Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 14

Of scoundrels and fools

We’re prone to mistreat others, disregarding God’s moral standards, as if we know better. But thankfully, God is committed to righting every wrong, restoring the fortunes of the humble poor.

A David psalm.

Fools tell themselves
“God is of no concern!”
Their actions are corrupt, repulsive.
No one does what’s good.
2 YHWH peers down from heaven on humankind
to see if he can find
anyone with the good sense to seek God.
3 But everyone has gone astray—
we’re all are morally tainted.
There’s no one who does good.
Not even one.

4 Have these scoundrels no clue
who gobble my people up like a hunk of bread
and then think they can evade me?
5 One day they’ll be panic-stricken
when they see that God sides
with those who seek him.
6 You think you can trash
the hopes of the humble poor
but YHWH will protect them.

7 O, how I wish Israel’s rescue
were already on the way from Zion!
When YHWH turns everything around
for Jacob’s daughters and sons
they’ll sing and celebrate and jump for joy!

Rude and crude, the fools David speaks of live like there’s no God. They prey on the vulnerable, sabotaging good in their lives. While it isn’t initially apparent, they sabotage good in their own lives too. They’re thus as stupid as they are morally repugnant, though the world may deem them smart. David has in mind scoundrels like Nabal (whose name meant “Fool”) the wealthy narcissist who held him in the same contempt as Saul did, proverbially kicking David in the teeth when he was down.

Having described the godless, David goes on to address the universal human condition. He pictures God searching for even just one person with the wisdom to seek him as we should and finding none. We’ve all gone astray and become morally tainted, embracing folly each in our own way.

The fools’ contempt for the vulnerable goes unchecked because they think they can commit deplorable acts without having to answer to God. But David assures us they’ll be panic-stricken on the day when God demonstrates he’s on the side of the weak. This makes David long for and pray for God’s restoration of his people and the joyful celebration it will bring.

Deliver me from the folly of thinking I can figure life out without you, Lord, as if making up my own rules doesn’t lead me to hurt and ruin. Help me believe you’ll protect the weak and vulnerable. Come quickly to rescue your people and right the wrongs done to them. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray this prayer:

O, how I wish Israel’s rescue
were already on the way from Zion!
When YHWH turns everything around
for Jacob’s daughters and sons
they’ll sing and celebrate and jump for joy!

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.