Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 120

No safe place, but in God

Though our tongues (and computer keyboards) can speak truth and bless others, they can also deceive and divide. The psalmist here prays for rescue from their incendiary powers.

A song of ascents.

I cried out to YHWH in desperation
and he answered me.
2 Deliver me, YHWH
from lips that lie
and tongues that twist.

3 You brazen deceivers
can’t you see what God will reward you with
and what perks he’ll throw in?
4 A hailstorm of arrows
with burning coals attached, that’s what!

5 How wretched to be an alien
out here in the wilds of Meshek
with Kedar’s warlords on every hand!
6 I’ve lived way too long
among people who have no use for peace.
7 I’m all for peace
but whenever I say so
they’re bent on war.

This psalm begins a series of fifteen psalms pilgrims sang going up to Jerusalem to attend one of Israel’s annual feasts. Recounting her past deliverance, the psalmist* seeks God’s help in her current crisis. Isolated, threatened, vulnerable, she sees herself as an alien in a hostile land, surrounded by warring tribes.

The psalmist is attacked by people so desperate for power they’ll say anything to get it. Their pervasive lies engender enough hostility and insecurity to destroy the community’s social cohesion, such that armed conflict becomes a way of life. We now see this sort of thing increasingly worldwide, thanks to unprincipled social media moguls supported by their equally unprincipled politician-enablers. These people selfishly use our unprecedented connection through the Internet to divide us as never before. The people the psalmist has in mind are similarly addicted to wealth and power such that they knowingly spread lies and division.

Such narcissists think they need only outswim the other sharks in the tank. But the psalmist says distorting the truth and warmongering pit them against God, who will make sure everything their distortions bring them goes up in flames. Bartering the unity that fosters wholeness and hope in individuals and societies for wealth and power ultimately robs us of everything. Either we prioritize peace and invest in what truly lasts or we sacrifice truth and whatever else gets in the way of our personal fiefdom to our own undoing.

Nothing has changed since the psalmist’s day, Lord, with families and whole societies often torn to shreds by vicious talk. Deliver me from such evil. Give me words of peace and harmony to combat words of hate and aggression. Help me live as if you’re in control—for you are. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray these words:

Deliver me, YHWH
from lips that lie
and tongues that twist.


* 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?).


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.