1 Make haste, O God, to save me; O LORD, come to my aid. 2 May those who seek to kill me be utterly dismayed. May all who seek my ruin be turned back in disgrace, 3 And may all those who mock me with shame their steps retrace.
4 But may all those who seek you rejoice in you always; May those who love salvation say, “To our God be praise!” 5 Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly, God, I pray. You are my help and saviour; O LORD, do not delay.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Bremen here
Psalms can be used in a variety of circumstances. The words of Psalm 70 with a few minor but significant changes are also found in Psalm 40:13-17. It is difficult to date the Psalms but generally Psalm 70 is considered the older. Psalm 70 uses the word Elohim, translated in the English as God in verses 1 and 4 as opposed to YHWH, ‘the Lord’, in Psalm 40. Psalm 70 is regarded as the lament of an individual whereas Psalm 40 is one of thanksgiving.
In the first half of the Psalm the Psalmist asks for help in face of opposition,. Unusually unlike the plea in many Psalms the Psalmist does not ask for enemies to be destroyed. The Psalmist essentially wants them to turn round and flee, rather like a retreating army.
The Psalmist goes on to reflect upon those who are faithful to God. The Psalmist urges those who seek God to rejoice and praise. The Psalmist has moved beyond personal need to pray for others. Then right at the end the Psalmist returns to the plea made at the beginning for God to make haste to save and begs God not to delay.
Psalm 70 is not long; it does not contain glorious, memorable lines but it can be applied to a variety of situations. If we use it in prayer, we may feel it does not particularly apply to us but even so we may realise the Psalm speaks to others in need of God’s help, a help that needs to quickly come. Common Worship of the Church of England in the opening responses for morning and evening prayer uses words long used in monastic worship:
O God, make speed to save us: O Lord, make haste to help us.
Gracious God, we thank you for the psalmists, whose words through the ages have addressed human need and concerns. Whose words speak to our own condition, with deep sighs of lamentation, with songs of praise, with words that bring comfort in distress. We give thanks and pray for those whose concerns are deep, whose troubles are life sapping. We pray, God, that you will quickly help and save… In Christ’s name we pray. Amen
The Rev’d Dr David Whiting, Minister, Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership