This is the next installment in my psalms paraphrase project titled, Ordinary Prayer. In Psalm 13, which you may read HERE, David tells a story of personal struggle in which begins with his admission of his experience. It moves on to his cry to the Lord, and it concludes with his full awareness of the Lord’s covenant faithfulness to him which wells up in praise and song.
I wait and wait.
Do you ever think of me?
Will you ever look my way?
I spend the day in my head.
I try and work it out, but worry wears me out
And leaves me sad from morning till night.
How long will haters brag and have the upper hand?
Think of me and speak to me O Lord, my God.
Only you can lift my spirits.
If you don’t, I’ll just lie down and die,
And the haters will stand over me and gloat–
They’ll high five each other because I’ve been dropped.
But I have thrown myself on your strong, certain love;
My heart swells at the news of your salvation.
It swells into song — a song to you
Because you’ve done more for me, than I ever dared hope.
The psalms are ordinary prayers. They were composed by kings and prophets and sung by shepherds and fisherman. They were good for singing in the Temple, and they were good for the Galilean countryside. These are the words and word pictures of God’s people who themselves, like us, fought the fight of faith in the midst of extraordinary events and ordinary days.
Along with praying the the Psalms, I’ve undertaken, it seems, a project to paraphrase them. I have a high esteem of the imagination and recognize the value of translating metaphors through different words in order to get at the meaning. Some of the psalms can be difficult for us to translate so that they mean something to us. Once however, we get to their meaning, we find that they express the life of faith, the desires of the heart, and the needs of those who find themselves in a place where there is nothing left but to pray.
Here is my paraphrase of Psalm 12. To compare, you may read a translation of Psalm 12 HERE.
Help! I’ve no friends left.
All the good and godly have disappeared from among Adam’s kids.
Not a good one remains.
On social media, they’re all cool and chill,
But in their secret groups, they speaks hate and lies.
May the Lord unplug all your devices
And silence your streaming feeds of lies,
You who say, “With our algorithms and bots,
Who can silence our posts?”
Because they steal from the poor,
Because those who need are targets,
Because they have no words but groans,
I will help them myself, says the Lord;
I will lift their eyes from their screens
And show them the place for which they’ve longed.
The Lord speaks with a single heart.
And his posts are worth it: true and bright.
You couldn’t compose them better if you had a week.
The Lord means what he says;
He’ll defend you from the mob.
The trolls are out there around every corner,
And the filth they post is praised by Adam’s kids.
I am continuing a project of paraphrasing the Psalms. Psalm 11 speaks of the experience of one in trouble. Given the option of fleeing to the mountains or fleeing to the Lord, he asks as Peter asks of Jesus, “Where else shall we go?” This is the meaning of “If our refuge has no footing, the righteous have nothing more.”
You may read the ESV translation of Psalm 11 HERE.
I run for refuge as fast as I can to the Lord.
How can say when winded from running and fear,
Fly like a bird straight to the mountains?
When all around, the wicked have bent their bows,
Look! They’ve set their arrows, and are ready to let fly.
From the cover of darkness
They are ready kill
Any who stand up for the right.
If our refuge has no footing,
The righteous have nothing more.
Yes, the Lord is on his throne!
Glory fills his holy temple
It spills from where he sits above the blue and stars.
From where he sees.
His eyes fix and focus on the children of men.
He sees it all —
Every last thing.
He sees the righteous and examines them.
But he blows a sigh when he sees the violence of the wicked.
Let him shower fire on the wicked—
Let them have their fill of burning embers
Repay them with the scorching stink of sulfur.
For the Lord is right,
And he loves to see the right done.
He will gather up those who do,
And look them right in the eye.
At the beginning or the church season of Ordinary Time, I began a project in the church where I pastor titled Ordinary Prayer. During this pandemic’s staged shut down of activities, we have been meeting over Zoom and praying through the Psalms. Whether they are read in King James English or in a modern translation, the psalms are meant for king and commoner. They’ve been sung and prayed by Levites leading worship in Jerusalem’s Temple and by fishermen mending their nets. They were written by shepherds watching their flocks and by people at their prayers. The psalms are emotionally honest and metaphorically rich.
This past week, I turned my mind to paraphrasing one of the psalms we will be praying. The purpose and benefit of paraphrasing as an exercise is that it allows the writer to further step into what they are reading. The benefit for the reader is that the meaning may be further teased out. The psalms were meant to be prayed, and this is an attempt to make them more accessible.
The psalmist in Psalm 10 brings their faith to bear upon the realities of the injustice of the world in which the psalmist lives. In that world — in this world — there are those wicked people who live as if this world is all that there is and what can be gotten from it is all that is worth getting. Their merciless greed makes them to be, as the the psalmist writes, “of the earth.”
You may listen to me read the psalm paraphrase via the player below.
Why Lord, Why?
Why do you stand off?
Why, when trouble finds me, I cannot find you?
These earthly men have no shame —
These wicked who chase the poor down
And run them into the traps that they’ve set for them.
And when the earthly man has done so,
He brags how he’s gotten everything he’s ever wanted.
Boasting, he laughs to himself, “I got it all on my own!”
He sneers with pride and gives no thanks to God
Of whom he says, “There is no such thing.”
The earthly man gets what he wants here and now.
You, Lord, are far beyond his comprehension.
As for his enemies, he struts around in front of them like a rooster
Saying, “No one makes me step aside. No one can touch me.”
The aerosol droplets of his curse words, lies, and demands
Spit from his mouth the infection of his sin-virus
And works all kinds of mischief.
He is just waiting to cause trouble.
It’s like he just spends his spare time making plans to hurt innocent people.
Like a lion, he looks to pounce on the helpless as he watches from the shadows.
Like a trapper, he waits to pull the snare.
He watches that he might entangle the poor in his net.
Those of us who before were bent by trouble,
The earthly man now breaks and beats down.
He says, “See? God doesn’t care…
He doesn’t see you and doesn’t care what I do!”
Lord! Now! Now!
Come! Do something! Don’t forget us!
How can the wicked go on thinking they can do whatever they please?
Oh, but Oh Lord, you do see.
You mark their mischief and trouble-making
That you may take matters into your own hands.
Lord, we’re reaching out to take your hand,
For you are the one who takes in hand those who have no one.
Slap back the earthly man’s arm,
Shorten his reach,
Frustrate his schemes,
Settle his account,
Make him pay his bill’s full amount.
You Lord, are the boss of everyone: kings, presidents, and CEO’s–
They are all beholding to you.
Nations, agencies, kingdoms, and corporations are nothing.
Lord, Lord, you do hear.
You do hear the cries of those in need.
You will give them courage.
You will find them and listen to every last word they have have to say
So that justice is worked for those who are alone and beat down–
For those who have no one but you,
So that the earthly man won’t make anyone afraid ever again.
Tonight at 7:00pm is an online reception for Grace Kernersville’s Lent and Easter art installation titled, The Stations of the Cross. Join Kevin McClain of Gate City Gate House, myself, and artist, Keaton Sapp, whose art makes up the exhibit for an online reception to discuss the exhibit, art, and the place of beauty in the life of the church. The event will conclude with a virtual walking of the stations.