Psalms For Life
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Psalm 144

Overcoming evil

Hostile to God’s plan, the dark powers controlling our world do all they can to keep us from seeing through their lies and seeking God. We overcome them by the power of God’s love.

A David psalm.

Blessed be YHWH, my rock
who trains my hands for war
my fingers for battle.
2 My steadfast ally, my fortress
my tower of safety, my deliverer
the shield I take refuge in
the God who subdues peoples under me.

3 YHWH, what is humankind
that you notice us?
Why give us mortals a second thought?
4 A human life is like a single breath
our days a fleeting shadow.

5 Break through the sky and come down, YHWH.
Touch the mountains and make them smoke.
6 Crack your lightning and scatter my enemies—
shoot your arrows and panic them.

7 Stretch your hand down from above
and save me!
Pull me out of the seething waters—
out of the grip of outsiders
8 whose mouths utter lies
and who extend their right hands
only to deceive.
9 I will sing a new song to you, God
playing a ten-stringed harp for you
10 the God who gives victory to kings
and rescues your servant David
from the menacing sword.
11 Save me!
Rescue me from the grip of intruders
whose mouths utter lies
and who offer their right hands
only to deceive.

12 Then our sons will flourish in their youth
like well-nurtured plants
our daughters like corner columns
beautifully carved to grace a palace.
13 Our barns will be filled with crops of all kinds
our flocks will increase by thousands
by myriads in our fields
14 and our oxen will be all loaded down.
There’ll be no breaching our defenses
no going into exile
no cry of anguish in the streets.
15 How blessed the people
all this is true of!
How blessed the people
whose God is YHWH!

David’s opening lines and repeated cries of “save me!” tell us he desperately needs God’s protection to overcome the enemies bent on killing him. Misleading in every way, his foes are outsiders, whether literally or metaphorically—like Saul, whose hostility to David made him God’s enemy, despite his ethnicity and his lip service to YHWH.

Weaving lines from several earlier psalms—including Psalms 8, 18, and 33—into his cry for help, David infuses each with new meaning in his new combination of them. He begins and ends with blessing since it’s only through God’s blessing that we overcome evil and are restored. David acknowledges that God’s caring for his people and giving his kings victory is beyond understanding except, implicitly, in the mystery of God’s love.

Desperate though David is—exiled from Jerusalem and under severe attack—he imagines himself singing a new song to celebrate a deliverance of such magnitude that no existing song will do. His deliverance will usher in a peace and prosperity in which every Israelite boy and girl will flourish, in which insecurity, exile, and anguish will be no more. All this blessing flows from the mutual embrace of David’s gracious God and his people, that being a truth post-exilic Jews would have taken great comfort in.

Jesus, you defeated evil by resisting the pervasive lies that tell us arrogance, greed, and sensualism give us true life. Take hold of my hand and rescue me from the waters seething around me. Your love and grace alone can save me. Help me believe I live fully only in your loving embrace. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray this prayer:

Stretch your hand down from above
and save me!
Pull me out of the seething waters—
out of the grip of outsiders.


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.