« Neither schism nor heresy »
- To the choirmaster, with flutes, a psalm to David.
- Deign to give ear to my words, O Yahweh, to understand what I groan.
- Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God ! For it is You to whom I pray.
- O Yahweh, one morning You will hear my cry; I present myself before You, and I await a morning.
- For You are not a God who delights in impiety. The wicked is not Your host.
- The boastful do not stand before Your eyes; You hate all evildoers.
- You destroy those who speak lies. Yahweh abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men.
- Even as through the abundance of Your rich mercy I enter Your house, I prostrate myself towards the Hekal, Your “ Holy ”, filled with fear of You.
- Lead me, O Yahweh, in accord with Your righteousness because of those who spy upon me; make Your way smooth before me.
- For their threshing floor has not been constructed by His mouth : in their midst are things of horror. Their threshing floor is a gaping sepulchre. They make their speech sound sweet.
- Punish them, O Elohim; let them fall by their own counsels; in accord with the great number of their crimes drive them out, for they have rebelled against You.
- But then all who take shelter in You will rejoice, they will cry for joy forever; and You will defend them. And those who love Your name will exult in You.
- For You bless the righteous man, O Yahweh; You surround him with favour as with a shield.
AFTER the mysterious interlude of Psalm 4, which announced in veiled terms the suffering and outrages that will conceal the glory of the Messiah, the ardour of the combat of God described in Psalms 2 and 3 reappears in Psalm 5. Here, though, the enemies of Yahweh and of His Anointed allow themselves to be identified in a very concrete fashion.
Verse 1 : the structure of the dedication is the same as in Psalms 3 and 4, explained last May and June. After « stringed instruments » (Ps 4.1), here we have wind instruments.
Verse 2 : the « groan » is that of the righteous man, whose « delight is in the Law of Yahweh, and he murmurs His Law day and night » (Ps 1.2), and not that of the peoples in revolt against God (Ps 2.1).
Verse 3 : specifies that this groan is a cry for help, a prayer. Thanks to the preceding psalms, we know the context is that of the return from the Exile, in which the faithful Jews, who had neither prophets nor kings in Jerusalem, now occupied by foreigners, turned back to Yahweh, their true king, according to what the Prophet Zephaniah foretold : « Yahweh has repealed your sentence [the Exile]; He has turned your enemy away. The King of Israel, Yahweh, is in your midst. You shall fear evil no more. » (Zp 3.15) The Davidic monarchy was not restored after the return from the Exile; rather, it is Yahweh who is Israel’s king.
« For it is You to whom I pray » : it is inferred “ to You and to none other ” ! This is an affirmation of pure faith, free from idolatry. We will understand why.
Because of verse 4, the Bible of Jerusalem entitles the psalm : “ Morning Prayer ”. This is somewhat deficient ! For here it is a question of the “ Eschatological Morning ”, when the Last Judgement will take place at the end of time, the object of the faith and the hope of faithful Yahwists.
Verse 5 : Yahweh cannot tolerate the presence of the « wicked » who come hypocritically to His Temple to take part in worship.
Verse 6 : Our Lord Jesus Christ has these « boasters » figure in His parables, Pharisees who « stand » in the first row of the synagogue, hypocrites who come to praise God : « This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. (Mt 15.8-9 ; Is 29.13)
Here the image is very vivid : the boastful do not stand firm (cf. Ps 1.5). This is what will be seen on the Eschatological Morning : they will lose ground. For the moment, God does not seem to see them, but it would suffice for Him to turn His eyes towards them to make them falter, collapse, and disappear.
Verse 7 : there is never more than a short step from lies to homicide, as Our Lord says in the Gospel.
Verse 8 : « Mercy » is the attribute par excellence of Moses’ God, « Yahweh, God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in mercy and fidelity. » (Ex 34.6) A feeling of filial fear is coupled with this confidence in God’s tender mercy.
The « Hekal » is the second room of the Temple, also called the “ Holy ”, which was beyond the “ Vestibule ” and before the “ Holy of Holies ” where the “ Arc of the Covenant ” reposes and where the presence of Yahweh resides.
Verse 9 : the member of the faithful who knows that he is the object of Yahweh’ tenderness, asks Him to keep him in this Way, notwithstanding his persecutors, « who spy upon him », seek to bring about his fall by « deceit » (verse 7), and are liars and crafters of iniquity. This situation, experienced by the faithful Yahwists of the IVth century BC, already foretells the entire Gospel. It is easy to imagine the fervour with which Jesus, struggling against hypocrites who sought to catch Him off guard and plot His death, recited this psalm that had been written for Him ! He could have asked His adversaries the same question about Psalm 110 : « “ What do you think of the Messiah ? Whose son is He ? ” They said to Him : “ The son of David ”. » (Mt 22.42) Here the question should be asked in this way : « To whom is the Prophet Isaiah referring when he says : “ In the desert prepare the way of Yahweh, make straight in the wastelands a highway for our God. ” » (Is 40.3) The psalm supplies the answer : the Messiah asks God His Father (Ps 2.7) to make smooth before Him the way of Yahweh-God, « Your way ». Therefore, the Messiah is God.
10. For their threshing floor has not been constructed by His mouth : in their midst are things of horror. Their threshing floor is a gaping sepulchre. They make their speech sound sweet.
The word « threshing floor » refers to the place where Araunah the Jebusite threshed his wheat, when « Gad came to David, and said to him : “ Go up, rear an altar to Yahweh on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. ” » (2 S 24.18) The sacrifice offered by David on this « threshing floor », prepared the construction of the Temple that Solomon undertook later on.
In this instance, the word « threshing floor » indicates a temple that the ungodly, who wage war against Yahweh and his Anointed (Ps 2.2), built to rival that of Solomon. Now, this is precisely what the Samaritans did on Mount Garizim in 328 BC. This schismatic “ temple ” was called a “ threshing floor ”, by the Psalmist, who refused to call it a “ temple ”, just as we refuse to call a Protestant place of worship a “ church ”.
The « gaping sepulchre » refers to Korah’s rebellion, at the time of the Exodus. In opposition to the priestly authority of Moses and Aaron, Korah claimed that « all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and Yahweh is among them » (Nb 16.3). Yahweh acted ruthlessly : « The ground under them split asunder; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men that belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. » (Nb 16.31-33) This impressive chastisement should serve as a lesson for the schismatic Samaritans. This is what awaits them !
« They make their speech sound sweet. » like the seductive « foreign woman », the emblematic figure of whom is the Samaritan woman of the Gospel, and against whom Wisdom warns her son (Pr 6.24; 7.26-27), but whom Jesus will win over and convert.
11. Punish them, O Elohim; let them fall by their own counsels; in accord with the great number of their crimes drive them out, for they have rebelled against You.
This is a cry from the heart ! After the return from Exile in 538, the faithful Yahwists were unable truly to take possession of their inheritance. After having prevented them from reconstructing the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans constructed one temple in opposition to the other !
12. But then all who take shelter in You will rejoice, they will cry for joy forever; and You will defend them. And those who love Your name will exult in You.
This psalm ends with the joyful expectation and certainty of the final victory of the Messiah, as in Psalm 4, with an enhancement : after the ordeal joy is promised to those who place their confidence in Yahweh, their God, by seeking « shelter » in Him, as Ruth had, drawing down upon herself, through the ministry of Booz, the blessing of the God of Israel, under whose wings she had come to take « shelter » (Rt 2.12).
The exultation of those who love the Name of Yahweh will soon extend to all the nations of the world, according to the prophesy of the Song of Songs : « Your anointing oils are fragrant, your Name is oil poured out; therefore the maidens love you. » (Sg 1.3)
13. For You bless the righteous man, O Yahweh; You surround him with favour as with a shield.
A lesson may be drawn from this last verse, which we will find in numerous psalms : Yahweh protects the “ righteous man ” even in the midst of combat, on account of the blessings (Gn 12.2-3) promised to Abraham :
« Fear not, Abram, I am your shield » (Gn 15.1) « Abram believed Yahweh; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness » (Gn 15.6)
We now know the identity of the enemies of the faithful Jews : they are the Samaritans. The great struggle that brings them into conflict is the cause of the cries of distress and the calls to vengeance that fill the Psalter.
At that time, a mortal hatred set the two communities against one another as rivals. We will find an echo of this in the Gospel. Jesus was ridiculed by the Pharisees – « Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon ? » (Jn 8.48) –, but He ignored the insult. He does not side with the Pharisee faction, the “ pure of the pure ”, or so they believe, and when He passes over into Samaria, He is received better than in Jerusalem, or in His own country. Furthermore, Jesus does not fear to appear in a transparent allegory under the figure of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10.29-37).
It is nevertheless the case that the struggle of the faithful Yahwists against the Samaritans persists down through the centuries, the “ figure ” of the struggle of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and of the Immaculate, against Satan and his henchmen. This is why the Church finds each day in the Psalms the prayer that assists her in her combat against heresy and schism.
Brother Bruno de Jesus
He is risen ! n° 23, July 2004