Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 13

When my enemy is winning

What to do when fear and shame come calling and God isn’t taking your calls? That being David’s situation here, he teaches us that God wants not polite pretense, but rather prayers from the heart.

A David psalm.

How long, YHWH
will you go on ignoring me?
How long will you hide your face
whenever I seek your help?
2 How long must I store up anxious cares
while grief fills my heart day after day?
How long will you let my enemy
have the upper hand?

3 Look at me!
Answer me, YHWH, my God!
Give light to my eyes
before death’s darkness takes me
4 my enemy crows, “I won!”
and my foes celebrate my downfall.

5 But I trust in your undying love—
my heart rejoices in your certain rescue.
6 Yes, I’ll sing praise to YHWH
because he’s been so good to me.


David’s early career was marked by his fall from the dizzy heights of celebrity to the depths of ignominy. In his four opening how longs, David isn’t asking God for a time-frame. He’s demanding action. His situation is all wrong, and everything points back to God, who is ignoring him—even worse, seemingly evading him. That explains the note of holy exasperation here. Exasperation because his covenant God isn’t there for him when he needs him. Holy because David is just asking God to do what he promised to do. Instead of peace and prosperity, David’s days are filled with anxiety, grief and discouragement, his enemies on top. He demands that God look at him, answer him and revive him before its too late and his enemies dance on his grave.

David pivots in verse five, not because his situation has changed, but because—far more importantly—he knows God’s commitment to him hasn’t changed. David’s downfall would spell God’s own defeat, and that isn’t going to happen. The strength and certainty of YHWH’s covenant love give him hope. Though God hasn’t rescued him, David knows it’s as settled as if it’s already happened. So with his hope more certain than the darkness around him, he can see himself singing praise to God for acting on his behalf.

I echo David’s cry, Jesus. How long will I be locked in a battle where the forces of darkness have the upper hand? Yet when I think how strong your love for me is, how can I doubt that you’ll triumph. I will yet praise you for yours is the name above every name. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray these words:

But I trust in your undying love—
my heart rejoices in your certain rescue.
Yes, I’ll sing praise to YHWH
because he’s been so good to me.

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.