Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 17

Vindicate me, Lord!

Despite all our technological advances since ancient times, not much has changed when it comes to how the strong treat the weak. Thankfully, God is as committed as ever to righting all wrongs.

A prayer of David.

Hear my plea for vindication, YHWH.
Listen to my appeal.
Pay attention to my prayer
uttered without a word of a lie.
It’s your verdict I await
for you see what’s right.

If you examine my heart—
catch me at night unawares—
you’ll find nothing.
I’ve determined not to sin
in anything I say.
4 Despite what others do
I’ve obeyed your word
resolutely avoiding the plunderer’s path.
My steps have held to your path—
my feet haven’t faltered.

I call on you, God
for you will answer me.
Bend down and hear the words I pray.
Reveal the wonder of your lovingkindness
you who powerfully deliver
all who seek refuge from their enemies in you.
8 Guard me as you would the apple of your eye
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Protect me from the wicked who ravage me
these brutal enemies surrounding me.
10 They’ve become rebellious
and speak arrogantly.
11 Having tracked me down
they now hem me in
and look for a way to hurl me to the ground
12 like a lion eager to rip me apart
a strong lion crouching in ambush.

13 Rise up, YHWH!
Attack them and take them down!
Wield your sword to save me from the wicked.
14 Rescue me by your strong hand, YHWH.
Destroy those who look to this world
for their reward.
Give them their bellies-full
of what you’ve stored up for them.
Enough so their kids get plenty
and their grandkids too.
15 When you vindicate me
I’ll behold your face.
I’ll be satisfied when I awaken
beholding your glorious face.

Behind this plea for justice is the idea of mutual obligation seen in the previous psalm and going right back to God’s covenant with Abraham, where God promised to care for those who obey him. Formidable enemies have accused David of crimes that would cost him his life, such as trying to overthrow King Saul. Like powerful lions, they want to devour him.

David appeals to heaven’s high court because he’s not guilty, and he’s clearly not finding justice down here. Thankfully, God sees all, is just and compassionate, and his verdict is final. So David asks God to examine him thoroughly—even to show up when he’s not expecting to be examined. He wants just one thing to come out: the truth.

Then in language that evokes the Exodus, David prays for vindication, deliverance, and judgment on his enemies. As with Israel at the Red Sea, powerful enemies have tracked him down, cornered him, and are about to destroy him. His only hope is the God who delivers the oppressed who seek shelter in him. David cries out to him, fully convinced that—as in the Exodus—God’s face will shine on him at the break of day and YHWH will prove to be all he needs and more.

Lord, you don’t tolerate slander or oppressive lies because they destroy not just the weak, but the strong too. You suffered the brunt of such falsehood, Jesus, so that you could vindicate, deliver, and richly bless your poor and judge their enemies. Smile on us, I pray. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

When you vindicate me
I’ll behold your face.
I’ll be satisfied when I awaken
beholding your glorious face.

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.