Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
Familiar, angry, painful, strange, pleading, wonderful words from the Psalmist. The worshipper singing the Psalms is so often invited to join with the voice of another in so many different stages of life. There are songs of joy, commitment, remembering blessing and enjoying the benefits of life under God’s rule, with wedding songs and praises for a good king. Songs for a nation and for a single person.
Yet a turn of the page will force from the lips a very different song. Rage and regret and sorrow. Anger, pain, vengeance. Weariness and hopelessness. How long, Lord? a frequent refrain.
So, as I read Psalm 69 I was somewhat expectant of what I would see. I would pray with the Psalmist that the God who had acted before would come to me again and again show his transformative care. So, though at the start of this Psalm I have told God I am waiting for him, by the end I might expect to be picturing myself in his presence, in the Temple of Zion.
Yet after Psalm 69:4-5, where the singer tells God what he is facing, comes this curious stanza:
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.
Do not let them be put to shame through me.
The singer hasn’t confessed any sins, though he doesn’t pretend otherwise (Psalm 69:5). In fact he seems to exclaim his right standing before God. Yes, he has not always been wise or pure, but he has confessed these things to God and knows that God has not held these things against him.
So why would he pray for the congregation of Israel? What would bring them to shame?
For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting,
it became my reproach.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
I am the talk of those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.
What kind of a singer is this? Is he ashamed of the calling God has on him? Is he conscious that he is so different to the other members of the congregation?
He has been looked down on as a fool, a sinner perhaps, for showing such devotion to God.
And yet his prayer is that others would not be turned away from God on his account.
Because sometimes I suppose our walks, our callings become so intensely personal that someone else, even another Christian, may not understand in the slightest what is occurring in the heart.
Yet if such a unique person, such a unique journey is found in the pages of scripture, maybe I’ll find the patience to listen to the songs of people in a totally different place to me. Though my faith might be shaken, the fact that this song is here tells me that each song of the wannabe saint is a sweet melody to God. A melody I am invited to hear.
And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll find myself singing along.