Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 25

Walking with God

Obeying God always brings opposition. That might not be so bad if we obeyed him perfectly, but we don’t. Wonderfully, the God of all grace protects, forgives, and guides us in his path.

A David psalm.

1 I lift my heart to you, YHWH.
I trust in you, my God.
Please don’t humiliate me
or let my enemies revel in my ruin.

3 Don’t let anyone
who looks to you be disgraced.
Rather, let those be disgraced
who act treacherously for no reason.
4 Show me your ways, YHWH
and help me walk in them.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me
for you’re the God who delivers me.
I hope in you from dawn to dusk.

6 Remember how you’ve acted
with compassion and relentless love
from time immemorial, YHWH.
7 Forget my youthful sins and rebellion.
Because you are goodness personified, YHWH
look at me only
in the light of your unfailing love.

8 Because YHWH is good
and always does what’s right
he guides those who go astray
back to the true path.
9 He guides the afflicted in the way of justice
and reveals his way to those bowed down.
10 All of YHWH’s ways
reveal his unfailing love and truth
to those who order their lives
in keeping with his covenant.

11 Display your noble character, YHWH
by pardoning my sin
grave as it is.

12 What can be said
of those who revere YHWH?
He leads them in his chosen path.
13 They flourish in every way
and their children will inherit the land.
14 YHWH offers his friendship
to those who fear him
enabling them to grasp
the meaning of his covenant.

15 My eyes are always on YHWH
who frees my feet from the trap.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me
for I’m friendless and forlorn.
17 My anxieties threaten my very life.
Release me from them all.
18Look at my misfortunes
see my pain and forgive all my sins.
19 See how many enemies I have
and how violently they oppose me.
20 Rescue my soul and protect me.
Don’t leave me stranded
now that I’ve put my trust in you.
21 May your integrity and virtue protect me
because I wait for you.

22 Redeem Israel, O God
from all her troubles!

This psalm’s rambling style relates partly to its acrostic structure. Perhaps it’s also meant to approximate life’s messiness. By alternating between confession of faith and confession of sin, David creates the sort of tension we regularly experience. He knows God’s path leads to flourishing and commits to following it, yet he struggles to do so. Acrostic psalms also aim to deal comprehensively with their topic—in this case, walking with God.

Never easy, the right road runs right through enemy territory. Taking it has left David in trouble, hurting, and alone—with public disgrace threatening ahead. He’s had some falls, he faces violently treacherous enemies, and he dreads defeat with its attendant shame. He knows how weak and vulnerable he is. But he also knows he’s on the right path and is trusting that his guide won’t fail him.

Thankfully, David returns repeatedly to God’s grace and goodness, the focus of the psalm’s chiasm.[1] He’s not seeking to earn forgiveness—he asks God to forgive simply because he’s merciful. The ancient Middle East’s gods were considered arrogant and disdainful of their subjects. By contrast, YHWH is gracious to not just his obedient servants, but repentant rebels too. Though his servants often fail him, he remains faithful and helps them stay on course.

With God giving them all the protection, forgiveness, and guidance they need, what more could they want? Knowing this enables David to wait on God for deliverance. And the psalm’s final verse opens this redemption up to all God’s people.

Jesus, I swing between faith and unbelief as both my weaknesses and others’ attacks threaten to undo me and the good I do. Yet following you is the only way to life. Forgive my sins and guide me in your way. Help me to wait on you. Redeem me for the honor of your name. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

He guides the afflicted in the way of justice
and reveals his path to those bowed down.

[1] The psalm’s chiasm is as follows: A: Cry for help (1-3), B: Plea that YHWH will teach David his ways (4-5), C: Plea for forgiveness (6-7), D: YHWH’S WONDERFUL CHARACTER (8-10), C: Plea for forgiveness (11), B: YHWH will teach his servants his way (12-14), A: Cry for help (15-22).

 

 

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.