Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 122

Praying for Jerusalem’s peace

God is committed to establishing peace in Jerusalem. But Jerusalem’s peace inheres in his people’s embodiment of his justice, mercy, and humility. Only thus will his city truly flourish under his hand.

A David song. A song of ascents.

I was glad when they said to me:
“Let’s go to YHWH’s house.”
2 And now here we are
standing inside your gates, Jerusalem!
3 Jerusalem, a city built together
as one united whole.
4 Israel’s tribes ascend to it—
the tribes belonging to YHWH—
to extol YHWH’s name there
as Israel’s law requires.
5 It’s where thrones ensuring justice stand
the thrones of David’s royal house.

6 Pray for Jerusalem’s peace.
May all who love you flourish!
7 May there be peace within your walls
and security inside your citadels!
8 For my family and friends’ sake
I say, “May you know peace!”
9 Because the house of YHWH our God is here
I will seek your good.

David rejoices in Jerusalem as the site of God’s temple and his own divinely established throne,[1] signifying God’s presence in and his just rule over the world. That’s what excites him about Jerusalem. He longs for Jerusalem’s peace because he knows the city has always had enemies on every hand—not just outside, but inside it too. Enemies like his son Absalom, whose injustice made the city’s peace and well-being impossible. God’s prophets repeatedly decried such evil.

Believing Jerusalem’s peace is all-important, many Christians today see this psalm as an urgent call to do all they can to bolster modern-day Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies through prayer and political and financial support. Some fear doing anything less would put them in opposition to God. But this is all backwards. It’s not what David has in mind at all.

David celebrates Jerusalem as a city not pursuing a merely ethnic or national cause, but rather united by God. Its tribes are united in their devotion to the God they worship, the God of justice, mercy, and humility. Disregarding his law’s moral imperatives can’t possibly lead to peace or well-being for Jerusalem or any other place on earth. Praying for Jerusalem’s peace today means praying its people will submit to God’s Messiah and seek the peace he promised all who keep his law. Praying for this is always right because it aligns us with God’s eternal purposes for his world.

Jesus, you wept over your people’s failure to see that they needed to receive you and embrace the values of your house to gain true peace. They thought they just needed to rid themselves of the Romans. You still weep today. Forgive us, Lord. And may all who seek Jerusalem’s true peace prosper! Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Pray for Jerusalem’s peace.
May all who love you prosper!

 

[1] The psalm’s chiastic structure makes David’s dynasty the focal point: vv. 1-2 (A) the psalmist, his companions, and YHWH’s house, vv. 3-4 (B) Jerusalem, v. 5 (C) David’s house, vv. 6-7 (B) Jerusalem, vv. 8-9 (A) the psalmist, his companions, and YHWH’s house. So in New Testament terms, the psalm’s focus is on the Messiah’s rule.

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.