Psalms For Life
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Psalm 112

The good life

The “prosperity gospel” says we all deserve a Cadillac or two—to be claimed by “faith.” This psalm says life’s goodness is measured by God’s presence and power in our lives, not the number of trinkets we own.

Praise YHWH!
How blessed are those who revere YHWH
and treasure his commandments.
2 Their descendants
will be powerful in the land
the children of God-seekers will be blessed.
3 Their family will have wealth and to spare
and their saving justice endures forever.
4 Light dawns in the dead of night
for those who live to please God—
who are gracious, compassionate, and just.
5 Good comes to those who lend freely
and do all their business fairly.
6 The just aren’t rocked by disaster
and their sterling reputation never fades.
7 They don’t live in fear of bad news
because their hearts are confident
trusting in YHWH.
8 They’re unafraid
unfazed by threats
knowing they’ll see their enemies’ downfall.
9 Since they give liberally to the needy
and their saving justice endures forever
they gain lasting respect and influence.
10 The wicked will get so mad on seeing this
they’ll gnash their teeth in frustration
seeing all their dreams come to nothing.


Like its pair, Psalm 111, this acrostic psalm gives the full view from its perspective. While Psalm 111 focuses on God’s side of the divine-human relationship, this psalm focuses on the goodness of life lived in reverence for God. The submissive believer views God’s commandments as a delight, not a burden, since they mark the path to both individual and communal wholeness.

This psalm starts and ends with the very same words as Psalm 1. In fact, Psalms 111-112 restate in Israel’s new post-exilic context many foundational truths found in Psalms 1-2, mirroring those early psalms in reverse. Surprisingly, Psalm 112 also applies to the devout believer things Psalm 111 says of God—especially, that their “saving justice endures forever.” Living by his values, believers are being transformed into the likeness of the God they worship.

Facing enemies and discouragement, post-exilic Israelites struggled to believe God was fully committed to them. The psalmist stresses their need to be totally committed to living graciously, generously, and justly in response to God’s gracious, generous, and just embrace of them.* She calls them to believe it will one day be clear they’re on the winning side. She contrasts the richness of their lives in God with the frustrating existence of the self-seeking, whose dreams utterly fail them.

Lord, you invite me to a life without lack, as I share in the work you’re doing here. Help me not to focus on fleeting prosperity, but to live out of your generosity, knowing that what matters most is pleasing you. Strengthen my faith and make me gracious and just, as you are, Jesus. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Light dawns in the dead of night
for those who live to please God—
who are gracious, compassionate, and just.

 

* I imagine the psalmist here as a woman of faith, like Miriam, Deborah, Hanna, or the Virgin Mary (see further, my answer to the question: Who wrote the psalms?).

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.