Psalm 58

Psalm 58

“It may come as a shock to realize that despite our profession of Christ-like love for foes, our real attitude is more attended to Ps 58 (and others like it). ” Marvin Tate, Word Biblical Commentary p. 90

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 58:

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.  

I did a breath prayer video for my friends at Missing Peace.

Reflection:

Ick, this psalm is difficult to read. I have to remind myself that psalms are the very honest feelings people express to God, and if I’m truthful, sometimes my very honest feelings are not pretty either. It’s helpful to remember that the psalmist didn’t rip teeth out of lions or kill babies, and most likely didn’t expect God to literally do that either. These metaphors are terrible. But getting all of these terrible images and thoughts out is an important part of processing emotions. God can take all of our gross terribleness. There is no part of life where God is not present. So why lie to God about how we feel? Instead, tell it like it is and let God handle the rest.

Calling for God’s vengeance refers to an action to do justice and restore order where the regular and responsible institutions of justice have failed. Have you ever felt like our system of justice has failed? Or maybe you know someone who feels this way? Maybe you have seen first hand some of the protests and heard stories about people facing injustice. What would it sound like to describe those situations to God? Would we talk about guns malfunctioning and exploding in the shooters hands? Would we ask that tear gas canisters be thrown back to those who launched them? Would we pray for bullet resistant skin?

“What the righteous assert, they also pray for, and Jesus taught his disciples to pray in the same way. Although it may sound offensive at first hearing, the prayer for justice is vv. 6-9 is, in essence, what Christians pray in the Lord’s prayer: “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven… deliver us from evil.” Verses 6-9 are likely to sound less offensive when one realizes that the psalmist does not enact revenge but submits the complaint to God for action.” NIB p. 464

When I am able to tell God how I really feel, I do feel better. And that gentle mother’s whisper reminds me that it’s going to be ok. The God I cling to is one who hears me, sees me, and is with me. She is the God of justice. I know she sees the violence and injustice that is all over our world. I can put my hope in God.

Let us pray:

God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your hope and release my anger. 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:

“It may come as a shock to realize that despite our profession of Christ-like love for foes, our real attitude is more attended to Ps 58 (and others like it). ” WBC p. 90

“There is violence on earth; there is no justice for humankind. That is the painful dilemma with which Psalm 58 begins (vv. 1-2). At its conclusion, it makes the confession that enables the faithful to live with the dilemma in hope; there is a God who judges the earth (v. 11). The psalm is one of the many in the Psalter concerned with the problem that the power and success of the wicked set for the life of the righteous who live in trust and obedience. See Psalms 9; 10; 11; 12; 14; 37; 49; 73; 91; 94” Mays p. 211

“The identity of those addressed by the vocative in verse 1 is a perennial question, because the meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain. If “you gods” is correct (so NRSV), then the psalm addresses the minor deities of the ancient Near Eastern pantheon who were thought of as intermediate officials in the divine administration of the world… The wicked would be the human instruments of their injustice. It seems better to translate “O mighty ones” (NJPS) or “you rulers” (REB), understanding the vocative as a derisive appellation like “O mighty man” at the beginning of Psalm 52. Then the reference to the birth of the wicked would stand indirect continuity with the opening verses.” Mays pp. 211-212

“gods” vs. “mighty ones” debate. “The NRSV and the NIV represent the two most recently adopted solutions. The NIV’s transition is probably to be preferred, since v. 3 clearly has human beings in view and since Psalm 52 also begins by addressing a wicked, powerful human being… If the NRV’s translation is correct, then Psalm 58 has clearer affinity with Psalm 82, in which God accrues the gods of injustice.” NIB p. 463

Verse 6-9 vocabulary and translation issues, “but it is clear enough that the images in these verses communicate the heart of the matter; the psalmist prays for the disappearance of all that opposes God’s will for human life. The request is indicative of the psalmist’s loyalty to God and God’s ways, and it is in keeping with Ps. 1:4-6 an dits affirmation that wickedness will not endure.” NIB p. 463

“What the righteous assert, they also pray for, and Jesus taught his disciples to pray in the same way. Although it may sound offensive at first hearing, the prayer for justice is vv. 6-9 is, in essence, what Christians pray in the Lord’s prayer: “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven… deliver us from evil.” Verses 6-9 are likely to sound less offensive when one realizes that the psalmist does not enact revenge but submits the complaint to God for action.” NIB p. 464

“The notion of “vengeance” (v. 10) is a feature of the vision of God as ruler. The term does not mean vindictive revenge; it refers to an action to do justice and restore order where the regular and responsible institutions of justice have failed.” Mays p. 212 Similar in NIV p. 464 and WBC p. 89

“It is revealing, too, that the righteous do not carry out the vengeance but are witnesses to it. Vengeance belongs to God (see Deut. 32:35; Ps 94:1), not to humans (see Lev 19:18). The word “reward” is literally “fruit”; thus living in depended upon God will ultimately bear fruit (see Ps 1:3).” NIB p. 464

“The psalms contain “honest-to-God” language which expresses the actual feelings of human beings in ordinary life, devoid of some sort of supposed (and false) spiritual idealism.” WBC p. 88

“The significance of expressing anger and hurt to God should be evaluated positively. Fear, hurt, anger, and the desire for revenge are elements in our lives as human beings. We gain nothing by denying the real nature of our experiences. Forgiveness of enemies is not easy, but it is facilitated by the acknowledgement to God of our hurt and anger. When bitterness and pain are poured out to God, the way may be cleared for a fresh vision of reality and new trust in God. These psalms help to purify us of feelings of rage, and also of dereliction and abandonment. They lead toward a catharsis of faith and a renewal of the soul. They also help us to realize that there is no place or condition of life where God is not.” WBC p. 88

“To assert that “there is a God who establishes justice on earth” (v. 11 author’s trans.) is to profess, in essence that right makes might. To be sure, wordy wisdom is just the opposite–might makes right.” NIB p. 464

“Yahweh is not an indifferent God, who turns away from the terrible evil of humanity; he is the defender of the poor and oppressed, the comforter of those who hurt and mourn. He is a God who hears and saves.” WBC p. 89

“the conviction that God will ultimately establish justice on earth is of greatest consequence. It calls us simultaneously to both joy and repentance, as did Jesus (see Mark 1:14-15).” NIB p. 465

“The language of these psalms evokes in us an awareness of the terrible wickedness that is in the world. They may not be our prayers, at the moment at least, but they are the prayers of our sisters and brothers who are trampled down by persons and powers beyond their control. The long Christian interpretation of the imprecatory psalm as the prayers of Christ on behalf of the poor and needy may be of real value in this regard. An ancient Christian tradition treats the psalms as both about Christ and as prayers of Christ (and, of course, in some cases as prayers addressed to Christ, identified with the deity addressed in the psalms).” WBC p.89

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.

McCann, J. C., & Howell, J. C. 2001. Preaching the Psalms. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Miller Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.

Spong Spong, M. (Ed.). (2020). The words of her mouth: Psalms for the struggle. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim 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.  

Holy Week: Palm Sunday, 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35, Maundy Thursday Psalm 115 or 113, Good Friday Psalm 88, Holy Saturday (Great Vigil) Psalms 7, 17, 44, 57 or 108, 119:145-176, 149.

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.

The Apocalyptic Discourse 15th -19th Sundays in Ordinary time: 15th Sunday Psalm 17:8-14(15) or Psalm 83, 16th Sunday Psalm 54, 17th Sunday Psalm 50 or Psalm 105, 18thSunday Psalm 59, and 19th Sunday Psalm 37.

Prelude to the Passion 20th -23rd Sundays in Ordinary time: 20th Sunday Psalm 58, 21st Sunday Psalm 140, 22nd Sunday Psalm 68 or Psalm 120 or Psalm 82, and 23rd Sunday Psalm 141.

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