Psalms For Life
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Psalm 125

Those who trust in YHWH

Just like our world today, the ancient world was full of conflict and abuse. With Israelites facing these dangers both at home and on pilgrimage, this psalm calls them to live trusting in the God of peace.

A song of ascents.

Those who trust in YHWH
are like Mount Zion
immovable, enduring forever.
2 Just like the mountains surround Jerusalem
so YHWH surrounds his people
now and for all time.
3 The evildoers’ scepter won’t extend
over the land allotted to the just forever
lest the just capitulate
and take part in evil themselves.
4 Do good, YHWH
to those who themselves do good
whose hearts are true to you.
5 But may YHWH banish
those who turn off onto twisted paths
as well as those who oppress others.
May peace be upon Israel!

The psalmist says those trusting in YHWH are as well-founded and unshakable as Mount Zion—protected by God, just as Jerusalem is by the surrounding mountains.

But these images don’t mean that everything is fine in the world because, while God has allotted lands to his people, the scepter ruling over them is in the hands of the wrong people: evildoers. The psalmist doesn’t say whether the people oppressing them are foreigners or Israelites of Saul and Ahab’s ilk. Maybe she doesn’r say because it makes very little difference which it is. In fact, the latter may be worse than the former since the just may be more tempted to go with the flow and follow their rulers’ ways if their rulers are Israelites.

Trusting in the safety and security God gives, the psalmist assures her people that evildoers won’t always be in charge. Otherwise, it would seem pointless for believers to resist evil. That leads her to pray that God will make those who walk the path of goodness flourish and sideline those who deviate from his path. In one sense, the entire world has been allotted to the just: since God’s creation is all about goodness, evil doesn’t belong anywhere in it. The psalmist prays this prayer because she knows God is the only one who can bring true peace and well-being to Israel.

Jesus, this world belongs to you, and I’m secure in you. Yet evildoers dominate in business, government, education, science, the arts—basically everywhere. Help me hold to your path and not let go of your kingdom’s values. Banish evil and give me and all the just your perfect peace, I pray. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray this prayer:

Do good, YHWH
to those who themselves do good
whose hearts are true to you.


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.