Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 16

You’re all I need, God

Driven by fine-tuned algorithms, distraction is endemic in our technological wonderland. But as in David’s day, nothing compares with the joy of knowing God.

A David psalm.

Watch over me, God
for I’ve taken refuge in you.
2 I’ve said to YHWH
“You’re my master.
I have nothing good in this world
apart from you.”
Those in our land who live wholly for you
are my heroes, my delight.
Those who run after other gods
are asking for nothing but trouble.
I won’t offer their gods blood libations
nor will my lips utter their names!

YHWH, you’re my portion—
my food, my drink.
You hold my future in your hands.
The land you’ve marked out for me
is pleasant, a rich inheritance.
7 I bless YHWH who counsels me
enabling my spirit to teach me by night.
I’ve made YHWH my sole focus.
With him beside me
I won’t be shaken.
So my heart is glad
my soul is joyful
and my body rests easy.
10 For you won’t abandon my soul in Sheol
or let your holy one rot in the grave.
11 You show me the path of life.
In your presence is joy unbounded
at your right hand pleasures unending.


In ancient Israel, servants owed their masters absolute loyalty, while masters were bound to protect and provide for their servants. David begins this psalm, like many others, asking for protection. Then he professes his devotion to YHWH and recounts his divine master’s bountiful provision for him.

The Israelites often served other gods along with YHWH, just as we often do today. The only difference is that their gods came with physical idols, while the gods of materialism, consumerism, and sensualism do not. David knows worshipping other gods ultimately leads to disaster. Inspired by those fully devoted to YHWH, David totally renounces other gods.

What draws us to other gods is thinking they’ll meet needs God can’t or won’t meet. David says YHWH meets all his needs and more besides—and God holds David’s destiny in his hands. David acknowledges the goodness of all God’s gifts, where he’s put him, his constant guidance, and his unfailing support. With so loving and gracious a master, David is determined to look to him always and trust that he’ll keep him from falling. David lives in the confidence that, far from abandoning him to death, God will show him the pathway to endless life in his bountiful care.

But David’s life isn’t free from suffering because he’s clearly facing opposition and possibly even death. He doesn’t have everything going his way. For David, as for us, suffering and glory go together. And David’s abundance and security are the result not of his having achieved all his goals, but rather of entrusting his life to God.

David goes far beyond just talking about God’s sure protection and generous provision. He speaks about his beloved as a lover does. He savors the joy of being in God’s company since God himself is his sustenance and his life. Living in God’s presence is in itself a reward.

You offer me a life without lack, Lord, despite materialism, consumerism, and sensualism’s constant pull . Like every addiction, these gods demand more and more while giving less and less. Keep me looking always to you, confident that your love and care will never fail me. Amen.

During your free moments, pray these words:

You show me the path of life.
In your presence is joy unbounded
at your right hand pleasures unending.

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.