“A Word on the Psalms,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
From my earliest day when I attended Sunday School ,I have been reading the Psalms. I recall committing to memory certain Psalms, particularly Psalms 1 and 2. The Psalms have been called the “manna of the church.” The first thing about the psalms is their great beauty. They are essentially what remains of a large body of Hebrew lyric poetry which can also be found in the Song of Solomon and the book of Judges.
The Psalms are essentially hymns. Sometimes they are curses. Sometimes they speak of God’s judgment on the evil-doer and his reward for the righteous. Sometimes they speak of persecution by the Psalmist’s enemies and they often exhibit great concern for and exhort us to aid the poor, the needy, and the widows.
The psalms are quite old but how old we do not know precisely. When we read or listen to the Psalms, we see the roots of antiquity and sometimes we see Herbrews dancing and singing these hymns before the Temple. The psalms are old and many times we do not know their author but they have been ascribed to King David.
I can say this much, that one cannot stop reading and rereading the psalms since they are great lyric poetry. I challenge anyone to read a translation of the psalms in English and a translation of a Greek Play or another translated piece of writing and see which they grow tired of more quickly.
It is somewhat beyond the scope of this particular essay to talk more about all the psalms. I will do so in a forthcoming book, which is in preparation. I would like, however, to talk about Psalm 62. Set in its entirety:
For God alone my soul waits in silence
From him comes my salvation
He only is my rock and my salvation; my fortress
I shall not be greatly moved
How long will you set upon a man to shutter him
All of you like a leaning wall a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his eminence
They take pleasure in falsehood
They bless with their mouths and inwardly curse
For God alone my soul waits in silence
For my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress
I shall not be taken
On God rests my deliverance and my honor
My mighty rock and my refuge is God
Trust in him at all times people
Pour out your heart before him
God is a refuge for you
Men of low esteem are but a breath
Men of high estate a delusion
In the balance they go up
They are together lighter than a breath
Put no confidence in extortion
Set no vain hopes on robbery
If riches increase set not your heart on them
I have always been stimulated in my thinking by his particular psalm. I have found a somewhat significant interest in verse 9. That verse states. “Men of low esteem are but a breath. Men of high esteem a delusion. In the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.” This particular verse has always struck me with its currency and modernity. The poet says in this verse that there is not difference in actuality in class demarcation. Their significance to this psalmist and poet is meaningless and insignificant. The poet and psalmist is telling us here that there is no reality in defining a person by class since that terminology has no applicability and reality. I find the poet’s statements that men of high estate are a delusion, but he says the same of a person of low estate having no meaning in being defined by that term that is being of low estate.
The poet tells us that, taken together, he sees no point on the matter. This particular poet is making a very advanced statement, namely that defining a person by class demarcations is meaningless and in reality means nothing.
In short, when I read this psalm and, one might say, any other part of the Bible, I am in the presence of extremely advanced thinking, which will always be a challenge to the world system and the thinking of the soul. To give one more example, the statement by Jesus that the poor are blessed is an equally- challenging statement and an extreme example of advanced thinking. I challenge those who say the Bible is irrelevant to read, reread, and reflect on Psalm 62, verse 9.
This essay is taken, in part, with modifications and alterations from chapter 37 of the book entitled “Essays on Faith, Culture, Politics and Philosophy,” published by University Press of America, 2016.