Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 107

He smashes through iron bars

Overwhelmed, we may blame God for abandoning us. This psalm assures us that God is gracious to the weak and undeserving and calls us to live wisely and gratefully instead.

Give thanks to YHWH
because he’s so good
and his unrelenting love endures forever!
2 Let those YHWH has redeemed say it—
those he’s freed from their foes’ grasp
3 and brought back from foreign lands.
From east and west
from north and south.

4 People wandered in trackless wastes
unable to find any place to live
5 hungry and thirsty
having given up all hope.
6 Then they cried out in desperation to YHWH
and he rescued them from their distress.
7 He put them on a road that led them
right to a safe place to live.
Let them thank YHWH for the unrelenting love
that moves him to rescue his beloved children.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with every good thing.

10 Some sat in darkness and gloom
captives cruelly bound in chains
11 Because they rebelled against God Most High
and refused to follow his word.
12 he broke them with hard labor
and when they stumbled
no one gave them any help.
13 Then they cried out in desperation to YHWH
and God saved them in their distress.
14 Breaking their chains off them
he brought them out of their dark despair.
15 Let them thank YHWH for the unrelenting love
that moves him to rescue his beloved children.
16 He shatters gates of bronze
and smashes through iron bars.

17 Some who foolishly rebelled against God
suffered for their waywardness
18 till they retched at the very taste of food
and found themselves at death’s door.
19 Then they cried out in desperation to YHWH
and he rescued them from their ordeal.
20 God gave the word and healed them
delivering them from certain death.
21 Let them thank YHWH for the unrelenting love
that moves him to rescue his beloved children.
22 Let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices
recounting what he’s done with joyful shouts!

23 Some set sail in seafaring ships
plying their trade on the high seas.
24 They too witnessed what YHWH can do
his powerful acts on the briny deep.
25 His command whipped up gale-force winds
raising up towering waves
26 that tossed their ships sky-high
only then to plunge them down to the depths
and make everyone’s courage utterly melt.
27 They staggered and reeled like drunkards
all their sailing skills rendered useless by the gale.
28 Then they cried out in desperation to YHWH
and he saved them from their peril.
29 He silenced the storm
and calmed the ocean waves.
30 They were overjoyed
when he stilled the waves
and guided them safely
into the haven they were heading for.
31 Let them thank YHWH for the unrelenting love
that moves him to rescue his beloved children.
32 Let them exalt him when the people assemble
and praise him when the elders meet.

33 He turns rivers into desert
surging springs into parched land
34 and fertile fields into a salt waste
because of the evil of their people.
35 He also turns desert land into lake country
arid wasteland into gushing springs.
36 He settles the hungry there
so they can build themselves a town to live in.
37 They sow fields and plant vineyards
harvesting the crops they produce.
38 He makes them numerous under his blessing
and keeps their herds from dwindling.
39 And when such people are impoverished
beaten down, crippled by oppression and grief
40 he pours contempt on their oppressors
making them wander a trackless waste
41 while lifting the poor out of their misery
and making their families flourish like flocks.
42 Seeing this
God-seekers rejoice
while self-seekers are dumbfounded.
43 Let those who are wise
take all these things to heart
pondering YHWH’s acts of unrelenting love.

Written after Cyrus released the Jews from exile, this psalm begins the Psalter’s final book. Books III and IV respectively questioned and reaffirmed God’s faithfulness to Israel. Psalm 106 ended by asking God to bring his people back from among the nations. Book V begins with this resounding call to give thanks to the God who has gathered Israel’s exiles from the four corners of the earth.  He rules the nations and faithfully hears the helpless when they cry out to him.

The body of this psalm presents four different groups of people desperately needing God’s help before he rescues each of them from their plight. The first and fourth groups—the homeless and those facing shipwreck—are engulfed by the world’s chaos. The two central groups—those in bondage and those desperately ill—suffer due to their sins. Wonderfully, God rescues all four when they cry to him in desperation. So the psalmist calls everyone God has rescued to thank him before the faith community for his unrelenting love and to do so with freely offered sacrifices.

The psalmist then celebrates God’s magisterial power to reverse everyone’s condition, whether they’re victims or victimizers. YHWH thus maintains creation’s moral order, which makes God-seekers ecstatic and leaves self-seekers—who mistakenly thought they were in charge—speechless. The psalmist ends admonishing all who are wise to live in the light of God’s perfect justice, unrelenting love, and unlimited power to rescue those who cry to him.


You revealed God’s love, Jesus, by restoring lepers to community, freeing captives, stilling storms, feeding the hungry, healing the sick. Thank you for lavishing your love and grace on me too, needy as I am. Help me live gratefully in the light of all you’ve done. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Let them thank YHWH for the unrelenting love
that moves him to rescue his beloved children.


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.