Protect Me God: I Trust in You


Performance Notes:

How can the ancient psalms be sung in contemporary worship? About twenty-five years ago, a group of Anglican clergy and musicians began to search for ways to "lead people back to the original psalms in the Scriptures with fresh understanding and joy/' as one of them stated in the preface to Psalm Praise (1973). That influential collection of settings of psalms and other portions of Scripture used language that was fresh, followed new translations of the Bible, and contained varied musical styles, which were often folk-like and popular in character.

"Protect Me, God," a setting of Psalm 16, was prepared by two members of the Psalm Praise team. The text came from Michael Saward, active in radio and television communications with the Church of England, vicar of Ealing Church, London, since 1978, and author of several hymns. The music was composed by M. Christian Strover, the Director of Music at Emmanuel School and the organist and choir master at Christ Church in Beckneham, Kent, England.

Strover commented on his choice of the tune name MEPHIBOSHETH:

Mephibosheth, a son of Saul, was lame in both feet. He was welcomed by David and lived in his house and fed at his table. The prayer of the song is appropriately illustrated in David's care and provision.

Psalm 16 is both a short prayer for God's protection (v. 1) and an extended confession of faith (vv. 2-11), in which the psalmist expresses delight, trust, confidence, and security in the Lord. In this setting, the prayer for protection is set as a refrain, offering opportunity for singing in groups.

An ideal way to introduce this song would be in a service of Profession of Faith. Have a group of young people (or a unison choir), accompanied by guitars and/or piano, sing this song as a response to the confession or perhaps to the law. Use soloists on the verses with the choir on the refrains. In following weeks, have the same group sing the stanzas, with the congregation on the refrains. Since the melody of the stanzas is a bit challenging, the congregation should not attempt it until they have heard the choir sing it a few times.

This setting of Psalm 16 has already become a favorite in several congregations. The ancient prayer set to a contemporary text and tune helps us to bridge the gap in time from David's day to our own. The Psalms are never out of date! 

Text Information:

A prayer asking God to preserve the psalmist's life, coupled with a ringing confession of why he looks to the LORD.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-2
st. 2 = vv. 3-4
st. 3 = vv. 5-6
st. 4 = vv. 7-8
st. 5 = vv. 9-10
st. 6 = v. 11

Like many psalm prayers, Psalm 16 includes a short petition to God, a lengthy declaration of trust and delight in the LORD, and gratitude for his many blessings. This psalm seems to arise out of some unspecified threat to the author's life-probably an illness, since no enemies are mentioned. Our voices join with the psalmist in a short prayer for protection and a confession of trust in the LORD (st. 1). Then we declare solidarity with God's people and repudiate all other gods and pagan ways (st. 2), acknowledging that the LORD has provided a secure and abundant source of all that blesses life (st. 3). The psalmist helps us gratefully rely only on the LORD as the One who assures life (st. 4)–even from the power of death (st. 5)–and who counsels in the way that leads to eternal joy in God's presence (st. 6). Michael John Saward (b. Blackheath, Kent, England, 1932) wrote this versification in 1970. It was commissioned for and first published in Psalm Praise.

Saward is residentiary Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, and is a church commissioner and member of the general synod of the Church of England. Educated at Eltham College, Bristol University, and Tyndale Hall, he was ordained in the Church of England in 1956. Saward served in several congregations and was radio and television officer for the Church Information Office (1967-1972). His publications include Leisure (1963), Couldn’t Care Less (1966), Don't Miss the Party (1974), and All Change (.1983). Associated with the Jubilate Group for a number of years, he has written some sixty hymns and served as text editor for Hymns for Today's Church (1982).

Liturgical Use:
When the Christian appeals to God for protection and expresses confidence in God's care; especially appropriate for Easter and for profession of faith.

Tune Information:

Christian T. Strover (b. Colchester, Essex, England, 1932) wrote MEPHIBOSHETH for this text in 1973. He explains the naming of the tune as follows: "Mephibosheth, a son of Saul, was lame in both feet. He was welcomed by David and lived in his house and fed at his table. The prayer of the song is appropriately illustrated in David's care and provision." Filled with rhythmic interest and a tender character, MEPHIBOSHETH repeats the first part of the psalm's prayer (v. 1) in its refrain. The unison melody requires a strong solo stop on the organ, with lighter accompaniment. A solo voice or choir could sing the stanzas, and everyone could join in on the refrain. Guitar and string bass accompaniment is also very appropriate.

Strover received the B.Litt. and MA degrees from Hertford College in Oxford, England. He is director of music at Emmanuel School and organist and choirmaster at Christ Church in Beckenham, Kent, England. He has composed and arranged a number of hymn tunes, some of which appeared in Psalm Praise (1973)

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Psalm 16
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