Psalms of David
Psalms in Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41) are mostly personal songs, so I will be looking at how they apply to us personally. Social and communal aspects of life and work do not come in until the later books of psalms.
Who was Cush?
All we know about Cush is from the tribe of Benjamin, which was the tribe Saul, Israel’s first king came from. Knowing more about who Cush was and what he said would help us to know what this psalm is about, but we’re stuck. Various theories have been made about the identity of Cush, from a follower of Saul when David was fleeing from him, to one of those who wished the crown of Israel to stay with the family of Saul in the tribe of Benjamin through to the Cushite messenger who brought David news of the death of his son, Absolom. Whatever Cush said though, it was not good news.
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.
A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite.
7 O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
3 O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
4 if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
5 let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust. Selah
6 Arise, O Lord, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake for me; you have appointed a judgement.
7 Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.
8 The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
9 Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God!
10 My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
A God who feels indignation every day.
12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
15 He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
16 His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends.
17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,Psalm 7 ESVUK
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
It’s confusing. How to interpret a poem is simple if the form of the poem is simple, but with Psalm 7 this is not the case. It is chiastic in structure, words are introduced in one order and dealt with in reverse order, but it isn’t as simple as that. There is an outer chiasm, starting with the title and ending at the last verse, but in between, they are other chiasms, sometimes alone sometimes in pairs which interrupt the outer one. These may take the form of verses, but we have lost the tune and don’t know how it would have been sung. We do not know who Cush was, or what he said and the form of the lyrics is complex. As I said, it’s confusing. Actually, if you study it does have a form, but I can’t think of a way to talk about the form without losing all my readers. I’m in a pickle on this one.
All we can know from this psalm is that David is in a pickle. He is using the image of being torn apart by a lion which is not the sort of imagery that a calm man would use. David’s predicament is extreme.
But when looking at the psalms which look like rants and laments it is easy to forget that they are also worship songs. It shows us that our worship songs, both traditional and contemporary, are lacking if there is no room in our worship for laments of sorrow or rants when something angers us.
David’s rant here is about justice, or rather the lack of it, so he cries out to God, the god of justice, to end the wicked’s reign. The prayer is not one for vengeance, however, but for repentance and the warnings of God’s judgements are to those who will not repent.
God is a god of justice and God cannot be thwarted, the message of this psalm is to those who are living and/or acting outside the will of God, people who are not fair to others or merciful. Have a look at your lives, repent. which means turn away from the things you did and turn to God and to the people you have harmed.
We all need to do this.