“Like a bird that strays from its nest,
Is one who strays from home.
Perfume makes the heart glad.
Incense makes the heart glad.
But the soul is torn by trouble.
Do not forsake your friend!
Do not forsake the friend of your parents!
Do not go to the house of your kindred
In the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is nearby
Than kindred who are far away.”
Good friends are important. You should not stray from home just as a bird does not leave its nest. Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but trouble tears apart the soul. Do not give up on your friends or the friends of your parents. If something goes wrong, do not go to your far away family relatives but to your nearby friends and neighbors.
“It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
Than in a house shared with a contentious wife.
The souls of the wicked desire evil.
Their neighbors find no mercy in their eyes.
When a scoffer is punished,
The simple becomes wiser.
When the wise are instructed,
They increase in knowledge.”
Watch out for contentious wives. You would be in better shape if you lived in a corner of a housetop attic. The wicked souls desire evil so that their neighbors cannot find any mercy in their eyes. Whenever the scoffers or mockers are punished, it helps the simple to get a little wiser. Now if the wise are instructed, they will increase in knowledge.
“Scoundrels concoct evil.
Their speech is like a scorching fire.
A perverse person spreads strife.
A whisperer separates close friends.
The violent entice their neighbors.
They lead them in a way that is not good.
Whoever winks their eyes
Plans perverse things.
Whoever compresses their lips
Brings evil to pass.”
Scoundrels plan evil. Their speech is like a raging fire. These perverse people spread strife. The whispering ones separate close friends. The violent ones entice their neighbors in leading them in the wrong way. Whoever winks their eyes is planning perverse things. If they press their lips, they are working on evil things.
“I cry out to you!
In the morning
My prayer comes before you.
Why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth on,
I suffer your terrors.
I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me.
Your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me
Like a flood
All day long.
From all sides,
They close in on me.
You have caused friends
To shun me.
You have caused neighbors
To shun me.
My companions are in darkness.”
Just like Job, the psalmist remains faithful despite all his sufferings. Thus this psalm ends with a direct appeal to Yahweh, over and over again. He cried out in the morning to God. Why was he cast off? Why couldn’t he see the face of God? He believed that his physical suffering was related to his spiritual sufferings. His whole life he has been close to death with his physical afflictions. He felt like he was surrounded with waves of water all around him. More than that was the fact that his friends and neighbors were now shunning him. The only friend that he had left was darkness itself. Wow! This is a dreary bleak psalm of agony.
God of hosts!
How long will you be angry
With your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears.
You have given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors.
Our enemies laugh among themselves.”
The psalmist wanted to know how long Yahweh would be angry with them. Why did he not like the prayer of his people? He had sent them tears instead of bread. They ate and drank tears. They were the scorn of their neighbors as their enemies were laughing at them.
A psalm of Asaph
The nations have come into your inheritance.
They have defiled your holy temple.
They have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants
To the birds of the air for food.
The flesh of your faithful has been given
To the wild animals of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water,
All around Jerusalem.
There was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbors.
We are mocked.
We are derided
By those around us.”
Psalm 79 is another psalm of Asaph. This national lamentation deplores the defeat and ruin of Jerusalem and its Temple, probably at the time of the captivity around 587 BCE. The bodies of the faithful were given over to the birds of the air and the wild animals. Their blood was all around Jerusalem. No one was there to bury them. The Israelites had become a taunt to their neighbors. They were mocked and derided by everybody around them.
“You have made us the taunt of our neighbors.
You have made us the derision and scorn of those about us.
You have made us a byword among the nations.
You have made us a laughing stock among the peoples.
All day long my disgrace is before me.
Shame has covered my face,
At the words of the taunters
At the words of the revilers,
At the sight of the enemy,
At the sight of the avenger.”
Their neighbors were taunting them. Obviously this psalm was written after the captivity, not at the time of David. They were scorned as they became a byword among the various nations. They were a laughing stock among the various peoples. They were ashamed at the words of the taunters and revilers. They were shamed in the sight of their enemies and avengers.
All my longing is known to you.
My sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs.
My strength fails me.
The light of my eyes has gone from me.
My friends and companions
Stand aloof from my affliction.
My neighbors stand far off.”
David made a plea to the Lord, God, who knew his situation. He was aware of his longing and sighing that was not hidden from him. His heart throbbed. His strength failed. His eyesight was growing dim. His friends, companions, and neighbors were standing aloof from him and his afflictions. Only God could help him.
“I am the scorn of all my adversaries.
I am a horror to my neighbors.
I am an object of dread to my acquaintances.
Those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind.
I am like one who is dead.
I have become like a broken vessel.
I hear the whispering of many.
There is terror all around.
They scheme together against me.
They plot to take my life.”
David was scorned by all his enemies. He was a horror to his neighbors. He was an object of dread to his acquaintances. Anyone who saw him in the street fled from hid. He was a like a dead man walking. He was like a broken vessel. They whispered all around him. There was terror in the air. They schemed and plotted to take his life. He was in bad shape.
“Those who walk blamelessly,
Those who do what is right,
Those who speak the truth from their heart,
Those who do not slander with their tongue,
Those who do no evil to their friends,
Those who do not take up a reproach against their neighbor,
Those in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
Those who honor and fear Yahweh,
Those who stand by their oath even to their hurt,
Those who do not lend money at interest,
Those who do not take a bribe against the innocent,
Those who do these things
Shall never be moved.”
Now we find out for sure who can be admitted to the worship of Yahweh. What are the moral pre-requisites? Here we have the list of those allowed into the temple of Yahweh. They walk blamelessly, doing what is right. They speak the truth from their heart. They do not slander. They do not do any evil things to their friends and neighbors. They despise the wicked. They honor and fear Yahweh. They stand by their own even in rough times. They do not lend money at interest. They do not take bribes that hurt the innocent. Doing all these things will get you entrance into the Temple of Yahweh.