Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 2

Coronation song

The West’s faith in the God who came down to save us has long been haemorrhaging away. But refusing to be bound by such a “fairy tale” isn’t making the world a better place. Only God can do that. 

What nonsense!
Mere earthlings, whole nations
furiously plotting the overthrow of heaven!
Kings and other power brokers
conspiring against YHWH and his anointed king
bellowing, “Come on!
Let’s break their chains off us
and break free from these tyrants
once and for all!” 

Enthroned in heaven above
the Lord laughs out loud at the absurdity of it all.
Then he angrily rebukes them
the heat of his anger terrifying them:

“Now get this!
It’s all over and done:
I’ve already installed my king on Zion
my holy mountain.”

This is what YHWH decreed:
“I hereby make you my royal son
and today become your royal father.
8 Just ask
and I’ll make the nations your coronation gift!
Draw your boundaries
around earth’s remotest corners.
You’ll crush all resistance
like an iron rod smashing a clay pot.” 

10 So look out, big shots
and wise up, wise guys!
11 Submit to YHWH reverently
gladly, though trembling in awe.
12 Quick!
Fall before the son and kiss his feet
lest he destroy you while you’re deliberating!
His anger could flare up at any moment
but if you run to him for shelter
all that awaits you is blessing.

The first psalm pictured two alternative ways of living—serving God and asserting self-rule. As the second half of the book’s introductory frame, this psalm builds on that. Here humankind’s leaders defiantly unite in trying to rid themselves of God’s “interference” in their lives. He responds by laughing at their attempted coup. Deeply disturbed by their insolence, he also angrily rebukes them.

In ancient times, an emperor adopted vassal kings as his sons, thus giving them a son’s full rights and responsibilities. So God announces the coronation of his royal son as a fait accompli. Even as God’s enemies were plotting their move, he installed his king on Zion’s holy hill, declaring him his chosen son. Since the king reigns in his stead, God invites him to go big and ask for the whole earth as his kingdom. His enemies are no match for him at all.

The psalmist then urges everyone resisting to surrender unconditionally—humbly, reverently, gladly, promptly. What’s to deliberate when the choice is between God’s blessing and judgment, and his judgment could fall at any minute? Beautifully, for all the psalm’s drama and passion, it ends with the calm assurance that all who submit to God’s chosen king find joy and rest.

The Hebrew word mashiah, or “anointed” (v. 2), described every Israelite king, especially David’s greater son, the Messiah. Pointing to God’s sovereignty against all odds, this psalm may have been composed for the coronation of David or one of his pre-exilic descendants, in which case verses 8-9 were originally uttered as royal hyperbole. But as later Jews and the first Christians recognized, it’s more profoundly true of the ultimate Davidic king, whose mandate literally encompasses the world. In fact, mashiah may well refer to both the Messiah and his lesser ancestors here since great poetry often has more than one level of meaning.

Thank you, Jesus, that your foes are no match for you. Even when all seems lost, you reign in wisdom, power and love. Thank you for the refuge you offer—constant flourishing, even when surrounded by foes. I bow in worship before you and kiss your nail-scarred feet. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

His anger could flare up at any moment
but if you run to him for shelter
all that awaits you is blessing.


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.