Song 3 - New American Bible, Revised Edition
The Seven Penitential Psalms
During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms. The penitential designation of these psalms dates from the seventh century. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God’s forgiveness.
We are featuring here the newly released translations of the seven penitential psalms from the New American Bible, Revised Edition with reflections and discussion questions from Graziano Marcheschi, M.A. D.Min.
Song 3: Audio | Commentary
Salvation Through the Lord’s Servant
4* The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to answer the weary
a word that will waken them.
Morning after morning
he wakens my ear to hear as disciples do;
5The Lord GOD opened my ear;
I did not refuse,
did not turn away.*
6I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who tore out my beard;*
My face I did not hide
from insults and spitting.c
7The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
Therefore I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.d
8He who declares my innocence is near.
Who will oppose me?
Let us appear together.
Who will dispute my right?
Let them confront me.
9See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will declare me guilty?
See, they will all wear out like a garment,
consumed by moths.e
10Who among you fears the LORD,*
heeds his servant’s voice?
Whoever walk in darkness,
without any light,
Yet trust in the name of the LORD
and rely upon their God!f
11All you who kindle flames
and set flares alight,
Walk by the light of your own fire
and by the flares you have burnt!
This is your fate from my hand:
you shall lie down in a place of torment.
Salvation Through the Lord’s Servant
Paul echoed the words of God’s Suffering Servant when he boldly asked, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) The Servant’s declaration, spoken in the first person singular, is just as bold and even more personal tha Paul’s. Why is the Servant so bold? Because he’s been through it all:scourging, insults, and spitting, even the grave indignity of having his beard torn out by his enemies. But rather than lose faith, he finds a school for discipleship in these painful circumstances. The Lord has used this suffering to train the Servant’s tongue so he can address the weary and downtrodden with rousing words of hope and vindication.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “Whom the Lord loves he chastises” (12:6). Centuries before, Isaiah extolled the Lord’s Servant for enduring hardship without complaining. By embracing sorrow without losing heart and by accepting discipline as instruction, the Servant gains a share of the holiness of God.
As a result, the student becomes a teacher. Having learned at the feet of the loving and merciful Lord, the Servant now instructs the nations in the ways of obedience and discipleship. But most of all, he models fidelity and long suffering. Remarkably, the Servant’s sufferings have not led him to turn away from God; he neither feels abandoned nor betrayed. Confidently, he stands before those who mock him, knowing their power will wear away like an overworn garment, while God’s help lasts forever. The proof of discipleship, he says, is walking in darkness without any light, save that of faith in the Lord! Woe to those who walk by their own light, trusting neither the Lord nor his Servant. They do so at great peril, he says, risking utter destruction.
Today, the virtue of obedience that God’s Servant models so strikingly is sadly countercultural. The rebel, the maverick entrepreneur, the iconoclast who makes his or her own way, these are the role models of modern culture. But if we look at Jesus, whom the Servant so obviously prefigures, we see obedience and hear that word quite often on his lips. “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15). Obedience, it turns out, is not robotic compliance, but the surest way to demonstrate our love.
Questions for Reflection
The confidence with which the Servant speaks of God’s vindication challenges our faith. Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still.” Could you do what the Servant does, silently trusting in God to bring you justice and vindication?
If you have not experienced suffering like that of the Lord’s Servant, surely you don’t have to look far to learn of others who experience it everyday. What modern-day individuals have inspired you by enduring suffering in this heroic and godly manner?
Pain, whether physical or psychological, is never far off. But if we are Christ’s body, then Christ suffers with us, uniting our pain to the suffering he offered to God on the Cross. Pope John Paul II wrote that because it was through suffering that Christ saved us, sufferintg was itself redeemed and “raised to the level of redemption.” Now, anyone who suffers can become “a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.” (Salvifici Dolores) Do you see your suffering as untied to Christ’s? Do you believe it can participate in his act of redemption?