Psalms of the sons of Korah
Lament is vital
Another lamenting psalm. Lament is vital, it helps the people of God to navigate pain and suffering, it is not meant to brag anyone down and make them miserable, but a plea to God to lift them out of their trouble. In this way it is a lot like the Blues.
The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:
Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.
Psalms 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87 and 88 are attributed to the Sons of Korah. Korah, was a cousin of Moses and Arron who led a revolt against Moses: Korah died in the rebellion. His three sons were named as singers in the Tabernacle and their offspring in the Temple. The sons of Korah who wrote these psalms are descended from Korah’s sons, not necessarily the sons themselves.
Come to Our Help
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.
1 O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.
4 You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
5 Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6 For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
7 But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name for ever. Selah
9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have taken spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbours,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughing-stock among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us for ever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
26 Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
Magic Sam recorded the song Out of Bad Luck which starts, “I’ve been down so long, but I’m on my way up again.” This is the purpose of the Blues, not for people to wallow in their misery, but to give people something to look forward to, something to be optimistic about. This is also the purpose of lamenting psalms, faith, sorrow are mixed, the nation’s history and present circumstances are compared. At least it does in the first quarter of the psalm.
Psalm 44 is structured like this:
Part 1 — verses 1–3 and 4–8, God’s relationship in the past is compared to his relationship in the present time.
Part 2 — verses 9–17, What our enemies have done to us.
Part 3 — verses 18–22, The people’s faithfulness.
Part 4 — verses 23–26, Asking God to intervene.
The first part is important for understanding tradition, whether that tradition, if you are in the Church of England, is something old such as the Book of Common Prayer read in all the correct coloured vestments or something modern like New Wine. We have something to compare ourselves to; are we following God like they did? Traditions that have stood the test of time are there for a reason, it would be a mistake to throw them away and start over again, just as it is also a mistake to adhere to them rigidly.
I know all about the second part. We have done nothing wrong, said the Psalmist. I also did nothing wrong when I was left disabled following an accident when a car collided with my bicycle. The courts put 100% of the blame on the car driver. It is quite natural to ask questions to God about why this was allowed to happen.It is in fact a healing process, taking away the mental anguish, even though I am still disabled.
This is the song of a people who have trusted God and have still lost the battle, their victorious enemies are crowing about it, belittling the Jews and their god. But the Jews have a secret weapon. They still trust in a God who has led them to victory in the past and can do so again.
They can cry out because they are certain of God’s love for them.
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