Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
let your eyes see the right.
If you try my heart, if you visit me by night,
if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me;
my mouth does not transgress.
As for what others do, by the word of your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O saviour of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
Guard me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.
They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
They track me down; now they surround me;
they set their eyes to cast me to the ground.
They are like a lion eager to tear,
like a young lion lurking in ambush.
Rise up, O Lord, confront them, overthrow them!
By your sword deliver my life from the wicked,
from mortals—by your hand, O Lord—
from mortals whose portion in life is in this world.
May their bellies be filled with what you have stored up for them;
may their children have more than enough;
may they leave something over to their little ones.
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.
Lent, for me, has always been a time of honesty. In the days and weeks leading up to this season of fasting I start to think about what I need to give up. It always starts with superficial things like chocolate, caffeine or alcohol but often leads me to think about the deeper character traits that I feel I should try living without: envy, self-loathing or anger, to name but a few.
The Psalmist here is undoubtedly angry. It is, in fact, a vengeance Psalm. A category of writing that is often underused. Why? Because we don’t like to admit our negative emotions, especially in polite company, especially in church. But perhaps we should. How often, like the Psalmist, do we secretly pray or long for God to overthrow those who seem to be against us, to confront them or even, as the a psalmist writes, that they might simply die. How often do we point out – even if only in our heads – their wickedness as opposed to our righteousness?
Perhaps instead of trying to give up feeling things that we judge to be incorrect we should simply follow the Psalmist’s example and bring our darkest thoughts and innermost emotions and longings to God.
Alex Young is training for URC ministry at Westminster College
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