Click on the link for the Psalm above (my links show up as red words) or find it in your favorite Bible or digital Bible or listen to Psalm 7 read by my husband:
Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉
Breath Prayer: I am including breath prayers because this is the practice that I engage in most often. Sometimes, I simply manage my breathing as I would when I was singing as a warmup and strengthening exercise. This practice helps me to feel centered, strong, and connected with myself and the divine. Sometimes, I add words or intentions for the inhalation and exhalation.
“It is better to maintain integrity and continue to suffer injustice, than to sell out to evil and form ranks with the unrighteous.”Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary p. 104
At the heart of this psalm, I feel integrity, righteousness, justice, and love, as well as the rejection of all unrighteousness and hate. Being falsely accused is awful, and feels worse than being accused of something you actually did.
According to Peter Craigie in the Word Biblical Commentary, “It is a curious feature of the experience of human living, that the public accusation of the sins or crimes which we have committed is easier to bear, emotionally and spiritually, than the false accusations concerning crimes of which we are innocent. When an evil act or sin is committed, there is at least justice in the accusation; there is a path of restoration and repentance possible. But the false accusation is harder to bear, partly because it brings with it the experience of injustice, and partly because there may seem to be no escape from its consequences. We cannot repent of something we have not done, nor can we make restoration, and it is in the nature of false accusers that they do not easily depart and leave us in peace. The genuine anxiety evoked by false accusations, whether of a subtle and personal nature or an open and legal nature, is partly legitimate and partly illegitimate. It is legitimize in the sense that false accusations can do real damage, whether to reputations, family, or means of livelihood. But it may be an illegitimate anxiety if it is tied too intimately to pride, for such anxiety assumes that the opinion of other persons is of more significance than the opinion of God. Yet it is in the nature of false accusation, that whereas it may deceive and convince our fellow human beings, it cannot deceive God. False accusation never undermines a person’s standing in the sight of God, though it may provide a testing ground for the accused’s strength of character.” (WBC p. 103)
Being falsely accused will cause most of us to react badly; to scream and swear and pitch an unholy fit. If the psalmists have taught me anything, it is that I can scream and swear and cry to God. There is no need to hide behind niceties, because God sees through those anyway. That is what is happening in this psalm. The graphic language about lions tearing the psalmist apart, the vulgar idea of being pregnant with evil, and being trampled until the psalmist is nothing but dust, are images and words from a deeply wounded person who is lashing out in anger. And the psalmist has thrown all of that rage at God. God can take it.
There is something transformative about unleashing that kind of anger in front of God. It certainly isn’t a conventional way to pray, but it is still prayer. Walter Breuggemann comments on this psalm saying, “The speaker discovers that she or he is also a beast once the conventions have been penetrated.” (Brueggemann p. 164) I’ve certainly angry-prayed and ugly-cried at God before. And what I can tell you is that after I’ve pitched that unholy fit, I can see how ugly it was. And I remember that there is a beastly anger shadow monster living inside of me too. God knew it was there, and now I do too. Shockingly, God loved me even though that beastly thing is part of me. This is the place that transformation begins. Somehow, being with God in this moment of accusation, hurt and anger are transformed into acceptance of self and of the terrible ordeal of false accusation. Peter Craigie reminds us that, “We do not know from the psalm whether the falsely accused was finally vindicated or his name was cleared; we know only that he came into such a knowledge of God that he could accept his lot.” (WBC p. 104)
There are a few professions held to high standards of conduct and integrity, like teachers, medical professionals, clergy, and police officers, just to name a few. And we all want to believe that the people attracted to these professions have strong moral character. When we find out that someone in one of these professions is in fact, human, and less than perfect we are sad. And when we find out that someone in one of these professions has caused harm, we are outraged. And we should be.
George Floyd was killed by white police officers. This event led to outcries from many black people who have experienced police brutality. The message is clear, this was not an isolated incident. Police all over the county are using their power and position to make life miserable for people of color. The demands for justice and for changes to our system of government so that police officers will not get away with racial discrimination, hate crimes, and murder are loud, and rightfully so.
The best police officers are those who hear the cries of their communities and are working within the system for change. We are “relying on the best officers within each force to ensure change on paper translates into what happens on the street” (Spare a thought for good cops article in Forbes by Rodd Wagner May 31, 2020). The worst police officers should be forced to resign or be fired. But like all professions there are those who fall in-between the best and the worst. And some of these good cops are reacting badly because they feel falsely accused. I’m not saying that to excuse bad behavior but with the hope that we can support them even while holding them to high standards.
I encourage everyone, especially those good cops to share, process, and direct their rage to God instead of those around you. Allow God to love you in your frustration and to transform your heart. Your transformation can lead to needed changes being made in our justice system for the betterment of all of those you are called to serve and protect.
Shout out to my Dad, the best retired police officer I know, who always reads my blog, supports my work as a pastor and with Days for Girls, and most importantly, loves me even when we disagree.
We all have a tendency to react badly when we feel falsely accused. White people are particularly defensive about being called racists. I wrote more about that in an earlier blog post: Racism and Responding as People of Faith.
Being anti-racist is a new concept for me, I hope to continue to read and reflect in the blog along my journey. I know I’m doing this imperfectly, but I’m trying to be vulnerable and open as I challenge my way of thinking and being in the world. When I know better, I will work to do better.
Let us pray:
God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your righteousness and release my defensiveness. You can always pick different words for your breath prayer. But the idea of a breath prayer is to keep it simple so I encourage you to simply find one word for each inhale and one word for each exhale.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“Traditionally identified as an individual lament, the psalm is more precisely an innocent man’s prayer for protection in the face of false accusations of enemies. The psalmist has been unjustly accused of an act of treachery, including the breach of covenant or treaty obligations, and asks God to vindicate him and let the false accusations and their consequences rebound onto the head of the accuser.” (WBC p. 99)
The title is listed separately from the verses in some translations and in the WBC translation the title is verse 1. A Shiggaion of David, which he sand to the Lord concern gin the words of Cush, a Benjaminite. “The meaning of Shiggaion is uncertain”. Psalm? Psalm of Lamentation? “The word occurs only here in the Psalter, though a different from of the word occurs in Hb. 3:1.” WBC pp. 96-97
“The title (v 1) associates the psalm with a particular event in the life of David, concerning the (false) accusations of a certain Benjaminite named Cush. The incident is not referred to elsewhere explicitly in the Bible, though the fact that David experienced opposition from the Benjaminites, both during gSaul’s lifetime and afterward, is well documented (see 1 Sam 24-26; 2 Sam 16:5 and 20:1). If the title has historical value and there was an incident with Cush, the account may have been contained in the ancient and no longer extant historical sources names in 1 Christ 29:29. In general, the obscurity of the incident tends to support both its antiquity and its authenticity. Thus, while there can be no historical certainty, it may be reasonable to suppose that the psalm reflects David’s reaction to false charges laid against him (in the presence of Saul?), purporting that he had acted treacherously and in defiance of treaty obligations.” WBC p. 99
If indeed the psalm was set initially in the context of a particular event in the life of David, one may suppose that at a later date it passed into more general usage in the context of worship. The use of SELAH (v6) may imply usage in worship. At a still later date in the development of Judaism, the psalm was traditionally associated with the feast of Purim in the month of Adar; the plotting of other themes in Esther, which are central to the celebration of Purim, provided an appropriate context for the psalm’s use.” WBC pp. 99-100
“Some interpreters have noted and emphasized those places in the psalms that seem to identify the speaker as a person who has been accused of something. Noting places in the Old Testament where legal cases could be handled at the sanctuary (e.g., Exod. 22:8-9; Deut. 17:8-13; 19:15-21; 21:1-9; 1 Kings 8:31-32), Hans Schmidt suggested that a number of individual laments arise out o fate language and activity of a sacral judicial procedure in the sanctuary in which one who claimed to be falsely accused prayed to God against his or her enemies (accusers) and received from the priests the verdict of God, which if favorable then elicited a further prayer of thanksgiving. Examples of this are Psalms 3, 4, 5, 7, 17, 26, 27, 54, 55, and 69. Walter Beyerlin more recently has proposed a modification of this view, seeing in a number of psalms (e.g., Psalms 4, 5, 7, 11, 17, 23, 26, 27, and 63) a plea for divine judgement that is not understood as threatening or tied to a regularized sacral procedure in which the accused is brought to the priests for judgement, but that is a protection. The sanctuary provided asylum. More sweepingly L. Delekat has proposed that these psalms, along with many others, are prayers of persons seeking asylum in the sanctuary, who wrote a short prayer for help on the temple wall, probably in the evening upon arrival. After the certainty of a hearing had been received, a short note to that effect was added. In time, according to Delekat, the prayers became longer and more artful. They could be engraved on a stele and perhaps by oe who had not composed the prayer.” Miller p. 5
“The speakers of these psalms are in a vulnerable, regressed situation in which the voice of desperate, fear-filled, hate-filled reality is unleashed and no longer covered by the niceties of conventional sapiential teaching. As in the freedom of speech in therapy of regression, any language and any speech are appropriate. So also in laments psalms, and most unmistakably in the laments of Job, anything may and will be said. The juices flow, and the animal is loose. Perhaps the acceptance of the animal role illuminates why the speaker is presented as surrounded by other animals who will devour, for the speaker is now able to face the censured imagery of beastliness in his or her own person (Pss. 7:2; 22:13-14; 16: 67:4; 58:6; 71:19). The speaker discovers that she or he is also a beast once the conventions have been penetrated.” Brueggemann p. 164
“The closest biblical parallel to vv. 3-5 is Job 31, where Job uses the same formula to affirm his innocence as he rests his case with God. Indeed, Psalm 7 as a whole is reminiscent of Job, whose friends end up finally pursing him (see Job 19:22, 25) with false accusations (see Job 11:2-6; 22:4-11; 42:7). Verses 3-5 anticipate the petition of v. 8.” NIV p. 323
“As for the psalmist, to defend righteousness and integrity against the enemies is, in effect, to profess trust in God and loyalty to God’s ways (see Ps 26:1-3). ” NIV p. 324 This is not about self-righteousness but about being falsely accused.
“… the deliverance for which the psalmist prays will only be forthcoming if indeed he is innocent, for specifically he seeks deliverance for the circumstances created by false accusations laid against him.” WBC. p. 100
“The oath takes the form of a series of statements introduced by “if”, followed by consequences. If indeed he had done certain things, then his enemies had every right to pursue him.” WBC p. 100
“The reference to an “ally” (v5a) indicates the person agains whom the evil actions were said to have been done, namely a person to whom the psalmist was bound in a relationship of treaty or covenant which should be characterized by faithfulness, not treachery.” WBC p. 101
“The psalmist’s glory was not merely his personal honor, but his capacity to praise and worship God; if he were guilty, that capacity would go, along with life itself.” WBC p. 101
“It is a curious feature of the experience of human living, that the public accusation of the sins or crimes which we have committed is easier to bear, emotionally and spiritually, than the false accusations concerning crimes of which we are innocent. When an evil act or sin is committed, there is at least justice in the accusation; there is a path of restoration and repentance possible. But the false accusation is harder to bear, partly because it brings with hit the experience of injustice, and partly because there may seem to be no escape from its consequences. We cannot repent of something we have not done, nor can we make restoration, and it is in the nature of false accusers that they do not easily depart and leave us in peace. The genuine anxiety evoked by false accusations, whether of a subtle and personal nature or an open and legal nature, is partly legitimate and partly illegitimate. It is legitimize in the sense that false accusations can do real damage, whether to reputations, family, or means of livelihood. But it may be an illegitimate anxiety if it is tied too intimately to pride, for such anxiety assumes that the opinion of other persons is of more significance than the opinion of God. Yet it is in the nature of false accusation, that whereas it may deceive and convince our fellow human beings, it cannot deceive God. False accusation never undermines a person’s standing in the sight of God, though it may provide a testing ground for the accused’s strength of character.” WBC p. 103
“We do not know from the psalm whether the falsely accused was finally vindicated or his name was cleared; we know only that he came into such a knowledge of God that he could accept his lot.” WBC p. 104
“It is better to maintain integrity and continue to suffer injustice, than to sell out to evil and form ranks with the unrighteous.” WBC p. 104
WBC Allen, Leslie C. 1983. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150. Vol. 21. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1974. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. 8th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press.
Brueggemann, Walter. 2007. Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. 2nd ed. Eugene, OR: Cascade.
Brueggemann Brueggemann, Walter. 2014. From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms. Edited by Brent A. Strawn. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.
Creach, Jerome Frederick Davis. 1998. Psalms: Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
NIB Keck, Leander E. 2015. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary. Vol. 3. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Mays Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.
Miller Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.
WBC Tate, Marvin E. 1990. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100. Edited by David Allan. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Vol. 20. Waco, TX: Word.
OTL Weiser, Artur. 1998. Old Testament Library: Psalms. Translated by Herbert Hartwell. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.
Other Year D Psalm blog posts:
I’m attempting a series exploring the Psalms in year D. Many churches use the revised common lectionary that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C). Year D was created with the goal of including scriptures that were left out or not used as frequently as others.
I began this series in Lent 2020. These blog posts include examples of meditation or spiritual discipline or mindfulness exercises. Here are the links: Ash Wednesday: Psalm 102; 1st Sunday in Lent: Psalm 6; 2nd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 143; 3rd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 38; 4th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 39; 5th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 101; 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35. I went a different direction during Holy Week and dropped the Psalms for a while, but I’m hoping to pick them back up again.
I’m going to try to move forward with the Psalms so that it might be useful for worship in the coming weeks and hoping that I can also go back and pick up some of the ones I missed.
The Season of Easter: Resurrection of the Lord (Easter) Psalm 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76, 2nd Sunday in Easter Psalm 64 or Psalm 119:73-96, 3rd Sunday in Easter Psalm 60 or 108, 4th Sunday in Easter Psalm 10, 5th Sunday in Easter Psalm 49: (1-12) 13-20, 6thSunday in Easter Psalm 129, Ascension Thursday Psalm 119:145-176, 7th Sunday in Easter Psalm 115, and Pentecost Sunday Psalm 119:113-136.
Then we move into “ordinary time” which is broken up into sections throughout the liturgical year. Remember that the year starts with Advent (I started this adventure in Lent) so some of the ordinary Sundays have already happened.
Trinity -Ordinary Time- Christ the King: Trinity Sunday Psalm 35, 9th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 142, 10th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 74, 11th Sunday Psalm 7, 12th Sunday Psalm 55, 13th Sunday Psalm 56, and 14th Sunday Psalm 57 or Psalm 3.