Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 11

When the bottom falls out

What can law-abiding people do when doing good brings them only grief because those in power are so unjust? With nothing else to hold onto, we can cling to the God who will yet see that justice is done.

A David psalm.

I’ve taken refuge in YHWH.
How can you say to me:
“Fly away like a bird to the mountains?
2 Look, the wicked stand poised, ready to shoot!
They’ve put their arrow to the string
and bent back their bow
to shoot the upright from the shadows.
3 If the foundations of justice are destroyed
what can God-seekers do?”

4 YHWH is in his holy temple
his heavenly throne as secure as ever.
He takes everything in
examines everyone everywhere.
5 YHWH the Just probes the wicked
and he can’t stand anyone who loves brutality.
6 He’ll rain down burning coals and sulphur on them
served up on a scorching whirlwind.
7 Being just
YHWH loves to see justice done.
Those who long to see things put right
will behold his face.

What can good people do when evildoers take control and mercilessly jerk them around? What can we do when the very people who should protect us attack us whenever they can and create or maintain institutions that dehumanize us?

Such moral chaos leaves just two options. Fear tells us to run for the hills—fear for our lives, our livelihood, our family, our social standing, and fear that nothing will ever change. So, we just give up and run away. The other option is to stay put, but we need a very good reason to do that.

David gives us that reason in the psalm’s second half. YHWH isn’t just present in his holy temple—down the street—to hear and to help. Despite all appearances to the contrary, he’s also fully in charge and watching every move the ruthless make. He will call the violent to account and loathes all they stand for as much as he loves those who do right. Unlike the gods who foster corruption and injustice, he’s perfectly just and always sides with those who seek right relationships. He doesn’t always come running when we want him to. But his one and only response to evil is judgment, while he welcomes all who want things made right into a face-to-face relationship with him.

Lord, when evildoers use their power to crush and to kill, you see all they do and will yet judge their evil deeds. Thank you that you’re just and care for the weak and poor. Please root out all corruption, end all violence. And replace it with true justice, I pray. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on this promise:

Being just
YHWH loves to see justice done.
Those who long to see things put right
will behold his face.


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.