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God, Who Gets Things Done – Psalm 57:2

There is one other thing I should say about Psalm 57:2 (which, by the way, is verse 3 in the Hebrew text):

אֶקְרָא לֵאלֹהִים עֶלְיוֹן לָאֵל גֹּמֵר עָלָי
“I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” (NRSV)

As I said last time: this expresses the intent to pray. The initial cry for help, is followed by a statement of intent: a general statement telling us why the Psalmist cries out to God. It’s not just a momentary thing: it’s a way of life.

But, what I want to point out is the brevity of that final phrase:

לָאֵל גֹּמֵר עָלָי

Hebrew_bible_4It’s longer when translated into English. This phrase illustrates why it’s nice to pray through the Psalms in the original language.

When I was younger I expected the study of Biblical languages to make the Scriptures clearer to me. I thought that knowing the original Greek or Hebrew words, would allow the deeper and clearer meanings to arise. And, yes, sometimes they do. But, more often than not, what they reveal is the ambiguity in the original that has been lost in translation.

This phrase is brief and vague — more ambiguous in the original than it is in translation. And the NRSV’s translation “to God who fulfills his purpose for me” is also a bit more pious than the original. That’s not to say that the words don’t mean that — maybe they do. But, they are more vague. It’s more like: “to God (“El”) who accomplishes (brings to completion) for me.” So, it could be “to God who fulfills his purpose for me” or it could be “to God who accomplishes things for me.”

But, better yet is: “to God who brings things to an end.”

The Hebrew term (גָּמַר) used here means “brings to an end” or “completes.”

God is the One who gets things done.

The use of the term here signifies the end of the Psalmist’s time of trial. The Psalm writer can approach God, and can cry out to God, because God can bring the crisis to an end.

The word is used in a similar way in the first phrase of Psalm 138:8:

יְהוָה יִגְמֹר בַּעֲדִי יְהוָה חַסְדְּךָ לְעוֹלָם מַעֲשֵׂי יָדֶיךָ אַל־תֶּרֶף
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (NRSV).

In the OT, we are frequently called to “wait upon the LORD.” We turn to God in our need. We wait upon God to answer our prayers.

“Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30, 31 NRSV)

Lord God,

I want the confidence to call,
the faith to believe,
the perseverance to keep on calling.

When I’ve done what I can,
when it all still seems out of control,
I rest my case with You.

You are the one who accomplishes things for me. Amen.

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