My voice to the Lord (Psalm 142)

How shall I use my voice?

The opening lines of Psalm 142 are striking, with their repeated “qoli le-Adonai”: “My voice to the Lord . . . my voice to the Lord.”

I have a voice too. How will I use mine? To whom will I direct mine?

I am not in the situation of this psalmist, who laments: “In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.”

We would say, perhaps, that this psalmist has no voice. No influence. No power. Nothing this psalmist says will be heard by anyone to any good effect.

It would be disingenuous—shamefully grotesque—for me to claim to be voiceless in that same way. As a citizen in a modern Western democracy, with political rights and material prosperity established and protected by powerful institutions, I have a voice. I am not an influential person, but I am perfectly free to express myself. And I do have friends to care for me, and who care what I say. So I cannot say, “There is none who takes notice of me; no one cares for my soul.” And I do not face dangers that could justify my saying “No refuge remains to me.” So I cannot place myself in this psalm by identifying with the situation described in verses 3 and 4.

But I think there is nevertheless something for me to identify with, someone for me to become, in this psalm. Even though I am able to direct my voice to others, I must begin, always with “qoli le-Adonai,” with my voice directed to the Lord.

Step 1: With my voice to the Lord I cry: whatever describing, complaining, lamenting I have, I direct first to the Lord before directing it to other people.

Step 2: With my voice to the Lord I ask for help: whatever I need done for me, whatever I want to see accomplished in general, I direct first to the Lord before directing it to other people.

Then, perhaps, I use my voice to speak to others. But maybe the manner of my speech to them will be a little different because I have spoken first to the Lord. My speech to other people may be a little less urgent, less desperate, less strident, less alarmed and alarming, less accusatory, maybe partaking of a bit of the quietness and confidence that come from speaking first with the Lord, maybe even tinctured with a bit of thanksgiving. Maybe? Because I am not so dependent on their response, because I can reside primarily in trust in the response of one higher than they. Do you think?

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