Psalm 108 - My heart is steadfast
A Song. A Psalm of David.
1) My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make melody.
Awake, my soul!
2) Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.
3) I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples,
and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4) For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
5) Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
and let your glory be over all the earth.
6) Give victory with your right hand, and answer me,
so that those whom you love may be rescued.
7) God has promised in his sanctuary:
"With exultation I will divide up Shechem,
and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
8) Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet;
Judah is my scepter.
9) Moab is my washbasin;
on Edom I hurl my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph."
10) Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
11) Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
12) O grant us help against the foe,
for human help is worthless.
13) With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.
Psalm 108 (NRSV*)
Not included in the Revised Common Lectionary.
It is hard to imagine nine more confident verses. My heart is steadfast, I am happy and thankful. I am counting on God's victory.
It's as good as done! God has promised to roll over his enemies, to cut up their territory, to take possession of these nations for his own purposes. Gilead? Mine! Manasseh? Mine! Succoth, Shechem, Ephraim, Judah, Philistia... mine! Utter conquest! I will wipe myself with Moab and insult Edom with the dust from my feet. (Do you remember The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoe at George W. Bush, pictured above.) God is primed to rejoice over his mighty conquests.
And yet... the steadfast heart of verse 1 gives way to a much less certain reality by verse 10.
How can these victories happen? How can I even make it onto the battlefield? You do not go out, O God, with our armies. Oh, excrement.
I am confident. I am brave. I am strong. I am confident. I am brave. I am strong.
The first part of the psalm begins to sound a lot more like an affirmation aimed at shoring up a very shaky foundation. More like a locker room pep talk before you go out to meet the team who is bigger and faster than yours.
Well, courage is where you find it. It does take a steadfast heart to stand upright when you don't know when reinforcements will arrive. It takes a steadfast heart to trust in God when God hasn't lately seemed so present, so helpful, so faithful.
It takes a steadfast heart to pray for help against the foe, recognizing that your power is worthless, for the Lord alone decides the destiny of people and nations. It takes a steadfast heart to trust God to act like God.
God, grant me a steadfast heart, not just to trust in your goodness, but in your grace for me.
U.S. Federal Government, President George W. Bush ducking during a press conference in the Prime Minister's Palace in Baghdad, after two shoes were thrown by Al-Baghdadia TV journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, 14 December 2008. This image is a work of an employee of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.
* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.