Shine on the world, God
God reaches down to save me
Note to music leader: To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” An enlightening psalm of David about when he escaped from Saul at the cave.1 Show me some mercy, God.
Please, show me some mercy.
I’ve come for protection.
Take me under your wing,
And I’ll stay till the danger is gone.
2 I’m calling out to God Most High
Who is behind every good thing in my life.
3 He reaches down from heaven
And snatches me out of danger.
And he puts my enemies in their place.
InstrumentsGod loves me and is devoted to me. I see it.
Hiding in a lion’s den4 I’m in a lion’s den,
Hiding among these beasts.
Their teeth are spears and arrows,
And their tongues are sharpened swords.
5 Take your place above the sky, God.
Let your glory light up the world.
6 My enemies set a trap.
They dug hole just for me
And they hoped I’d fall in.
Well, they fell in instead.
Brave heart for God7 My heart is set on you, God.
Steady as she goes.
I’ll sing songs about it.
I’ll sing praise songs about you.
8 Everything inside me, wake up.
Harp and lyre, time to play.
Sun above, rise and shine.
9 In front of everyone, Lord,
I’ll give you my thanks.
In front of the entire world,
I’ll sing my songs about you.
10 Your love and kindness
Reach high as the sky.
Your loyalty and devotion
Can touch the clouds.
11 Take your place above the sky, God.
Let your glory light up the world.
It’s unclear what the Hebrew phrase means. It could also mean “don’t let it destroy.” Some speculate that the phrase “do not destroy” was a popular saying that grew out of other Old Testament texts: David said it in 1 Samuel 26:9; Moses in Deuteronomy 9:26. It could also refer to mutilation or defacing or to violating a person.
“An enlightening psalm” is a guess. The original Hebrew word is maskil (mass-KEEL). Scholars say they aren’t sure what it means. They say they don’t even know if the word refers to the lyrics or the music. Maskil sounds a bit like another Hebrew word, askilkha, which means “let me enlighten you.” Some scholars associate maskil with a root word, sakal, which generates a lot of words with various meanings such as: thoughtful, instructive, wise, and proper. One theory is that the word relates to both lyrics and music. It could, for example, describe the lyrics as “thoughtful” and the music as a harmony fit for that theme.
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of David,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by David, about David, or was inspired by David. Almost half of the psalms are attributed to David in this way, 73 of 150. Ancient Jewish history tells of David playing a lyre and writing songs. For one, he wrote a song of mourning at the battlefield death of King Saul and his sons: “How have the mighty fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19-27 New American Standard Bible). An ancient Jewish scroll from about the time of Jesus, discovered among the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, reports that David wrote 3,600 songs.
When David was on the run from King Saul, he and his militia hid in the caves of En-gedi, south of Jerusalem, along the banks of the Dead Sea. It’s the story of David sneaking up on Saul after Saul slipped into the very cave David and some of his men were hiding. Saul apparently squatted for a while doing what even kings have to do on regular occasions. David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe and then later waved it at him as proof he would not harm Saul. The king went home, humiliated. But he soon resumed the hunt for the one man in his kingdom more popular than him. The title of Psalm 142 refers to the same story.
The word in the original language of Hebrew is selah. Bible scholars haven’t figured out what it means yet, so all we can do is guess. It could mean “pause for effect,” “instrumental interlude,” or “choir singing ‘Amen.’” We’re offering a guess instead of selah. Though selah might be the better way to go because it’s always correct, it’s also always incomprehensible. “Instruments” has a good chance of being wrong, but at least we convey the idea that the Hebrew word behind it probably has something to do with enhancing the song.
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