Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 146

Forever faithful

Wilfully blind to the effects of their evils, professing Christians have sometimes inflicted grave injustice on others. God, however, sees the plight of the oppressed and will right every wrong.

Praise YHWH!
Praise YHWH, my soul.
2 I will praise YHWH as long as I live
I’ll sing praises to my God
my whole life long.

3 Don’t put your trust in powerful people—
mere mortals who lack the power to save you.
4 When they breathe their last
they return to dust
and that very day
all their big plans come to nothing.

5 How blessed the person
whose help is Jacob’s God
who puts their hope in YHWH their God
6 maker of heaven and earth
the sea and everything in them.

He remains forever faithful!

7 He gives justice to the oppressed
and food to the hungry.
YHWH sets prisoners free.
8 YHWH opens the eyes of the blind.
YHWH lifts up those bent low.

YHWH loves those who seek to please him.
9 YHWH protects the resident alien
and provides for the orphan and widow
but he makes the path of the self-seeking
lead to nowhere.

10 YHWH will reign forever and ever—
your God, Zion
will rule through endless ages.
Praise YHWH!

This psalm begins the book’s concluding five-psalm crescendo of praise, listing a whole array of things to thank God for. No sooner does the psalmist* commit to always praising God than she warns against our perennial temptation to rely on the most powerful people around us. Their help often seems so much more real and tangible than God’s. So we’re tempted to rely on them for success—even when doing so involves us in their oppression of the vulnerable. But the powerbrokers’ power is short-lived while those who trust in Jacob’s God are forever blessed, regardless of the odds they may now face. Because—and this is the key point—YHWH remains faithful forever.[1]

YHWH is faithful as both creator and redeemer. He acts on behalf of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the blind, those weighed down beneath life’s burdens, aliens, orphans, widows. He has a special bond with those who seek to please him also, who actively care for those he cares for. And he actively opposes oppressors, whose self-seeking hurts those he loves.

Because Zion’s God will reign forever, his values—not those of this world’s powerbrokers—are the order of the day. Though our world is far from just now, our Creator-redeemer is determined to make it a place where all will flourish, regardless of their race, skin color, or any other supposed defects. Hearing this, how can we help but break out into joyful songs of praise?

Jesus, you freed captives, fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, and lifted up those bent low. You died and rose again to ensure—against all resistance—that your values will prevail on earth and your kingdom never end. Thank you, Lord, that you remain faithful forever. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

How blessed the person whose help is Jacob’s God
who puts their hope in YHWH their God.

 

* I imagine the psalmist here as a woman of faith, like Miriam, Deborah, Hanna, or the Virgin Mary (see further, my answer to the question: Who wrote the psalms?).

[1] The psalm’s chiastic structure puts the focus on its central point, God’s faithfulness: A: the psalmist’s commitment to praise YHWH always (1-2), B: the futility of trusting powerful people (3-4), the blessedness of trusting Jacob’s creator God (5-6b), C: YHWH’S ETERNAL FAITHFULNESS (6c), the righteousness of (Zion’s) redeemer God (7-8b), B: the efficacy of trusting YHWH (8c-9), A: YHWH’s eternal reign and praiseworthiness (10).

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.