Updated: Apr 2
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1 Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause; *
you set me free when I am hard-pressed;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
2 "You mortals, how long will you dishonor my glory; *
how long will you worship dumb idols
and run after false gods?"
3 Know that the Lord does wonders for the faithful; *
when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.
4 Tremble, then, and do not sin; *
speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.
5 Offer the appointed sacrifices *
and put your trust in the Lord.
6 Many are saying, "Oh, that we might see better times!" *
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.
7 You have put gladness in my heart, *
more than when grain and wine and oil increase.
8 I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; *
for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
This is the Psalm that will be read aloud in unison or sung by a cantor on the third Sunday of Easter, Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This song of praise will follow the mandatory reading from Acts [Acts 3:12-19], which states, “by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong.” After, the Epistle reading will come from First John, where the Apostle wrote, “we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” Lastly, this will accompany the Gospel reading from Luke, which tells of Jesus asking, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
In the translation of this song, there are five references to “the Lord,” with the first verse shown to state “O God.” In reality, the five references translated as “Lord” state “Yahweh” [realizing the capitalization is to satisfy translators, because Hebrew has no capital letters]. In the first verse is actually written “‘ă·nê·nî ’ĕ·lō·hê ṣiḏ·qî,” which literally says, “hear me gods of my rightness.” There, “elohim” is mistakenly [on purpose] translated in the singular and capitalized as “God,” with “tsedeq” [“ṣiḏ·qî”] made to fit a state of being deserved of a servant of Yahweh.
Verses one and two are David placing emphasis on the difference that exists between an Israelite [or anyone who believes in God] and a servant of Yahweh. The first word of this song sings out, “When I call,” followed [after a comma mark] by this command of a human being, demanding of God, “hear me gods of my rightness.” The word “tsedeq” can mean both righteousness or rightness, but the use as a demand of “gods” [“elohim”] is to justify one’s acts [which may be pious or sinful]. That makes “defender of my cause” be a statement about self-will and self-ego, which is not recognized by Yahweh. The "defender" becomes seeking to twist the words of Law to suit one's needs.
Where the translation sings, “you set me free when I am hard-pressed,” that becomes relative to one’s guilts resulting from one’s actions, which are known sins that are not allowed to God’s children. Thus, wayward Israelites [which also reflects on today’s wayward Christians] will offer up meaningless prayers, begging God for mercy and forgiveness, so the sins may continue. A poor Israelite sees prayer as the way to justify sin, always presented after the sin has been committed, never before, as a prevention.
In verse two, David is calling those failures out. The translation that has him call them “mortals” [a clear denial of them being children of Israel] actually says, “bə·nê ’îš,” or “sons of men.” That is insulting because all male human beings equate to that recognition, whereas being children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob implies being Sons of men. Being a “son of man” means being mortal, thus flawed and prone to sin. Jesus referred to himself as a “Son of man,” where the capitalization of “Son” indicated his soul had been given over to Yahweh, whereas “sons of men” have retained their souls for selfish reasons.
The question then asked those “sons of men” [as a lowlife] is voiced by Yahweh, who knows of their selfish prayers, knowing they think they control Yahweh, not the other way around. Yahweh then had David ask them [in song], “How long before you welcome My glory upon your flesh, through marriage of your souls with My Holy Spirit?” [paraphrasing] This question is posed by Yahweh, knowing they “worship dumb idols and run after false gods.” The Hebrew of that is literally translated into English as: “you will love worthlessness , seek falsehood.” That says the wayward will always be more in love with themselves and see themselves as false gods, than see Yahweh as a deity to fully submit to, as a wife in marriage devoted to her husband.
In verse three, David turns the focus away from the wayward and places it on Yahweh. In the NRSV translation, we hear sung, “Know that the Lord does wonders for the faithful; when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.” The literal translation in English is: “but know has set apart Yahweh , him who is godly for himself Yahweh will hear when I call to him.”
This says first that Yahweh is set apart, meaning He is above that which lingers on the earthly plane. Yahweh is divine and will never stoop as low as Satan, pandering to the whims of lowlifes who sin and then ask to be excused. By being set apart, it becomes the responsibility of the human to recognize Yahweh is set apart, therefore it is one's responsibility to know Yahweh by likewise setting oneself apart from the distractions of the worldly plane. That is what makes one “godly,” rather than “justified by law” [“rightness].
That state of being that is “godly” [“chasid”] comes from marriage to Yahweh, through submission of one’s soul to His Holy Spirit. This sacrifice makes “himself” [“lōw”] become a “soul of Him.” That relationship means Yahweh will always know when a part of Him is in need, so “Yahweh will hear when I call to him,” before one actually makes that call.
This state of comforting trust [faith] then led David to sing, “Tremble, then, and do not sin; speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.” Here, the first word translated as “tremble” is rooted in the Hebrew “ragaz,” which allows a meaning seen as “to be agitated, quiver, quake, be excited, perturbed.” This is then the freedom of a soul in the flesh to feel natural flows of negative emotions, ranging from anger to fear. This one word is then separated from another single word that follows, which rather than “then” says “and not.” This says Yahweh knows it is human to become disturbed in life, but when one is married to Yahweh those impulses to strike out and sin will “not” manifest.
When the NRSV translation says, “speak to your heart in silence upon your bed,” this becomes more than saying one’s prayers before going to sleep at night. It says at times of agitation one must get in touch with one’s heart, which is where the marriage of a soul to Yahweh connects. The words “in silence” can then be read as a state of “meditation,” which is the proverbial “count to ten.” That pause of reflection becomes calming, as if one has put negative emotions to bed. When that has happened, then one will reconnect to the stillness of Yahweh surrounding one’s being.
David then sang out in verse five, “Offer the appointed sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord.” More than “the appointed sacrifices,” the sacrifice offered is one’s soul being placed upon the altar of marriage. The death of self-will and self-ego means one is resurrected in a state of righteousness [“ṣe·ḏeq”], where the word “tsedeq” is now repeated and “righteousness” overcomes “rightness” through self-sacrifice. To “put your trust in Yahweh” means one has carried all the wood to build an altar upon which to make a sacrifice to Yahweh, knowing the only lamb around is you. The trust Isaac had as he walked with Abraham to make a sacrifice is faith that one will never be harmed in sacrifice to Yahweh. The Lord will provide.
Verse six then has David singing, “Many are saying, "Oh, that we might see better times!" Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.” The first element of better times is asking, “Who will show us good?” The sacrifice of one’s soul to Yahweh, where David knew “many” of the Israelites he led had done just that, always leads to results that will be “good.” That is a state of “righteousness,” without sin.
That promise is more than eternal life being found after years of suffering in life, but rather the appearance of an inner light that goes on and will never turn off. That is the insight of day, which never returns to the death of mortal existence as the night bring on sleep. Here, one has put on the face of Yahweh [“your countenance upon us”], where one is no longer looking to enhance life on earth, because one’s soul has entered into the light of Yahweh and it can get no better than that.
It is this presence of Yahweh within and wearing his face as a glow [a halo] that led David to sing out, “You have put gladness in my heart, more than when grain and wine and oil increase.” This inner joy is greater than any seasonal change that brings about the bounties of the earth. It is constant, as if one never runs out of the best spiritual food and one is always intoxicated by the finest spiritual blood. This presence within makes one feel as wealthy and established as any king of a bountiful land ever can.
This contentment then led David to end this song of praise by writing the lyrics, “I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Here, the Hebrew text literally states: “in peace , united I will lie down to sleep , for you , Yahweh , alone in safety make me dwell.”
In the first word, separated by a comma, we can hear David utter the same state of being that Jesus said to those he appeared among – “Peace to you.” David then followed this state by adding the word “yachad,” which means “unitedness” or “both” together as one. It is the marriage to Yahweh that brings about this state of serenity.
When the lyrics turn to “sleep,” this becomes metaphor for “death,” where one willingly submits one’s soul to the Lord in marriage. One’s ego “lies down” so that Yahweh can lead one’s body. This sacrifice is made “for you,” which is then clearly stated as “Yahweh,” set apart by commas. It is this safety that cannot be found in any other worldly god.
As the Psalm sung aloud on the third Sunday of Easter, it is clear that David knew the presence of Yahweh within him. It is also clear that David knew how those who pretended to serve the gods of the world claimed to be right by law. This song praises the “all or nothing” that comes with divine marriage to Yahweh. One is either a sinner or a saint. There is no wandering back and forth allowed. Thus, the Easter season is set aside as a time when one learns full submission to one’s heart and practices what Yahweh preaches. It is when one puts on the countenance of the Lord and lies down forevermore to His care.