Psalm 69 – Vinegar to Drink
The words of this psalm are echoed in the gospel accounts of the passion of Jesus. “They have hated me without cause” (v. 5; cf. Jn 15:25). “For food they gave me gall” (v. 22a; cf. Matt 27:34). “In my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink” (v. 22b; cf. Matt 27:48; Lk 23:36). Along with Psalm 22, Psalm 69 has a long-standing place in the liturgy of Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. The Psalmist movingly describes his pain in the scorn and hatred of others (vv. 5, 11-13, 20-21, 27), rejection by family and friends (vv. 9, 13), and worst of all, the feeling of abandonment by God (vv. 4b, 8, 10, 18, 27). He presents his personal anguish in images and metaphors familiar from usage elsewhere in the Old Testament, particularly in other Psalms. For example, the opening verses present the peril of imminent death in an image of deep waters that threaten to drown him (vv. 2-3); this image is reiterated later in the psalm (vv. 15-16). Fasting and the donning of sackcloth (vv. 11-12) represent public manifestations of repentance for sin. Yet even in the midst of his pain and sorrow, the Psalmist describes himself as God’s servant (v.18). Throughout the psalm we encounter expressions of trust and confidence that God will ultimately heed the petition of his servant (vv. 6, 8, 10, 14-19). In spite of his feelings of abandonment in the delay (v. 4d), the Psalmist never ceases in his cry for help or his plea for God’s presence (vv. 17-19). And like Psalm 22, this lament reaches a turning point where languishing and sorrow are transformed into gratitude and praise (vv. 31-37): when God’s saving help comes, the Psalmist confidently asserts, then thanksgiving and praise will be unstinted. The Psalmist’s direct linking of his lament with thanksgiving to come manifests the transformation in himself from oppressive sorrow to exultant glory. The one who asked God for help in need now knows God as the One who has listened to his appeal (v. 34). The very waters which once threatened his life are now called upon to lift up praise (v. 35b). And the servant who waited upon the Lord’s saving help now gives thanks for the salvation that has come not only to him, but to Sion and Judah, his people. The Psalmist has passed through the paschal mystery itself, bringing us with him in his passing: from the threat of death into new life, from sorrow into unbounded joy.
Psalm 69 (68)
1 For the Choirmaster. Intoned like “Lilies.” Of David.
2 Sáve me, O Gód, for the wáters
have rísen to my néck.
3 I have súnk into the múd of the déep,
where there ís no fóothold.
I have éntered the wáters of the déep,
where the flóod overwhélms me.
4 I am wéaried with crýing alóud;
my thróat is párched.
My éyes are wásted awáy
with wáiting for my Gód.
5 More númerous than the háirs on my héad
are those who háte me without cáuse.
Mány are thóse who attáck me,
énemies with líes.
Whát I have néver stólen,
hów can I restóre?
6 O Gód, you knów my fólly;
from you my síns are not hídden.
7 May those who hópe in you nót be shámed
because of mé, O Lord of hósts;
may those who séek you nót be disgráced
because of mé, O God of Ísrael.
8 It is for yóu that I súffer táunts,
that sháme has cóvered my fáce.
9 To my own kín I have becóme an óutcast,
a stránger to the chíldren of my móther.
10 Zéal for your hóuse consúmes me,
and táunts against yóu fall on mé.
11 When my sóul wept bítterly in fásting,
they máde it a táunt agáinst me.
12 When I máde my clóthing sáckcloth,
I becáme a repróach to thém,
13 the góssip of thóse at the gátes,
the théme of drúnkards’ sóngs.
14 But I práy to yóu, O Lórd,
for a tíme of your fávor.
In your great mércy, ánswer me, O Gód.
with your salvátion that néver fáils.
15 Réscue me from sínking in the múd;
from thóse who háte me, delíver me.
Sáve me from the wáters of the déep,
16 lest the wáves overwhélm me,
Let nót the déep engúlf me,
nor the pít close its móuth on mé.
17 Lord, ánswer, for your mércy is kínd;
in your gréat compássion, turn toward mé.
18 Do not híde your fáce from your sérvant;
answer me quíckly, for Í am in distréss.
19 Come clóse to my sóul and redéem me;
ránsom me becáuse of my fóes.
20 You know my táunts, my sháme, my dishónor;
my oppréssors are áll befóre you.
21 Táunts have bróken my héart;
hére I ám in ánguish.
I looked for sólace, but thére was nóne;
for consólers – not óne could I fínd.
22 For fóod they gáve me gáll;
in my thírst they gave me vínegar to drínk.
23 Let their táble be a snáre to thém,
and for their fríends, a tráp.
24 Let their éyes grow dím and blínd;
let their límbs contínually trémble.
25 Pour óut your ánger upón them;
let your búrning fúry overtáke them.
26 Lét their cámp be left désolate;
let nó one dwéll in their ténts:
27 for they pérsecute óne whom you strúck;
they incréase the pain of óne whom you wóunded.
28 Chárge them with guílt upon guílt;
let them háve no sháre in your jústice.
29 Blot them óut from the bóok of the líving;
do not enróll them amóng the júst.
30 As for mé in my póverty and páin,
let your salvátion, O Gód, raise me úp.
31 Then I will práise God’s náme with a sóng;
I will glórify hím with thanksgíving:
32 a gíft pleasing Gód more than óxen,
more than a búll with hórns and hóofs.
33 The póor when they sée it will be glád,
and Gód-seeking héarts will revíve;
34 for the Lórd lístens to the néedy,
and does not spúrn his ówn in their cháins.
35 Let the héavens and the éarth give him práise,
the seas and éverything that móves in thém.
36 For Gód will bring salvátion to Síon,
and rebuíld the cíties of Júdah,
and théy shall dwéll there in posséssion.
37 The chíldren of his sérvants shall inhérit it;
those who lóve his náme shall dwéll there.
Prayer for Psalm 69
O God of the poor and the lowly, listen to our cry and attend to us in our need. Heal our brokenness and assuage our sorrow, for you alone can restore and make new what has been shattered by our sins. In your loving mercy and faithfulness we place all our trust, through Christ our Lord. Amen.