Psalm 12: I Will Now Arise

Continuing my Adopt-a-Psalm commission month, I turned my attention to Psalm 12. It’s another difficult Psalm, with abrasive sentiments like, “May the Lord cut off all flattering lips.” Underneath its prickly exterior, though, the Psalm is all about words and how we use them—lies, lips, tongue, boasts, promises—the Psalm is full of “word” words.

Samuel Terrien proposes a chiastic form for the Psalm, with God’s words of verse 5 at the center of the form and the rest of the sections mirroring each other. (So, for example, the power gained by the flattering lips of verse 3 and 4 are answered by God’s sure promises and protection in verse 6 and 7.) That suggested to me that verse 5 would be an appropriate refrain.

Using God’s words as a song refrain is unusual. Normally, a song that uses God’s words has them sung by a leader, while the people sing their response. (Think Dan Schutte’s “Here I Am, Lord.”) But in this song, the verses are sung as a first person prayer and the refrain answers with God’s words. While it’s unorthodox, I like the idea of an individual’s plea for help being answered by a whole group thundering God’s words of assurance.

I was asked by my Psalm adopter to write a song that could be played on guitar. That worked well because I was already hearing a rugged folk style. In my mind was Kiran Wimberly Young’s Celtic Vespers service from this year’s symposium. As  I worked on that service, I noticed how the folk melodies served to both tame unruly texts and give a little muscle to the prettier Psalms we’ve heard a million times. So this song has none of the typical “Scheer-isms” you’d expect. It’s just a straight up modal melody and chords.

What’s been interesting to me is how much these more difficult texts have come to mean to me as I work on them. The way humans use words to wield power has never been something I’ve contemplated much. But in this political climate and given some things I’ve been experiencing lately, I found myself praying the text and expressing my own feelings as I wrote and recording the song. I guess that’s what the Psalms are all about, right?

Note: I was having trouble with Logic Pro and my Apogee Duet and found out too late that the digital artifacts I was hearing in my headphones were making their way into the recording. Nonetheless, you are welcome to listen or look.

1. Hear, O Lord, my prayer,
for truth has disappeared;
vanished like a breath or like a sigh.
Here, O Lord, am I,
adrift in floods of lies.
Is honesty extinct from humankind?

I will now arise and the poor will know my might.
I still I hear the needy when they cry.
I will now arise and the poor will know my might.
I, the Lord, have heard the prayer you prayed in groans and sighs.
I, the Lord, have heard the prayer you prayed in groans and sighs.

2. You, O Lord, you know
they benefit by boasts,
flattery, and rumors, and white lies.
You, O Lord, you see:
they gain from their deceit
and misery of those they trap like flies. refrain

3. Speak, O Lord, I’ll hear
the truth your word reveals.
Trusting, though malicious mouths resound.
Your word O Lord, is true.
Your promises are pure;
a refuge when no honesty is found. refrain

This entry was posted in Adopt-a-Psalm, 2017, Church, Congregational Songs, Demos, FAWM 2017. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Psalm 12: I Will Now Arise

  1. Pingback: Liar, Liar | The Musical Diary of Greg Scheer

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