A psalm

Another day, another piece of homework. Here’s one that was produced for OT Studies II. But it is also a victory song of a personal nature, forged in the fires of monstrous emotions. Though it sometimes feels as though I am only surrendering in my defeat, through it all, God has never let go and has taught me the meaning of ‘enough’. I find everything I need in him.

1 Blooms presented to the LORD are not rejected;
2 they are treasured by the Father who loves us.

3 Pearls raised to the LORD are not trampled;
4 they are gathered by the Spirit who knows us.

5 Confessions poured out to the LORD are not despised;
6 they are prized by the King who hears us.

7 I lack the blooms and pearls that men treasure, gather and prize;
8 At the feet of my Lord are only wildflowers, misshapen pearls and bittersweet libations. 

9 But still the LORD accepts them, lifts me up, and is my truest confession.
10 He has spread his beauty and wisdom and honour over me, and I know I am his forevermore.  

We were tasked with writing a commentary as well. Only read if you’re enthralled by parallelisms, metaphors and words with multiple meanings.

  1. Blooms are a synonym for flowers. In Psalm 103:15–16, flowers represent the transient nature of humanity. To that idea, I am adding the notion of eager but ultimately feeble human endeavour, as the implication here is that blooms presented, as though in pursuit of a lover, to others apart from God are always in danger of being rejected. Having undergone the experience of having an offering of love turned away, then the experience of God’s constant reassurance and comfort, I am hoping to convey the conviction that he always heeds our offerings of love to him. The illustration from nature helps to identify this work as a wisdom psalm.
  2. This explains why God never rejects our attempts to please him — as our Father, he already loves us, so we do not need to win him over. The Father’s heart would cherish our efforts. The mention of God the Father here sets up the Trinitarian Godhead referred to in the rest of the psalm. The building up of the idea germinated in verse 1 make up progressive parallelism.
  3. The pearls are a reference to Matthew 7:6. In that context, the issue is giving what is holy to the unclean, scoffers and fools who can hardly grasp and could indeed abuse the treasure that lies before them. In this psalm, the idea is transferred to the issue of giving what is precious to oneself to those who cannot or will not appreciate it, leaving one feeling unappreciated and misunderstood. This may be something like a thought uttered or a feeling shared.
  4. God, who searches our hearts (Romans 8:27) and thus “knows us”, is the only one who knows the true value of and understands completely what we are trying to express, even when our nearest and dearest do not. This verse explains what the Holy Spirit does with the rough utterances and half-formed thoughts we bring before God — he not only “gathers” them, but also by implication does so for his purposes and plans. There is a grammatical parallelism in verses 3–4 with verses 1–2, in addition to the progressive parallelism formed by this and the previous verse.
  5. The act of confession (which rightly should be from a broken and a contrite heart) not being “despised” is a reference to Psalm 51:17. The act of pouring out the confession is a concept that returns later in verse 8.
  6. The idea here is that God has stooped to listen to us, such is his compassion. That he is hailed as the King implies a power to redeem our brokenness for his glory, but the point is that it is God the Son, King Jesus, who is being addressed. Verses 5–6 form a grammatical parallelism with verses 1–2 and 3–4. There is a progressive parallelism with verse 5.
  7. There might be a tinge of self-pity here, but really an acceptance that I cannot and may not actually want to meet the expectations of men (and women), that is, the world. In the eyes of the world, the metaphors in verses 1–6 would naturally be interpreted differently. Flowers represent attractiveness and pearls represent wealth or power, or both, and I acknowledge in the verse that I do not have the ‘supply’ that meets the ‘demand’.
  8. In the eyes of the world and in reality, my “blooms” are really just weeds (the word “wildflowers” was chosen to make a clearer link to blooms), and my “pearls” I cough up are malformed and lacking lustre (or forethought). Libations are a metaphor for confessions, since they too are poured out in verse 5, and also refer explicitly to the drink offerings made in ancient Near Eastern rituals. There is also a nod to Paul’s reference to himself as being poured out like a libation in Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6 — in a sense, spending everything within him. So the idea here is of pouring oneself out unto God, all of one’s sorrows (the bitter), and hopes and dreams (the sweet). The use of “my Lord” is a claim to a relationship of greater intimacy than the kingly figure and the LORD in the preceding couplet would suggest.
  9. Many contrasts surface here. Instead of rejecting (verse 1), God accepts our offerings — this is also a reference to acceptable sacrifices in Genesis 4:7, Psalm 51:17 and Romans 12:1. The idea of that God “accepts” prayer is inherent here — see Job 42:8–9 and Psalm 6:9. Instead of trampling all over our offerings (verse 3), God lifts us up. This is an extension of the idea that God is willing and able to lift (or ‘raise’) us up from dire circumstances, as has been referenced in 1 Sam 2:8 (Hannah’s Song), and Psalms 9:13, 107:41, 146:8 and 147:6. In this verse, a different sense of the word “confession” is being intended — instead of meaning ‘to tell God about your sins’, it means ‘ to tell a sinful world about God’, that is, to make a confession about him instead of to him. The superlative “truest” is meant to bring across a sense of this confession of faith being based on the truth, and also indicates it is the core of my identity, which is not in my sins but in Christ (Galatians 2:20).
  10. The idea from Ruth 3:9 of spreading a cloak over a woman as a symbol of taking responsibility for her future is present here. God in a way exchanges my wilted blooms with his beauty (Psalm 27:4), my foolishness with his wisdom (Proverbs 1–9), and my disgrace in sin with his honouring of me. “Forevermore”, which is used in the NRSV translation I depend on, implies that my relationship with God is not only secure, intimate and eternal, but also carries with it the tones of a marriage covenant. Coming alongside this idea of spreading a cloak is the idea of God spreading his protection over his people, like in Psalm 5:11–12, where there is not only a cloaking with his goodness, but a finding of refuge in his goodness. Verses 9–10 contrast with verses 7–8, forming a semantic parallelism in the opposition of the direness of my lack (verses 7–8) and the fullness of the providence of God (verses 9–10).

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