Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 138

The God who fulfills his purposes

With the self-serving typically wielding power, this world is no friend to God or his upside-down ways. David knew that well, but he also knew that nothing could possibly thwart the unfailing love of God.

A David psalm.

I extol you with all my heart, YHWH.
I sing your openly praises before all rival gods.
2 I bow down facing your holy temple
and give thanks to your name
for your faithfulness and your unconditional love
because your promises exceed
the fame your awesome deeds have earned you.
3 On the day I called you answered me
making me bold by strengthening my soul.

4 All the kings of the earth will praise you
when they’ve heard what you’ve promised.
5 They will sing of YHWH’s ways
for YHWH’s glory is great.
6 YHWH is high above all
yet his heart is always for the least and the lost
and he knows the proud and powerful from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble
you protect me from my enemies’ anger.
You stretch out your hand
and your strong right hand rescues me.
8 YHWH will fulfil his purposes for me.
Your unconditional love
endures for ever, YHWH.
Do not let go of the work of your hands.

Having just seen YHWH dramatically answer his prayer, David begins by praising him before the “gods,” David’s term for all the angelic, demonic, or other supernatural creatures. None of them compared to God, who alone commands David’s allegiance. And David says his relentlessly loving God had promised to do far more than he’d done yet.

With egotistical leaders like his nemesis King Saul in mind, David then envisions the day when all of earth’s kings join in worshipping YHWH. Exalted above all, this God hears the cry of the weak and vulnerable, as David’s recent deliverance proved. God also recognizes the proud and powerful from afar. And earth’s kings will acknowledge that his topsy-turvy values—so contrary to worldly thinking—lead to true power and glory.

Though David’s present situation is perilous, God rescues him powerfully and in person because his love is unconditional and he’s determined to fulfill his purposes for David’s life. David ends with a plea we know God will answer: that God not abandon his world or the loyal servant he made and now reshapes.

Clearly, Israel’s post-exilic community identified with everything David prays here. They were done with other gods. They’d seen through earth’s great kings. And they now earnestly looked to God to fulfill his purposes for them.

Jesus, you spurned the world’s arrogant, welcoming the poor and weak instead. Though engulfed by foes, you established your reign. Fulfill your purposes for me. Don’t give up on your work in me. Yours is the kingdom, the power, the glory. May your kingdom yet come on earth in fulness. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

YHWH will fulfil his purposes for me.
Your unconditional love endures for ever, YHWH.
Do not let go of the work of your hands.

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.