Claiming innocence (Psalm 69)

Really, Psalmist? Again? More tears, more moaning, more self-pity? More in number than the hairs of your head? So you have counted them? Either the hairs or the enemies? Good lord, if you had a violin in addition to that harp somebody in your own house would have to shoot you.

Are you sure about that “without cause”? About that “falsely”? Tell you what, bro, if I had as many people complaining about me as you do, I think I’d try for some introspection, and if I didn’t, I’d find myself fired and divorced and several other kinds of dumped.

There’s more than one way to read the Psalms. You don’t always have to just accept them at face value. It’s ok to push back a bit now and then. They can take it. It may help you read them better.

In the case of Psalm 69—keep reading. The introspection comes. The confession. It’s complex, mixed. Vacillating between self-accusation and accusation of others. But isn’t that what it’s like for us also? In our heart of hearts, aren’t we hard put to sort out the injustice of others from what’s our own damn fault? And doesn’t the Psalmist provide us with a really healthy and helpful example? Rather than lashing out against others, he does his lashing out in prayer—in an inner dialog with God.

You’re probably going to notice when you get to verse 9 that this is a Psalm that the gospels apply to our Lord and Savior. Which might lead you to meditate on the fact that of all people who ever lived, he alone could say, with pure truthfulness and not a trace of false consciousness, “It is for your sake that I have borne reproach . . . the insults of those who insult you have fallen upon me.”

That’s what it means to be an incarnate Child of God. It is what we are meant to aspire to. Not to believe that we have achieved—never, probably, in this life—but to aspire to. If we dare to pray these innocence-claiming words, we will feel them accusing us, and that will be a salutary feeling. It will goad us in the right direction.

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