Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 20

The battle is the Lord’s

This vile world is no more friend to grace in our day than in David’s. With the stakes as high as ever, we’re caught in a spiritual battle 24/7. Here David shows us what we must do to win.

A David psalm.

May YHWH answer you
on the day of distress.
May the name “God of Jacob”
protect you from all harm.
2 May he send you help from his sanctuary
and strengthen you from Zion.
3 May he remember all your offerings
and delight in your sacrifices.  Selah
4 May he give you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans.
5 We’ll raise the roof
when we hear of your deliverance.
We’ll celebrate what God has done
with a parade, banners, the works!
May YHWH give you
everything you ask for.

6 Now I know
that YHWH will deliver his anointed king.
He’ll answer him from his holy heaven
with powerful acts of deliverance
by his strong outstretched hand.
7 Some trust in their chariots
and some in their horses
but we trust in the name of YHWH our God.
8 Our enemies will bow down and fall flat
while we stand strong and tall.

9 Give your king victory, YHWH!
Answer us on the day when we call.


In ancient times warfare often ended in the slaughter of the defeated royal family. So whenever David went to battle, everything he had hung in the balance. The wording of verse 1 comes directly from Jacob’s confession in Genesis 35:3, showing that David identifies himself and his people with Jacob when he begged God for protection from his murderous brother Esau. David says he’ll rely only on God’s name, who he’s revealed himself to be. David is thinking here of the God who wrestled with Jacob and transformed his life.

David’s people likely sang this psalm while he offered sacrifices before marching to battle, to encourage him to entrust the outcome to YHWH, who rescued Jacob and later Israel from Pharaoh. Neither Jacob nor the Israelites deserved deliverance. Each of them received the grace that seeks out and blesses the lost. The king offered his sacrifices in Zion, home to God’s earthly sanctuary and gateway to heaven’s blessings. David’s sacrifices were his visible plea for grace. In this psalm, his people pronounce their blessing, trusting their faithful God to honor their king’s faith and grant him victory.

Verse 6 pivots from blessing to confident declaration, based on who YHWH is. The Hebrew for “anointed” can also be translated “Messiah,” letting us read the entire psalm as a prayer for David’s future descendant who would decisively triumph over evil. The Hebrew tense of “will deliver” (eushio) implies completed action, that while the victory is still future, it need only be claimed.

Just like some dictators today, generals in ancient times often paraded military hardware to bolster their troops’ morale before going to battle. By contrast, David boasts only about God. Because as important as military technology may be in battle, God had revealed himself to be the battle’s sole deciding factor. While those who arrogantly defy God will bow and fall, God’s anointed king—bowing in worship—will stand victorious in battle. Hence, no battle preparation is more vital than asking God to answer his people faithfully when they call.

Immersed in the visible, I often find it hard to figure you into the equation, Jesus. Help me see you as the one factor that outweighs all else. Without you, my resources are never enough. Help me see each battle you ask me to fight as yours—just as you invite me to make your victory mine. Amen.

During your free moments, meditate on these words:

Some trust in chariots
and some in horses
but we trust in the name of YHWH our God.

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.