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YEAR B: EPIPHANY 3
January 22, 2012
Psalm 62:5-12


Psalm 62 is another individual lament but with some wisdom aspects such as the saying in v. 8. There might also be traces of the liturgical use of the psalm with a refrain, with slight variations in vv. 1-2 and 5-6. Verses 11-12 also could be a response by the psalmist following some proclamation that the Lord has heard the psalmist’s plea, which seems to concern some form of oppression or abuse (v. 3). The psalmist has apparently been of some repute in society and is being attacked in relation to their reputation. Some form of extortion may be involved (v. 10).

In spite of these attacks there is a strong note of confidence in the psalmist’s words (vv. 1-2, 5-6). The psalmist calls for trust and refuge in God (vv. 9-10; cf. 52.7) intensifying a thought already expressed in Psalm 61 and looking forward to Psalm 63, through the word nephesh (‘life, self’, NRSV: ‘soul’), and the ‘silence’ motif (v. 1; cf. Ps. 65.1). Psalm 63 has a strong sense of comfort and assurance following the waiting of Psalm 62.

Connecting Psalm 62 with the reading from Jonah could be understood in a number of ways. If we were to focus simply on the message of repentance in Jonah then we could read the psalm as one calling for patience in waiting for God, to whom all power belongs, to act. We might imagine Jonah having proclaimed his message now settling back to let God do his work. Or we might imagine some other psalmist who, having made his/her plea to God, calmly sits back waiting in confidence that their prayer will be heard.

But as we have noted Jonah is more likely a satire on a prophet who cannot accept the significance and possibility of the message he proclaims for God. If we hear Jonah’s preaching in that context then we may well hear the words of the psalm as being ones oozing hypocrisy. In the context of the readings from Jonah and Mark, the words of the psalm become ones which challenge all those who recite them, be it in private or public worship. Do we really trust God at all times? Do we wait in silence for him? Is our hope in God? Or are the words of our mouths touched with the duplicity of a Jonah even though we may not intend such? Through the use of satire the seriousness and strength of commitment to God’s way of forgiveness is underlined.
 

Suggestions for the use of the psalm in worship:

The psalm seems best suited for use in the prayers of confession and in the declaration of forgiveness itself. The refrain in the form of either vv. 1-2 or vv. 5-6 could serve as a congregational response to prayers of confession. Verse 8 might then lead into the declaration of forgiveness such as:

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us,
whose word of grace to us in Jesus Christ is:
‘Your sins are forgiven.’
    Thanks be to God.
Old Testament Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10

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