Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 105

Our promise-keeping God

Distorted memories disorient us because we take our bearings in the present by recalling the past. Together with Psalms 104 and 106, this psalm helped set the Israelites’ record straight.

Give YHWH praise—
call on his name
and tell everyone what he’s done!
2 Sing to him
sing his praises.
Tell about all the miracles he’s done.
3 Boast about his holy character.
Let every heart that seeks YHWH rejoice.
4 Search for YHWH and rest in his power—
seek his face always.
5 Recall God’s displays of power on our behalf
and the judgments he’s pronounced
6 you descendants of his servant Abraham
offspring of Jacob, his chosen one.

7 YHWH, he is our God
and everywhere on planet earth
whatever he says goes.
8 He’s mindful of his eternal covenant
the promise he made for a thousand generations
9 the covenant he made with Abraham
the promise he swore to Isaac
10 and then ratified as his promise to Jacob
an eternal covenant to Israel:
11 “To you I give the land of Canaan
as your allotted inheritance.”
12 He made that promise
when they were a paltry few
and aliens at that
13 wandering from land to land
and from one kingdom to the next.
14 But refusing to let anyone oppress them
God rebuked kings for their sake, saying:
15 “Don’t touch my anointed ones
or harm my prophets in any way.”
16 Eventually YHWH ordered a famine
cutting off their food supply in the land.
17 But first he sent a man ahead of them
Joseph, sold as a slave.
18 His feet were hurt with shackles
his neck bound by an iron collar.
19 YHWH’s word refined him
until Joseph’s word finally came true.
20 Then Pharaoh ordered him released—
the superpower’s potentate set him free.
21 He put Joseph in charge of his household
responsible for all his possessions
22 with power to imprison the king’s officials
and teach his advisers true wisdom.
23 Then Israel migrated to Egypt
and there Jacob and his family settled
as foreigners in the land of Ham.
24 YHWH made his people flourish there
till they became more powerful than their foes
25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people
and double-cross his servants.
26 Then he sent his servant Moses
along with Aaron, the man he chose
27 to perform his miraculous signs among them
his wonders in the land of Ham.
28 He made darkness blanket the land
for hadn’t they rebelled against God’s word?
29 He turned Egypt’s rivers into blood
killing all their fish.
30 Then the land was overrun with frogs—
even the king’s apartment!
31 YHWH spoke and swarms of insects came—
gnats everywhere in the land.
32 He sent them hail instead of rain
and fiery lightning bolts throughout the country
33 wasting their grapevines and fig trees
shattering trees everywhere.
34 He spoke and hordes of grasshoppers came—
a myriad of ravenous locusts
35 consuming the land’s vegetation
devouring every last blade of grass.
36 He killed all of Egypt’s firstborn sons
every Egyptian man’s proof of virility.
37 He brought the Israelites out
weighed down with silver and gold
though no one among their tribes stumbled.
38 The Egyptians were glad to see them go—
so terrified had they become of the Israelites.
39 God spread a cloud cover over his people
and lit up the night sky with a fire overhead.
40 They asked for meat
and he served them quail
and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.
41 He split open solid rock
making water gush out
and stream like a river across the desert.
42 He did this because he remembered
his holy word to Abraham his servant.
43 He brought his people out with rejoicing
his chosen ones with songs of joy.
44 Then he gave them the lands of other peoples
making them inherit the fruit of others’ labor.

45 All this he did
so the Israelites would obey his laws
and conform to his teachings.
Praise YHWH!

Psalms 104-106 recap the Pentateuch, taking readers from earth’s creation to Canaan’s conquest. Here we come to the land grant God made, as earth’s creator and owner, to Abraham—a grant his descendants would possess only in the distant future. Taking Abraham’s descendants on a circuitous journey via Egypt, God brought them back centuries later, in time for his eviction of Canaan’s rebel tenants. Eternal though God’s promise was, it was also qualified: Israel would possess the land only if they trusted and obeyed him. However, this psalm omits that and many other well-known details since its focus is on God’s faithfulness. Psalm 106 focuses on the other side of the equation: Israel’s often sorry response.

YHWH protected the nomadic patriarchs and matriarchs roaming the land. He gave the young Joseph, whose big dreams antagonized his jealous older brothers, a crash course in character. Joseph’s painful shackles made the dreams of his youth seem like a sick joke till YHWH finally fulfilled his word. Joseph’s long years of waiting—in slavery and then prison, including the years Pharoah’s cupbearer forgot him—were no needless detour. They were instead the shortest route God had of making Joseph into a statesman who could provide for the Israelites in a way Joseph couldn’t have imagined until his dreams finally came true.

Decades after God took his people to Egypt, it was their turn to suffer oppression. Then he sent Moses to liberate them. Decimating the superpower with his plagues, God set his people free, cared for them in the desert, and finally gave them the land he’d promised them.

Focusing on the divine side of the equation throughout, the psalm ends with the point of all God’s faithful dealings with the Israelites: he gave them their own land so they could freely worship and obey him. He wanted a beachhead, one kingdom on earth where his will was done among the nations. So, the whole point was that Israel would trust and obey God. And their obedience was always the result of God’s grace, never vice-versa.

Thank you, Jesus, that your grace always precedes your call to obey. You’ve chosen your Church, like Israel before it, to show the world what life under your loving rule looks like. I celebrate you, Lord. Help me to rest in your faithfulness till I think and live only as you want me to. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

All this he did
so the Israelites would obey his laws
and conform to his teachings.
Praise 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.