The Norman Transcript

Religion

July 17, 2014

What does a bird ‘alone on a housetop’ mean

NORMAN — Reassurance of God’s mercy

The Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, Ebenezer A.M.E. Church: This verse, Psalm 102:7, has a notation in the New Living Translation, “A prayer of one overwhelmed with trouble, pouring out problems before the Lord.”

The notation predisposes me to step into the anguish of an individual; one who is, perhaps, filled with despair. The urgency of this prayer makes me think that there were previous prayers.

Now the psalmist says to God “don’t turn away … bend down … my heart is sick.” All of this hurt and despair he wraps in verse seven’s image of a lone and alone bird, without the comfort of mate or flock; unable to sleep and therefore, unable to rest, be restored or renewed.

Furthermore, this bird is atop a roof, his pain exposed to the world. Other translations picture this bird as a sparrow. The loneliness of a spirit without peace, of anguish when God is not responding to prayer are not affected by the translations. The feelings in both cases easily connect to our experiences.

Despite the notation that this is an individual’s prayer, the psalmist turns from his concerns to concerns for the restoration and rebuilding of God’s people in the 12th verse.

Is the psalm a merging of two prayers, one a lament and the other a prayer of reassurance that God’s goodness will prevail?

Is the psalmist saying to us that even in the most troubled separated moments from God, there will come a time when “He (God) will listen to the prayers of the destitute, He will not reject their pleas?”

Bigger than one individual

Rabbi Mark H. Levin, founder of Congregation Beth Torah: Translating to discover original meaning of many verses in the Bible is often fraught with difficulty. This is among those texts.

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