Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 102

The time is now

What do we do when the bottom falls out of our lives? When God is the only one we can turn to, we discover that he’s the one we can count on as immutably true.

The prayer of a poor, overwhelmed soul, whose anguish is poured out to YHWH.

Hear my prayer, YHWH
let my cry reach your ears!
2 Don’t hide your face from me
when I’m in trouble!
Bend down and listen
answer me quickly when I cry to you!
3 For my days vanish like a puff of smoke
and my bones burn like an oven.
4 I’m beaten down and withered
like scorched grass.
Having lost all appetite for food
5 I’m nothing but skin and bones
shaken by my heavy groans.
6 I’m like a hoot owl in the desert
a screech owl haunting some desert ruin.
7 I lie awake
like a solitary bird on a rooftop.
8 All day long my foes mock and taunt me
turning my name into a curse.
9 I eat ashes for bread
and mix my drink with tears
10 because of your anger and indignation:
you’ve raised me up
only to throw me down.
11 My days are like dusk’s lengthened shadows.
I wither like scorched grass.

12 But you sit enthroned forever, YHWH
and your name will be remembered
for all time.
13 You will yet take pity on Zion
and act on her behalf.
In fact, the time to show her mercy has come—
the appointed time is now!
14 For your servants love her stones
and are moved to pity by her very dust.
15 The nations will revere YHWH’s name
and all of earth’s kings your glory.
16 For when YHWH rebuilds Zion
he’ll appear in his glory.
17 He’ll hear the prayers of the broken then
and not ignore the poor.

18 Write this down for the generations to come
so that a people not yet created
may praise YHWH:
19 “Looking down from his holy height
YHWH scanned earth from heaven
20 to listen for the prisoners’ groaning
and set free those condemned to die.”
21 Write it so the name YHWH God has earned
will resound in Zion
and Jerusalem ring with his praise
22 when all the peoples come together
and the nations worship YHWH.

23 He cut my life short
drained me of strength in mid-course.
24 So I said:
“Don’t take me away
before I’ve lived out half my days
when you live on forever, God!”

25 Aeons ago you laid earth’s foundations
and stretched out the heavens by your hand.
26 One day they’ll all waste away
but you endure forever!
They’ll wear out like a garment—
you’ll change them like worn-out clothes.
27 But you never change
and your years never end.
28 Your servants’ children will live securely
their descendants safe in your presence.

If we take her* imagery literally, the psalmist may be facing the aftermath of exile or return from exile. She feels she’s about to die when her life has barely started. She’s lost and alone. Like an isolated, reclusive bird, she’s mistreated by others, abandoned by God.

Amidst such turmoil and anxiety, the psalmist anchors herself and her people in God. Next to our transience and fragility, he’s eternally, immutably merciful and compassionate. Some imagine God looking down from heaven to wreak vengeance on hapless sinners, but instead he listens for the prisoners’ groans, to release those on death row. He cares about Zion’s brokenness, even as the psalmist does for the city’s broken-down walls and dusty streets.

The psalmist argues that God needs to restore her people now and not just for their sake, but because the nations are all looking on, and future generations will hear the story. When God’s glory is revealed, the nations and their kings will revere him, and earth’s many peoples celebrate his glory. We naturally trust the ground beneath our feet, the sky above. But they’re destined for replacement. God is the only one we can look to in times of chaos. He alone can keep his people safe through all generations.

Thank you, Jesus, that you didn’t just look down from heaven. You came down—came to release captives and care for the lost and broken, to reveal your glory as the gentle, humble one whose mercy and love triumph over evil. Make me as open to embrace your grace as you are to give it. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray these words:

You will yet take pity on Zion
and act on her behalf.
In fact, the time to show her mercy has come—
the appointed time is now!


*Click here for a note on “Who Wrote the Psalms.”


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.