Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 115

Not to us, not to us

Christians now have much in common with post-exilic Jews, who felt like aliens in their own land, surrounded by pagans who ruled them and ridiculed their faith. This psalm calls such believers to trust in God.

Not to us, YHWH
not to us
but to your name be the glory
for your unfailing love and faithfulness.
2 Why should our pagan neighbors say
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens
doing whatever he decides to do.

4 Their idols are silver and gold
objects made by human hands.
5 They’ve got mouths but don’t speak
eyes but don’t see.
6 They’ve got ears but don’t hear
noses but don’t smell.
7 They’ve got hands but don’t feel
feet but don’t walk.
They’ve got throats but don’t make a peep.
8 And their makers will end up just like them
as will all who rely on them.

9 But, you, Israel
trust in YHWH.
He’s their true help and shield.
10 Priests of Aaron
trust in YHWH.
He’s their true help and shield.
11 All who revere YHWH
trust in YHWH.
He’s their true help and shield.

12 YHWH watches over us
and blesses us.
He’ll bless the people of Israel
the family of Aaron included.
13 He’ll bless all who revere YHWH
from the least to the greatest.

14 May YHWH increase you
both you and your children.
15 You are blessed by YHWH
maker of heaven and earth.

16 The heavens belong to YHWH
but he gifted the earth to humankind.
17 The dead don’t praise YHWH
those consigned to the silence of the grave.
18 But us?
We will praise YHWH
both now and forever.
Praise YHWH!


After the Jews returned from exile, their pagan neighbors taunted that their immaterial YHWH was a no-show not just in the lineup of the gods, but also in the ongoing contest between the gods—that they could hardly expect such a God to defend them.

So the psalmist tells God that such taunts impugn God’s glory—not Israel’s. Against their taunts, she declares that YHWH is no earthbound god and exercises absolute sovereignty over everything.* She then taunts the pagans, saying, their gods are all show—as insensate and immobile as the gleaming idols representing them. Naturally, anyone relying on impotent gods will find themselves impotent too.

The psalmist challenges all her hearers to rely on YHWH’s ability to help and protect them. She assures them he hasn’t forgotten them and will indeed bless them, evoking God’s promises both to Abraham and to the Israelites at Sinai. She then blesses them and their children, leaving no one out. Since YHWH gave the earth to humankind in the first place, he’s lost none of his power to bless. She ends by contrasting believers with the dead, whose rejection of God has rendered them permanently unable to praise. Since the Israelites are among the living, she calls them to praise YHWH.

Though I don’t worship gold or silver idols, I often trust myself instead of you, Lord. Not only does that offend you. It leave me powerless when all the while you’re longing to empower and protect me. Forgive me, and help me trust you and praise you for the glory of your name. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

He’ll bless all who revere YHWH
from the least to the greatest.

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.