desolation with us, that he might redeem and heal it. and that is why these poems should be read as a pair.

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

LXXXVIII Domine Deus

My saviour’s words of welcome ‘all is well’!

Was that just some false dream I used to have?

I tremble once more on the brink of hell,

 

Soon I’ll be weeping in its lowest pit. The grave

Would be a kinder place than this. The dead

Forget, but I remember and I grieve

 

For all that I have lost: the green leaves shed

And stripped from me, my lovers and my friends

All torn away. Just emptiness and dread

 

Are my companions now. No one defends

Or speaks for me. Lord I have cried to you

And you say nothing. Empty silence rends

 

My heart in pieces. There is no one who

Can find me now, for who could ever know

This agony unless they felt it too?

 

LXXXIX Misericordias Domini

Who knows this agony unless they feel it too?

You answer me in darkness from your cross,

It is your pain that draws my heart to you

 

As deep calls unto deep and loss to loss.

Your covenant was sealed in your heart’s blood

When it is pierced with mine. And our cries cross

 

In flesh and blood as I encounter God,

Not on the heights, but in the pit of hell.

Then I can sing the triumph of the good

 

Then I can truly know all will be well.

I recognise my saviour’s mighty arm

Because it has been pierced. The bloody nail

 

Means more to me than those who see no harm

And keep God as a talisman, a spell

A cosy comforter, a lucky charm.

 

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All My Fresh Springs: A Response to Psalm 87

Psalm 87 gives us a moment of visionary uplift, much needed, before we plunge down into the shadows of psalm 88. It is a vision of Zion, the holy city, set upon a hill:

  1. HER foundations are upon the holy hills: the Lord loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
  2. Very excellent things are spoken of thee: thou city of God.

But perhaps the most significant phrase in the psalm is the final one:All my fresh springs shall be in thee. This speaks of more than an earthly city but the deep well, the spring of love arising from the presence of God in our own souls, for the true Sion is within us. I sometimes wonder if John Milton had this psalm in mind in the moving section of Book III of Paradise Lost where he says that in spite of his blindness:

Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Cleer Spring, or shadie Grove, or Sunnie Hill,
Smit with the love of sacred Song; but chief
Thee Sion and the flowrie Brooks beneath
That wash thy hallowd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit:

I certainly had Milton in mind when I wrote my own response to this psalm, and looked to him for example and inspiration in my own long poetic endeavour.

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

 

LXXXVII Fundamenta ejus

Kindle these lines with all your quickening powers,

For all my springs of life arise from you,

And like blind Milton in his midnight hours

 

I visit Sion’s hill in dreams. I view

Siloam’s sacred brook and bathe my soul

In those pure streams that cleanse me and renew

 

My vision and my purpose, make me whole

And sound again. The city of my God

Shines clear once more upon his holy hill,

 

My feet are set upon the royal road

That leads me through these shadowlands, until

I hear the trumpets, and set down my load,

 

Beside the river bank and drink my fill

From that deep well of light at last and hear

My saviour’s words of welcome: ‘all is well!’

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Come Close And Comfort Me: A Response To Psalm 86

Psalm 86 is definitely  a psalm for these dark times: it’s a simple, heartfelt plea for help:

  1. BOW down thine ear, O Lord, and hear me: for I am poor, and in misery.

  2. Preserve thou my soul, for I am holy: my God, save thy servant that putteth his trust in thee.

  3. Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I will call daily upon thee.

  4. Comfort the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

I wrote my response during the first big wave of the pandemic and also as I was getting just over the half way mark in the long and daunting endeavour of wreathing together the poems for David’s Crown, and it seemed to me that my response to this psalm was also a chance to pray for God’s help in writing them and to dedicate the work, asking him to sustain me through this long, committed effort in writing. So it is from this poem that I draw the dedicatory verses set at the beginning of the whole book.

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

LXXXVI Inclina, Domine

That we may flourish in your tenderness

Bow down and hear the whispers of our fear

Our restless misery, our emptiness

 

Without you.  Christ come close to me and hear!

Come close and comfort me in troubled times,

I need your mercy now for I despair

 

Of any other help. The telling chimes

Of every passing bell might be my own.

Lift up my soul, and breathe through my poor rhymes

 

That I might lay these lines before your throne

A frail corona wreathed of fading flowers

To set against the gold of David’s crown,

 

Wrought in the pattern of my passing hours.

O you, who raised me from the depths of hell,

Kindle these lines with all your quickening powers.

 

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Mercy And Truth: A Response to Psalm 85

Psalm 85 contains, in my view, two of the most beautiful verses in the whole Bible:

Mercy and truth are met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall flourish out of the earth: and righteousness hath looked down from heaven.

But we live in a culture that has divorced and separated mercy and truth. On the one hand the ‘truth-telling of a call-out culture shows no mercy, and on the other, the apparent mercy of laissez faire indifference, or instant affirmation of every behaviour, shows scant regard for truth. But what God has joined together we should not put asunder, and in Christ the prophecy of this psalm finds fulfilment, for when we behold his glory we find, as John the evangelist said, that it is ‘full of grace and truth’. And so it was that in my psalm I prayed for a healing of our split culture, and prayed to Cjrost that he would join together what we have split asunder.

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

LXXXV Benedixisti, Domine

His peace refreshes like a holy well,

His mercy turns me round and quickens me,

Lifts me a little higher for each fall.

 

And now within this psalm he summons me

To hear a truth my nation has ignored,

A truth forgotten in captivity.

 

So open me afresh to hear this word:

Mercy and truth are met together, peace

And righteousness have kissed each other. Lord

 

How is it we have sundered them? Can peace

Be founded where there is no righteousness?

Some speak the truth, but speak it with out grace

 

And, calling others out, are merciless.

Lord, join together all that we have sundered

That we may flourish in your tenderness.

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How Amiable Are Thy Dwellings: A Response To Psalm 84

We come now to psalm 84, one of my all time favourites! For me the psalmist’s delight in being in the temple finds its paralell in my love of the simple, ancient English parish church. I wrote my responsive poem when we were still in the first full lockdown and I couldn’t go into our parish church at all, but the first thing I did when we were allowed back in was to go in, early in the morning  when all was quiet and read this poem aloud in the church.

Thanks to everyone who attended our virtual launch for David’s Crown which was, as much as anything, a celebration of the psalms themselves. If you couldn’t get to the live event you can still watch it all here

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

LXXXIV Quam dilecta!

Yahweh saves, Our God is merciful

And how I long to enter in his courts

To nestle at his altar and to dwell

 

With him for ever. Day and night my thoughts

Are yearning towards the beauty of his temple

In swallow-flights of song.  For in his courts

 

Time is transfigured, opened out and ample,

It touches on eternity. I stay

Awhile within this church: its simple

 

Furnishings, and storied windows say

More to me of heaven than the pale

Abstractions of theology. A day

 

Spent in an empty church has been as full

Of goodness as an age elsewhere. I feel

Its peace refresh me like a holy well.

 

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How Can I Pray This Psalm? A Response To Psalm 83

After the calm assurance of psalm 82, psalm 83 is, by contrast full of anger and enmity, a long rant calling down God’s vengeance on the enemies of Israel. How are we to pray it as Christians, knowing we are called on to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us?

In the end I felt it turned on the final verse which is about making known the name of God:

And they shall know that thou, whose Name is Jehovah: art only the most Highest over all the earth.

For the Christian the true name of God is not simply ‘Jehovah/Yahweh, but it is Jesus/Yeshuah which mean Yahweh Saves. Jesus absorbs all the wrath and righteous anger in this psalm and turns it into love, so that unlike the psalmist here we can proclaim peace, rather than war.

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalms’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

There is also going to be a launch event/webinar on Feb 11th at 7pm GMT it will be completely free and you can register for it Here.

LXXXIII Deus, quis similis?

As kindred in our father’s house at last

We will make peace with one another. Yet

We still make war; we still live in the past.

 

Even the psalmist here is filled with hate,

As gleefully he lists his enemies

And calls God’s wrath upon them: ‘let 

 

Them perish, let them burn in flame’ he cries,

And puts his curses in the mouth of God!

How can I pray this psalm? Give me the eyes

 

Of Jesus, help me see the iron rod

Which only crushes sin to free the sinful,

That I may know the holy name of God

 

Is not a name of wrath, but plentiful

Redemption: Jesus, Yeshuah

Yahweh saves, our God is merciful.

 

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