Revive Us Again
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me. – Psalm 138:7 (KJV)
I don’t often read, much less quote, the King James Version of the Bible. The language is too archaic, the images of God and human beings too exclusive, and sometimes the translations are simply wrong. (In Acts 12:4, for example, the KJV translates the word for “Passover” as “Easter.”) What can you expect from a translation written by committee five hundred years ago?
Yet sometimes this translation hits the bull’s eye. In King James’ Psalm 138, the psalmist sings thanks to God for “thy lovingkindness and thy truth,” for “thy mercy … that endureth forever,” for having “strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.” (Try saying that fast.)
Lovingkindness. Truth. Mercy that endureth forever. Being strengthened with strength in our souls. I need such words from 500 years ago. I also need the KJV’s translation of verse 7: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me.”
The verse centers around the Hebrew chaya, a derivative of chai (life.) Many modern English translations focus on the psalmist being kept alive, or their life being preserved or kept safe. Yet I think the KJV’s “thou wilt revive me” captures the core meaning of chaya or “re-life.” Yes, having one’s life saved, preserved or kept safe is important, but this psalmist rejoices that even in the midst of trouble, God will “re-life” – a.k.a. “revive” – them.
In the midst of a pandemic and the troubles of this time, I could use some reviving. Perhaps you could, too. Maybe those old translators knew what they were doing after all.
In this time of trial, revive us again, O God. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Parts 1 and 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.