Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 10

God of the poor and weak

In their quest for wealth and power, crooked employers and violently oppressive governments upend people’s lives. This makes it seem that God doesn’t see or care, but David assures us he does.

Why are you avoiding me, YHWH
hiding away when I’m in trouble?
2 Evildoers brazenly harass the powerless.
Make them victims of their own schemes!
3 The wicked celebrate their unbridled lusts.
They applaud the greedy and curse YHWH.
4 Too full of themselves to seek him
they push him right out of their minds.
5 Yet they succeed in all they do
and scoff at their opponents
without regard for your judgment.
6 They tell themselves
“Nothing will ever shake me—
my luck will never run out!”
7 Their mouths spew curses, lies and threats.
Mischief and evil well up
from under their tongues.
8 They lurk on the edge of town
stealthily watching for the innocent
waiting to get them alone and murder them.
9 They lurk like lions
ready to pounce on the helpless
grab them and drag them away.
10 The helpless are crushed
and collapse, overpowered.
11 The powerful tell themselves,
“God has forgotten us.
He’s looking the other way
and won’t see a single thing we do!”

12 Do something, YHWH!
Raise your hand to judge.
Don’t forget the afflicted.
13 How dare the wicked sneer at God
scoffing, “He won’t ever call us to account!”
14 But you do see!
You see the trouble and torment they cause
and will yet square accounts with them.
The poor and helpless trust in your care
because you’re the helper of orphans.
15 Break the striking arm of the wicked.
Go after their evil till there’s none left to be found.
16 YHWH is king forever and ever!
Those who worship other gods
will ultimately disappear from his land.

17 YHWH
you know the hopes of the helpless.
You will surely hear their cries
and give them courage to go on.
18 You’ll champion the cause of orphan and oppressed
so that mere mortals terrorize no more.


Psalms 9 and 10 are crafted as a single acrostic, with Hebrew’s “a” (aleph) beginning Psalm 9, its “z” (tav) beginning Psalm 10’s final poetic unit. This tells us we should read the two psalms as completing each other. And this two-psalm prayer has an agonizing “Why?” at its heart (10:1-11). Hounded by the wicked, David is desperate for God, but God is nowhere in sight. Psalm 1 says the wicked don’t prosper, but that’s not what David sees in the “real world.” Their every success makes the wicked more arrogant. Religious or not, they refuse to let God cramp their style, one marked by greed, aggression, curses, lies, threats, and murder. They’re confident the sun will always shine on them, that God has too much else going on to bother with them.

But God sees all they do and all the pain they cause. He’s the defender of orphans and the powerless even when it doesn’t look like he is. So David urges him to remember the afflicted, defend the weak and put the wicked out of commission. However bleak things are, God still reigns and will root evil out of the land till those who serve false gods and consider God indifferent to what they do are nowhere to be found.

In our vulnerability and pain, we may struggle to believe that. But this is when, like David, we need to pray as if we’re badgering an unscrupulous judge. YHWH knows the hopes of the powerless. He’ll hear their cries, give them courage, and champion their cause till mortals are indeed put out of the business of oppression once and for all.

Jesus, evildoers are bolder and bolder in their attacks on the powerless. It often seems you don’t care, don’t see. But you know what it is to be helpless and you do care. So please remember the poor. Stand up and defend them till you’ve totally rooted evil out of our land. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

You’ll champion the cause of orphan and oppressed
so that mere mortals terrorize no more.

Why YHWH?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.