Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 142

When other helpers fail

Some challenges leave us feeling deeply troubled—abandoned even. David reminds us that at such times God, who knows the path we’re on, is our refuge, the one person we can count on in this world.

A David maskil, from when he was in the cave. A prayer.

I cry out loud to YHWH
I plead loudly with YHWH for mercy.
2 pouring out my inner turmoil before him
telling him all my troubles.
3 When my spirit grows faint
you, Lord, know my path.

They’ve hidden a trap for me
on the path I’m walking.
4 Look around me and see:
no one’s willing to show me kindness
leaving me no place to run to—
no one cares what happens to me.
5 I cry to you, YHWH:
“You are my refuge—
you’re all I have in the land of the living.”

6 Hear my cry
because I’ve reached rock bottom!
Rescue me from the people stalking me
because they’re way too powerful for me.
7 Bring me out of this prison
so I can praise your name.
Then God-seekers will surround me
because you’ve dealt so graciously with me.


David likely writes from the cave he hid in after escaping from Gath. Having found himself on King Saul’s hit list, he fled to his enemy’s enemy, as political refugees often do. But seeking protection from the Philistine king nearly cost David his life, showing him that his own ingenuity could never solve his problems.

Here, imprisoned in the cave, stalked by powerful men bent on catching and killing him, David has no one willing to help him and nowhere to turn. Just thinking about it makes him feel faint. But he knows that God knows where he is, how he got there, and what comes next. While desperately pleading for help, David realizes that YHWH, earth’s creator-sustainer, is his only refuge—all he’s got in the world. So he begs God to set him free.

Significantly, David envisions himself restored to the community of God-seekers, praising God for his rescue. That is, he foresees the joy of deliverance while he’s still in the cave. This reminds me of Jesus’ assurance of his resurrection’s joy even as his enemies plot his death. In calling us to take up our cross and follow him, Jesus invites us simultaneously to face opposition and trouble and to live by the unseen power of his resurrection, his strength complementing all of our weakness.

Abandoned by all your friends, Jesus, you went to the cross for me and for everyone too weak to help themselves. Help me believe you’re at work in my situation even when I can’t see it. Help me trust you to guide me and believe the power of your resurrection can make me triumph. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

“You are my refuge—
you’re all I have in the land of the living.”

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.