Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 147

Rebuilder of broken dreams

Why would the God who made all the wonders of creation shun the self-sufficient to care for the broken and bleeding? Because he’s not only just, says the psalmist, but also unfailingly gracious.

Praise YHWH!
How good to sing praise to our God!
How pleasant, how right!
YHWH rebuilds Jerusalem—
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and bandages their wounds.
4 He tallies the number of the stars
calling each of them by name.
5 How great is YHWH:
his power is absolute
his understanding beyond telling!
YHWH lifts up the downtrodden
and throws the self-serving to the ground.

7 Sing your thanks to YHWH.
Make music to God on the lyre.
8 He fills the sky with dark clouds
sending rain to the earth
and making grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives all the animals their food
even scrappy young ravens when they cry.
10 He takes no delight in the warhorse’s strength
or the warrior’s powerful legs.
11 But YHWH delights in those who revere him
who put their hope in his unrelenting love.

12 Praise YHWH, Jerusalem!
Praise your God, Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your children within your walls.
14 He grants peace within your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
15 He sends his command to earth
his word travels swiftly!
16 He spreads out snow like a wool blanket
and dusts everything with hoarfrost like ashes.
17 He scatters hailstones
like they’re mere breadcrumbs.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
18 Then he gives the word and everything melts
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He revealed his words to Jacob
his laws and judgments to Israel.
20 For no other nation has he done this:
none of them have any knowledge of his laws.
Praise YHWH!

The second of the Psalter’s five concluding psalms, this psalm weaves together calls to praise with the book’s two major reasons for praise: God’s sovereignty over creation and his gracious redemption of his people. Between bracketing calls to praise, the psalmist calls individuals and then the community to praise.

YHWH rebuilds Jerusalem by gathering Israel’s outcasts, or exiles, healing their broken hearts, bandaging their wounds. He lifts up the oppressed while judging their oppressors, thus, setting the world to rights. And in doing so, he blesses his people with well-being, satisfaction, and security.

YHWH’s naming each of the stars—still not all counted by us in the 21st century—attests to his incomparable understanding. He, not the Canaanite fertility god, Baal, sends rain clouds to water the earth that feeds earth’s creatures, right down to fractious raven nestlings. His command paints the trees with delicate hoarfrost and sends the harshest icy blast. Then his word melts everything, bringing on spring. And the same speech guided Israel in a way that no other nation was guided.

At the psalm’s heart, the God who is signally unimpressed by military might—the horse’s strength, the warrior’s stamina—delights instead in those who revere him and hope in his unrelenting love. By turning worldly ideas of national power and glory on their head, the psalm would have comforted the struggling post-exilic community, threatened by enemies on all sides.

You poured your life out, Jesus, to gather outcasts, heal their hearts, and bandage their wounds. Because you’re that kind of God. And what excites you is my reverence for you and my hope in your endless grace, however disqualified I feel. I praise you my creator and redeemer God! Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

YHWH delights in those who revere him
who put their hope in his unrelenting love.

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.