Finding Forgiveness for Our MistakesApril 14, 2023 - 12:00 am
My shield is God Most High,
who saves the upright in heart. — Psalm 7:10
In honour of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.
Psalm 7 begins with an unusual word: “A shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning Cush, a Benjamite.” The meaning of the word shiggaion has been the subject of much debate. Many scholars understand it to be a type of musical instruction to accompany the psalm/song. However, according to the Jewish tradition, this word shares its root with the Hebrew word that means “to make a mistake” or a “misjudgement.” According to this explanation, King David penned this psalm after he made some mistake.
The second part of this opening line is also subject to debate. Who is Cush the Benjamite? Nowhere in the Old Testament do we come across a person called Cush the Benjamite. Jewish teachings conclude that this must be a reference to King Saul, who was both a long-time enemy of David and who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin.
Now the pieces start to come together. King David was writing about a mistake he made concerning Saul. But what was the mistake? Two possibilities are offered. The first is when David sang a song of praise to God after Saul was finally killed at the hands of the Philistines, Israel’s archenemies. In spite of all the hardships that King Saul had put David through, it still was inappropriate for David to celebrate Saul’s death. After all, Saul still was one of God’s appointed kings.
The second possibility is when David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe when Saul had entered a cave in which David was hiding. The king didn’t know David was in the cave, so David sliced a piece of Saul’s cloak in order to prove to the king that he could have killed him, but didn’t. Again, David’s intentions were fine, but his actions were still wrong because he had lifted a hand against God’s appointed king of Israel.
Whichever episode David was referring to as his shiggaion in this psalm is not as significant as the common theme of both. In either circumstance, David’s intentions were honourable, but he misjudged the situation and acted inappropriately. In this psalm, David expressed his confidence that God, who saw his heart and knew his innocence, would not allow him to be punished: “My shield is God . . . who saves the upright in heart.”
The Jewish sages teach that if we knew the consequences of every little thing that we did, we would never make a move. Perfectionism is a sort of imprisonment. It keeps us from doing anything in fear of making a mistake. However, in Psalm 7, King David reassures us that God knows who is “upright in heart.” God forgives our poor judgment when it comes from a pure heart.
We should, too.
Your turn: At sundown on April 18, the nation of Israel will pause to remember the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Will you pray for the Jewish people?