Psalms For Life
Looking for content on a specific topic?
Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 124

If God is for us…

David’s warriors were often both outnumbered and outclassed, humanly speaking. Here David praises God for defending his people in a dire situation, reminding us that God dwarfs every challenge we face.

A David song. A song of ascents.

If YHWH hadn’t been for us—
let Israel say it—
2 if YHWH hadn’t been for us
when humankind fought against us
3 their anger wildly raging
they’d have swallowed us alive.
4 The floodwaters would have engulfed us
the torrent swept us away.
5 The furious waters
would have overwhelmed us
body and soul.

6 Praise YHWH
who didn’t drop us
into their monstrous jaws!
7 We escaped with our lives
like a bird from a hunter’s snare.
The trap burst open
and we broke free!

8 Our help comes from YHWH
maker of the heavens and the earth!


David presents the challenge the Israelites faced when attacked by a fighting force so superior that he and his men had no chance, humanly speaking. He likens their enemies to a raging flood and a hateful monster, both images evoking pagan creation myths which depict the chaotic primal waters as a sea monster. Those images evoke the definitive biblical events of YHWH’s subduing the primeval waters with a word and his later making a path through the sea to free the Israelites from monstrous Egypt.

David’s enemies would doubtless have assessed their fight with Israel as being of no contest at all. But leaving YHWH out of the equation, they grossly miscalculated since they were unwittingly picking a fight with the God in control of all the forces of nature. Once their equation had been corrected, the fight proved far more a foregone conclusion than they could ever have imagined. But in the opposite direction.

David uses the word “humankind” to suggest that the Israelites were up against the rest of humanity or maybe even that, if all humankind joined forces against them, their enemies would still be no match for little-Israel-plus-God. At first glance, it appears that God is eternally committed to one ethnic group, and against all who oppose them. But in fact, ethnicity has nothing to do with it. God’s commitment to Israel is purely because of Israel’s place in his plan to redeem the human race. Israel’s enemies are in this case hellbent on shutting God out. But they’re no match for him. With YHWH resolutely on his people’s side, he simply breaks the trap and sets the helpless bird free. So to him belong all praise and thanks!

Jesus, I’m no match for the evil I’m up against in this world, but you fight for me. As I trust and obey you, no one can pry me away from you. With you on my side, who can possibly defeat me? Help me stand strong against evil and live in joyful hope that your kingdom will yet come. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on this promise:

Our help comes from YHWH
maker of the heavens and the earth!

 

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.