Psalm 27: a psalm for “interesting times”

The ancient Chinese curse went: “may you live in interesting times”. We truly are living in such times — in “times that try man’s souls”, as Thomas Paine so memorably put it.

Psalm 27 was King David’s way of responding to such times. The Hebrew words deeply move me every time I recite it. Below is my translation — trying to retain as much of the meaning of the original as I can manage. Some of the Hebrew words have multiple meanings that can fit the context — this creates some room for creativity in interpretation and translation.

Never forget: “G-d listens to all who sincerely call upon him.”

27:1 A Song of David. The L-rd is my light and my salvation; by whom would I be overawed? The L-rd is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
27:2 When evil-doers will come upon me to eat up my flesh — my adversaries and my foes — they will stumble and fall.
27:3 If an army will encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; even if war will break out against me, in this I shall trust.
27:4 One thing have I asked of the L-rd, and that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the L-rd all the days of my life, to envision the pleasantness of the L-rd, and to inquire in His palace.
27:5 For He will conceal me in His pavilion in the day of evil; He will hide me in the secrecy of His tent; and He will lift me up onto a rock.
27:6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; and I will offer in His tabernacle sacrifices with shofar blasts; I will chant and will sing unto the L-rd.
27:7 Hear, O L-rd, when my voice will call out — be gracious unto me, and answer me.
27:8 Unto Thee my heart said: ‘Seek ye My face’; Thy face, the L-rd, will I seek.
27:9 Do not hide Thy face from me; do not rebuff Thy servant in anger. My succor hast Thou been. Do not cast me off, nor forsake me, O G-d of my salvation.
27:10 For even if my father and my mother were to forsake me, the L-rd would pick me up.
27:11 Teach me Thy way, O L-rd; and lead me in an even path, because of those lying in wait for me.
27:12 Do not hand me over unto the will of my pursuers; for false witnesses stood up against me, breathing out violence.
27:13 If I had not believed to look upon the goodness of the L-rd in the land of the living!
27:14 Set your hopes onto the L-rd, and your heart will be strong and find courage — Set your hopes onto the L-rd.

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