Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 134

Prayer in the night

God created the world as a place of perfect blessing, but human egotism has filled it with cursing, to the detriment and pain of all. Our redemption begins with God’s blessing us and our blessing him in return.

A song of ascents.

Come, bless YHWH
all you servants of YHWH
who stand by night in YHWH’s house.
2 Lift your hands toward his holy place
and bless YHWH.
3 And may YHWH
who made the heavens and the earth
bless you from Zion!

This final song of ascent calls God’s servants to glorify him, melding the idea of worshipper and servant together. The worshipper focuses on the object of their worship, just as the servant stands day and night, attentive to their master’s least direction. Hands raised in devotion and receptivity, the worshipper stands in YHWH’s presence, praising him for his unfailing mercy. This is what we were created for.

The psalmist calls on YHWH to bless his servants also. In fact, our lost world, so often marred by cursing, both verbal and physical, needs God’s blessing more than anything else. He chose Abraham and Sarah so he could restore every people on earth to his blessing. Later he made Zion his earthly home, coming down to bless his people. And there—in Jesus’ passion—he eventually showed humankind the full extent of his love for them. In fact, such passionate self-giving alone explains why obstinately self-centered people can hope for blessing from God.

Blessing God in return, we enter the circle of blessing, where he then blesses us again in a never-ending cycle, and we in turn bless those around us through the overflow of his love. He blesses us as the creator and sovereign Lord who will yet reunite heaven and earth in the fullness of his blessing. What joy!

Jesus, our world is full of people cursing you and each other. Thank you for taking all our abuse in your passion, your love fully exhausting the curse so you could include us in the endless circle of blessing that you are. Help me to bless you and bless others around me freely in return. Amen.

Meditate on this divine call during your free moments today:

Come, bless YHWH
all you servants of YHWH
who stand by night in YHWH’s house.

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.