Elul Meditation: Rescue and Shelter

Psalm 27 is read morning and evening throughout this month of Elul.

The first section of Psalm 27 is about rescue (vss. 1-3) and the second about shelter (vss. 4-6).

Not everyone divides the Psalm the same way. John Goldingay, whose excellent commentary in Psalms is praiseworthy, sees the structure differently:

vss. 1-2 A basic statement of trust.
vss. 3-6 A repetition and expansion of the statement.
vss. 7-12 A new section, perhaps added later, perhaps moving from congregational affirmation to personal lament.
vss. 13-14 A return, in part, to a statement of trust.

Goldingay is no minor commentator and perhaps his outline has merit. Yet, it is easy to notice the theme of rescue which unites vss. 1-3 and shelter which unites vss. 4-6.

RESCUE IN VSS. 1-3
????
Yish’i
My rescue

???? ???
Ma’oz chayyai
Strength of my life

??? ?????
Tzarai v’oyvai
My enemies and foes

???? ??? ?????
Takum alai milchamah
Will arise war against me

SHELTER IN VSS. 4-6
???? ???? ??
Dwelling in the house of Adonai

????? ??????
Ul’vakeir b’heichalo
And to inquire in his Temple

?????? ????
Yitzfeneini b’sukkah
He will hide me in his sukkah (shelter)

?????? ???? ????
Yastireini b’seter ohalo
He will hide me in the cover of his tent

?????? ?????
v’ezbechah b’ohalo
I will offer [sacrifices] in his tent

In this month of Elul, Psalm 27 is a fitting meditation. As we consider our personal guilt and the offenses against God and other people that have filled our lives, we need a rescue and a shelter.

The psalm will go on, as Goldingay and many other commentators note, to speak with less certainty, with the voice of urgent request and not certain affirmation. This too is something we need to understand, that our certain faith faces the uncertainty of trials. Will our belief in God as our rescue and shelter carry us? It is good to ponder this during Elul and throughout the days of awe.

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