Going by Brueggemann’s classification scheme, this is the first time since Psalm 1 that we’ve seen a psalm of orientation. In this psalm, God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world–or at least the things that are wrong with the world to not merit the consideration of this particular psalm.
In this psalm, as in psalm 5, David urges God to protect him from his enemies and to bring justice to evildoers. However, much like Mitch Hedberg, this time he has taken out the old words and added new ones. For starters, there’s a much more serious threat against him this time. He sets the stage for his petition to God by stating, “Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me, or he will tear my soul like a lion, dragging me away, while there is none to deliver” (1-2). There’s no question that his enemies threaten his very life. Perhaps this is why he proposes to God that, if he has harmed his friends or made anyone his enemy without due cause, God should let his own enemies prevail against him(4-5). Without God’s intervention, it would seem that David is going to die anyway, so he might as well make his case on the strongest basis he can find: God’s own justice.
Actually, “Sad Zone” is probably too tame. “Misery Zone?” “Zone of Inconsolable Sorrow?” “Cry Hole?” There we go. Welcome to the Cry Hole. Perhaps you, too, have been to the Cry Hole. It is a place where it seems like the tears just won’t stop coming. And maybe they abate for long enough that you can go out in public, but then you feel them coming back, and you’re running for the nearest restroom stall to hide your tears in. Every night, like David, you make your bed swim in tears (6). The Cry Hole is a terrible place to be, and if I were currently in the Cry Hole, I would not refer to it so flippantly. I love a good laugh, but there’s nothing to laugh at in the Cry Hole. Which is why I hate being in the Cry Hole.
“Does justice never find you? Do the wicked never lose? Is there any honest song to sing besides these blues?” -Switchfoot, “The Blues.” This is a recurring question in David’s psalms, one which he sometimes answers, but never without tension between how things are and how they should be. Throughout his life, David saw wicked men prosper. He saw a Philistine giant mock God and his people. He fled from a king driven to madness by rage, hiding in caves to save his own life from this abuse of power. He saw war and bloodshed. And how does he describe those who commit the evils he sees?
David begins this psalm by asking God to respond to his prayer; however, he immediately turns and addresses a group of people who “love what is worthless and aim at deception” (v.2). He continues speaking to them, urging them to trust in God, until the very end of the psalm, where he returns to addressing God. You can picture David turning his attention from God to the people around him, then back to God. Who is his intended audience, and what’s his point? Who exactly is this psalm for, anyway?
Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann has a useful three-category schema for understanding the Psalms. First, psalms of orientation describe the status quo, a place where everything makes sense in our lives. Second, psalms of disorientation describe a painful upheaval, a threat to our happiness and well-ordered existence. Finally, psalms of reorientation describe a place of renewed order, where God has rescued us from disorientation and revitalized our world. These broad categories give us a tool for understanding the Psalms.
One of my dad’s favorite jokes: “Do you know how to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” Years later, as I was reading Psalm 2, it hit me: that joke is biblical. …Well, not exactly. After laughing at the nations’ plans to oppose him and unseat his anointed king, God unleashes the terror of his anger on them, and threatens to kill them for their arrogance (v.12). Yikes.