I call this psalm ‘A Prayer for Rescue from the Yetzer Hara’. This is a very strange psalm as it can be translated and interpreted in two seemingly contradictory ways. On the one hand, it seems to be a confession of moral failure. On the other, it comes across as a proclamation of moral victory. Could it be both? Well, that is the beautiful thing about the Hebrew language as only it can express in one psalm how our defeats can be transformed into future victories.
A tephilah of David = תפלה = “prayer”
1-2 (c) Hear a righteous (+15) plea, Adonai. (b) Be attentive to my cry/song. (a) Give ear to my prayer which is not from lips that are deceitful. 2 From Your presence let my vindication go out! Let Your eyes behold uprightness!
רנה (rinah) = “cry” or “song”
(c) May Adonai bless you and keep you.
(b) May Adonai make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
(a) May Adonai lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
But they who wait for Adonai shall renew their strength.
(c) They shall mount up with wings like eagles.
(b) They shall run and not be weary.
(a) They shall walk and not faint.
3 You have tried my heart, You have visited me by night, You have tested me, and You will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
4-5 With regard to the works of man, by the word of Your lips I have kept guard against the ways of the violent. 5 My steps have held fast to Your paths; my feet have not slipped.
6-12 I call upon You, for You will answer me, O God; incline Your ear to me; hear my words. 7 Wondrously show Your loving kindness, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at Your right hand. 8 Keep me as the pupil of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings, 9 from the wicked who plunder me, my deadly enemies who surround me. 10In their fat they have enclosed themselves; with their mouths they speak with arrogance. 11 They have now surrounded our steps; they set their eyes to invade the land. 12 He resembles a lion eager to tear, and a young lion lurking in hiding.
13-14 Arise, O Adonai! Confront him, bring him to his knees! Deliver my soul from the wicked one [who serves as] Your sword, 14 from men by Your hand, Adonai, from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.
15 As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness (+1). When I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness.
Genesis 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden He placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the Tree of Life.
Exodus 14:19-20 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.
Rashi’s translation: “You tested me – you found [me] not [perfect]; my scheming will not again pass my lips.”
Rashi’s translation: “I have kept guard against brazen ways. Although I acted improperly, in Your goodness, keep my strides steady…”
Isaiah 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the destroyer to destroy.
Rashi’s translation: “[Rescue my soul] from the mortals who are Your tools, Adonai, from mortals of this transitory world whose portion is earthly life, and with Your hidden treasure You fill [only] their belly; they are sated with sons and they leave over their abundance to their offspring.”
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
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