“They Return at Evening, Snarling like Dogs, and Prowl About…”
“They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city.”
He writes the words as armed men on mission keep watch on his house, wondering if he is there. Creeping across his garden, they report back to a superior and continue to stare at his unlit home. Others roam the city, looking for him.
His words leapt off the page and I wondered what ancient Israelite David would say next.
Chapter headings confirm that the historical context of this Psalm is David being hunted by a violent and unstable Saul, who posts men to watch his house.
“O my Strength, I watch for you,” David replies. “You, O God are my fortress, my loving God. God will go before me…”
Coining a new nickname for God, David cries out, “O my Strength, I watch for you” and he knows where to run to in his fear and uncertainty.
Yellow and blue light bounced off my face as I crouched in dark bedroom corner at 4 am. The fan whirred silent sleep but I couldn’t. Mind racing, I clicked my phone to email, wondering if there was news. A Caring Bridge site blinked medical updates, and the faces of my dear friends peered out at me. Dear friends of ours have been plunged into a surprise medical crisis.
I read each day’s news in dashed gulps, tearing up wet at the eyes, each chest-inhale a breathed in prayer for them. We are striving to stand in this storm beside them. Friends sign up to bring meals, or arrive in trucks and cars for home renovation projects. God in human skin looks like burrito bowls and casseroles, and sweaty men and women painting and screwing in brackets. We scoop up kids for play-dates and try to offer respite wrapped in video games and cookies, and silent places to talk, pray, or be silent.
Over coffee this morning, I read David’s words and was hooked.
He said it again and I could feel the tension: “They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city. They wander about for food and howl if not satisfied. But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love,” and it hit me.
His sentence weaves eight hours into one line, and it creates an injustice, by accident, for the reader. By accident, I had glossed over the dark night. It’s David’s fault, really.
Before David got to the “in the morning” line, he watched the night hours pass. Snarling angry men prowled, howling in the night.
Eight or nine hours of “O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. God will go before me...”
As fear, uncertainty, and anger passed like watches of the night, David coined a new name for God, and hung out in the shadows. “But I will sing of your Strength, [God]...” and he waits.
And I realize that I too easily could have kept reading, passing words but not passing time. David was stuck in limbo, waiting for the clock to pass, the hours to move.
Maybe you too are waiting, caught in a hard night or season of life. Maybe you are wondering what’s next in your life or your job, or maybe you are watching things in your family’s and friends’ lives and praying hard with them too.
David’s honesty and wisdom has stuck with me today, resonating in deep ways. He knew where to look in the long dark nights and he knew what he would see as the early hours of morning rose.
“O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God…”
Dark night hours passed and as fear traipsed by in loud boots, he noted, “they return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city.” “… But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.
O my Strength, I sing praise to you;
you, O God are my fortress, my loving God.”
So, I’m trying it out, breathing it like a breathless prayer, O my Strength, my God-Who-is-Strength, my God-who-says-He-will-be-our-strength-for-us… I wait for you. I watch for you. Standing with friends in the In-Between, I hide in you. You are our loving God who stands in the dark with us, while fears and dangers prowl howling in the night.
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Jennifer speaks often at MOPS/MomsNext groups, at conferences, churches, retreats, camps, home school co-ops and more. She loves getting to know people and making new friends.