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Two sets of psalms: Psalm 144–145 (by David); Psalm 88–89 (by Heman and Ethan)

King David was a prolific poet and songwriter, and some of his work has been passed down to us through the psalms. Many of these have no event recorded with them, so at the end of David’s life, we have a large group of ‘unallocated’ psalms. Psalm 144 and 145 are the last two.

In Psalm 144, David asked a question that just about every Christian asks sooner or later: why would God bother with us? Unfortunately, it’s just a rhetorical question: there is no answer in this psalm.

Poetry can be hard to translate: you have to do so much more than just come up with words that have the same meaning. Wycliffe’s translation of this psalm is beautiful:

144:3-4 Lord, what is a man,
for thou hast made (thyself) known to him;
either the son of man,
for thou areckonest him of some value?
A man is made like vanity;
his days pass as shadow.

Or, in my own, more modern words:

Lord, who are we, that you show yourself to us;
What are we, that you care about us?
We are just a breath;
Our days are like a passing shadow.

The link at the top of the page goes to an online Bible, and you can skip through the different translations to see how others have approached the same verses. Here’s the NIV translation of the whole Psalm:

Psalm 144

Praise be to the Lord my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.
Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow.

Part your heavens, Lord, and come down;
touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;
shoot your arrows and rout them.
Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

I will sing a new song to you, my God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David.

From the deadly sword deliver me;
rescue me from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

Then our sons in their youth
will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
carved to adorn a palace.
Our barns will be filled
with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;
our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.
Blessed is the people of whom this is true;
blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.

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