“Psalm 27: A Ugandan Refugee Speaks,” Rachel Bottoms

PSALM 27

 

Rachel Bottoms

 

Text:

 

[1] The Lord is my light and my help; whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; whom should I dread?

[2] When evil men assail men to devour my flesh—it is they, my foes and enemies, who stumble and fall.

[3] Should an army besiege me, my heart would have no fear; should war beset me, in this I would be confident:

[4] One thing I ask of the Lord, only that do I seek to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, to awaken in His temple.

[5] He will shelter me in His pavilion on an evil day, grant me the protection of His tent, raise me high upon a rock.

[6] Now is my head high over my enemies roundabout; I sacrifice in His tent with shouts of joy, singing and chanting a hymn to the Lord.

 

[7] Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; have mercy on me, answer me.

[8] In Your behalf my heart says: “Seek My face!”—O Lord, I seek Your face.

[9] Do not hide Your face from me; do not thrust aside Your servant in anger; You have ever been my help. Do not forsake me, do not abandon me, O God, my deliverer.

[10] Though my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will take me in.

[11] Show me Your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my watchful foes.           

[12] Do not subject me to the will of my foes, for false witnesses and people who breathe violence have appeared against me.

[13] Had I not the assurance that I would enjoy the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living . . .

 

[14] Look to the Lord, be strong and of good courage!  O look to the Lord!

 

 

Interpretive Commentary:*

 

[1] The Lord is my light and my help; whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; whom should I dread?

No, there is no one, no one to fear—those days are over, long over—I’m safe, He keeps me safe—of course He keeps me safe—

 

[2] When evil men assail men to devour my flesh—it is they, my foes and enemies, who stumble and fall.

—and yes, those men, those men that destroyed my village and killed my parents and raped—no, they’re gone, He keeps them away, far, far away—He trips them—they can’t reach me now, no, surely not, of course they cannot . . .

 

[3] Should an army besiege me, my heart would have no fear; should war beset me, in this I would be confident:

Of course, of course I am safe—an army is an anthill to God—even their army, the army that corrupts His name and . . . No, I shouldn’t fear war . . .

 

[4] One thing I ask of the Lord, only that do I seek to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, to awaken in His temple.

Such unthinkable crimes, unspeakable terrors, when all I have wanted was God, my God, to live in the house of my God and to worship Him—to rise with Him . . . peacefully. . .

 

[5] He will shelter me in His pavilion on an evil day, grant me the protection of His tent, raise me high upon a rock.

Yes, yes, the Lord will protect me, He will, He will keep me safe—my sisters, my brothers safe—will keep us in His home and hold us high above these nightmares here on earth—

 

[6] Now is my head high over my enemies roundabout; I sacrifice in His tent with shouts of joy, singing and chanting a hymn to the Lord.

—oh, God does do this, does all of this, is doing all of this—I’m so, so far from those evil men. I’m so grateful and full of the life that He has given me, that He gives and gives and gives me.

 

(Out of nowhere, a flashback. She is kicking, screaming . . . and, shaken, returned to the present moment.)

 

[7] Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; have mercy on me, answer me.

God, my God, I need You. Where are You?

 

[8] In Your behalf my heart says: “Seek My face!”—O Lord, I seek Your face.

Everywhere, I have looked everywhere, have searched each inch of the clear skies and the bare ground. Why can’t I find You?

 

[9] Do not hide Your face from me; do not thrust aside Your servant in anger; You have ever been my help. Do not forsake me, do not abandon me, O God, my deliverer.

I need to know!  I need to know that You aren’t angry! I couldn’t stop it Lord, I swear, I tried and couldn’t and please, please, Lord, You’ve always been my solace—don’t hide from me now! I still need You.

 

[10] Though my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will take me in.

It’s fine—I’m fine—God can’t be killed as my parents were . . . God won’t abandon me. He won’t, He won’t . . .

 

[11] Show me Your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my watchful foes.           

Please, Lord, I still need Your guidance . . .

 

[12] Do not subject me to the will of my foes, for false witnesses and people who breathe violence have appeared against me.

I need your protection, God. Every night, I see those devils, again and again, spitting, calling us names, beating us, taking my parents, taking—don’t let them, please don’t let them . . .

 

[13] Had I not the assurance that I would enjoy the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living . . .

No! No, don’t!  Don’t remember, don’t think about it . . . Just don’t think about it.

 

[14] Look to the Lord, be strong and of good courage! O look to the Lord!

Shh, shh, quiet now, it was only a nightmare. Be brave, dear sister, be brave . . . God will keep you from harm . . . There’s hope for you still . . .

 

* A teenage girl in modern-day Uganda looks to the Lord for comfort and protection. Her parents were killed several years ago by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (the Christian fundamentalist rebel group) and she was brutally raped by the same men. Now she lives in a government protection camp and cares for her younger siblings.