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Seven Reimagined Psalms from the Darkling Psalter



Throughout history, the Psalms have given words to the people of God—words of praise, of affliction, of prayer, of longing, of rage, of wonder, and of doubt. This was also true for the biblical writers; the Book of Psalms is the most quoted in the Bible. This book of prayers and songs influenced the way the biblical writers thought at the deepest level. Even Jesus, in his moment of greatest pain and need, turned to the psalms to shape his last words from the cross.


For the past several years, I have been working on a project to create poetic renditions of the psalms paired with a new poem at the Darkling Psalter. It has been a rich opportunity to study each psalm in Hebrew, read commentaries, and chase down theological rabbit trails in an attempt to render the psalms with reimagined language.


Here is a seven-psalm introduction to the Darkling Psalter offered in hopes that these fresh renderings can help shape your thinking about your life, your experience of God, and your prayers.


Note: Each of these was originally published with an accompanying poem. To read both the poem and the psalm, you can find them here: 13, 16, 31, 39, 51, 130, and 147.


 


Will you forget me forever, God?

How long will you hide from me?

For how long will I be left with only

The quiet wonderings inside myself

As I carry my grief from day to day?

How long will my enemies stand over me and crow?


Look at me. Consider me. Answer me, God.

Make your light break over me.

Open my eyes or I will close them in death.

Don’t let the things that would throw me down

Discover that they have overcome me.


Nevertheless, I have pledged myself to your unfailing love.

I long to hear news of the victory of your salvation.

In my heart, I feel the joy of it already.

Even poetry, even song rises out of me

Because my God has richly seen to me.


 



Keep and tend me, God, for I fled to you for refuge.

You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.

Your holy people are my delight.

Those who sell themselves to other gods

Will find that sorrow billows out all around them.


But I will not pour out blood to the darkling gods,

Or even lift up their names on my lips.

For the Lord is my lot, my portion, and my cup.

The lines of my life have fallen in pleasant places.

All around me grows a beautiful inheritance.


So I bow myself before the Lord who gives me counsel,

Even in the night he gently instructs me.

He is always at hand, always before me,

So even when I slip, I will not fall,

And even when I fall, I rise.


My heart is glad, my hands are full.

I am happy and secure.

You will not abandon me to death,

Nor let me tumble into the pit.

No, you teach me the way of life

By walking it with me.

At your side, I am safe and satisfied.

At your right hand, I am at peace forevermore.


 



Lord, I flee to you for shelter

And you set aside all my shame.

Your righteousness is forever my escape.

Stretch yourself toward me and hear me.

Hurry to snatch me away

From these dark glamours.

Be my mountain stronghold. I need a house

Strong enough to hide in.

All my life you have been

My rock and my fastness.


For the sake of your name

Take my hand and lead me out of these lesser loves.

Release me from the pits that I keep

Tipping into and loving the fall.

If there is safety, if there is rest,

If there is a home, it is only you.

So into your hand I commit my spirit,

For you are my ransomer and my ransom.


So many cultivate the vanity of things

And swear themselves to other gods,

But I have given my trust to you, Lord.

I have drawn my gladness from your steadfast love

Because you have watched my affliction.

You have known my fear as if you hung in my own place.

You have not given me over to the hands of my devourers,

But have stood me on the rock

And given me a place to live.


Now, Lord, show me your favor, for I writhe.

I waste. I am washed in the amber grief light.

I do not have another try in me.

My years have come to this.

The things I have done have rattled me to bones.

When my friends see me they are afraid

And I can see their fear.

A dread stretches behind me and I will not look back

To watch the people I love scatter and turn away

As if I was not a living man, but one of the forgotten dead.

Beyond that, I can hear them, my enemies.

They are devising together a death for me

That they will call good.


But you are still my God, my place,

My refuge. All these worries run

Inside the circle of your hand.

Rescue me now. Make me see

Some light, some bigger love. I am still yours.

Make all the things that hunt me

Slip soundlessly into the hungry ground.

Double their plotting back against them.

Silence them and make the truth speak out.


Despite all of it

You have hidden so much goodness away

For those who fear you. You have built

Such a shelter for any who would come.

They are hidden at your side,

Kept like treasure from the strife of tongues

And the brokenness that would not let them go.

When disaster set up its black banners all around me

You showed me marvels greater

Than the plain fears in front of me.

Even when I panicked and knew for certain

That I was cut off from you at last,

You showed me again that you hear, you see,

You mind, and stand beside me.


People of God, give the Lord all the love you have to give.

He is your guard and he keeps watch

Over those who have given themselves to him.

But he collapses the towering works

Of the proud down all around them.

So be strong and take courage

All you who wait on the Lord.


 



I promised myself: I will watch all my ways

And my words will not go wrong.

I will muzzle my mouth

When the wicked face me.

So I was mute. I held my silence.

But I kept peace for nothing.

Pain doubled within me.

My heart grew coal-hot.

I barely whispered but it was fire

Not words my tongue made.


O Lord, how does this end?

What is the span? What is the reach?

What bounds have you put on my fleeting days?

You gave me time no wider than a handsbreadth.

What is the line of my life

Beside the light's long walk between stars?

Where I go, a long shadow follows,

A breath - and the shadow passes.

Surely it is for nothing, for wind, for vanity

That I have spent so much time in toil

Heaping up what I can barely carry,

What, at the end, I will set down in a pile

And leave behind.


You are the one I'm waiting for, Lord.

My hope is in you.

Deliver me from all of this.

I would rather suffer under your hard hand

Than face the scorn of fools.

I lay my hand across my mouth.

When you discipline a man

You eat like a moth what his days have made,

You fall on his dear things like locusts.

You make salt pillars of his loves looking back.

Turn aside from this plague.

We are only breath.


Hear my prayer, Lord.

I raise this cry to you with tears.

I have wandered with you through

These years, as have all my fathers.

Now look away that I can smile again

Before I depart.


 



Have mercy on me, O God.

According to the love you bear me

Beyond all my circumstances.

According to your great compassion,

Wipe away the guilt from the bonds I have broken.

Tread me until all my crookedness is gone,

Wash from me the joy I felt at my failures.


I am familiar with all my rebellion,

And the monstrous loves that would consume me

Are always at my side.

You are the one I have failed,

In fashioning evil instead of good.

Even if all were false, your words would still be true.

Even if all were guilty, your justice would remain.

From birth I was twisted and bent;

I was marred even from the moment I was conceived.

But when you find firmness and faith inside me, it delights you.

You teach me wisdom and store it within me.


Sprinkle me with blood and I will be clean;

Trample me in the water and I will be whiter than snow.

I want to hear joy and gladness;

Let the parts of me you have broken rejoice again.

Hide from yourself all the times I have cherished the wrong;

Utterly remove them as though they never were.

Do not fling me away from your presence.

Do not separate me from your light and life.

Summon me back once again to the joy of your salvation,

Teach me to lean on you while you hold me up.


Then I will show others the path I walked back to you,

And they will lay down their revolt and return.

Rescue me from the guilt on my hands,

O God, my deliverer, my salvation,

And my tongue will tell of your justice.

O Lord, open my mouth and I will praise you.

For you do not delight in sacrifices or I would give them;

You will not accept a burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

A crushed heart that knows it is shattered, O God,

This you will not despise.


Do good to Zion because you delight in it;

Build up the walls of Jerusalem;

Then you will take delight in the right sacrifices,

All the offerings you have asked for

Will be brought to you and laid on your altar.


 



Out of the depths, I cry to you, Lord.

God, hear my voice.

I need you to attend

To my pleas for mercy.


If you kept our crooked loves always before you,

Who could endure it?

But with you is forgiveness

So that we can know the fear

That brings peace and consolation.


I wait for the Lord with my whole life

And in his word, I hope.

My soul waits for the Lord

More than watchmen wait for the morning,

More than watchmen wait for the morning.


O Israel, hope in the Lord,

For with him there is unearned love and kindness

And a vast redemption.

He will lead you back

Until your love is healed and whole.


 



Praise the Lord,

For it is good to sing praise to God;

For a song of praise is right and fitting.


God rebuilds Jerusalem,

He gathers together all who have been driven away.

He heals those who carry their wounds within them

And binds up all their brokenness.

He knows the number of the heavenly host

And gives them all their names.

Great is the Lord and great is his power;

His understanding is beyond measure.

The Lord lifts the humble up again,

But the wicked he lays low.

Sing to him with confession and thanks;

Give God all the song you have.

He covers the heavens with darkness and clouds;

He prepares rain for the earth;

He makes grass grow on the mountains.

He gives the animals their food,

And feeds the young ravens that call out to him.


His greatest delight is not in the strength of a horse,

Nor in human swiftness,

But the Lord delights in those who fear him,

Who hope in his unchanging love.


Praise the Lord, Jerusalem!

Praise your God, O Zion!

For he strengthens your gates,

And blesses your children.

He sets your land at peace;

And fills you with the finest wheat.

He sends out his commands in all the earth;

His word runs swiftly out from him.

He sends snow like wool;

He scatters frost like ashes.

He flings hail like crumbs;

Who can stand before his cold?

He sends his word and melts them;

He makes the wind blow and the waters run.

He makes his word known to Jacob,

And declares his judgments to Israel.

He has not done this for any other nation,

They do not know his law.


Praise the Lord!



 

Andy Patton is on staff with the Rabbit Room and is a former staff member of L'Abri Fellowship in England. He holds an M.A. in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He writes at The Darking Psalter (creative rewordings of the Psalms paired with new poetry), Three Things (a monthly digest of resources to help people connect with culture, neighbor, and God), and Pattern Bible (reflections on biblical images in the Bible).


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