Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 28

Faithful judge, faithful shepherd  

In Psalm 23, David fears no evil with his good Shepherd protecting him. Here he asks God to protect him from evil and gratefully rejoices in his having done so.

A David psalm.

I cry out to you
YHWH, my rock.
Don’t ghost me!
Because if you don’t answer me
I’ll become just one more corpse
slung into an early grave.
2 Listen to the sound of my pleading
as I cry to you for help
lifting up my hands
toward your holy sanctuary.
3 Don’t drag me off
with the wicked, those evildoers
who speak peace to their neighbors
while devising evil in their hearts.
4 Pay them back for all their hard work—
every evil thing they’ve done—
wound for wound and grief for grief.
Give them everything they deserve.
5 Because they pay no attention
to any of YHWH’s work—
any of the things he’s done—
he will tear them down
never to rebuild them.

6 Blessed be YHWH
because he heard my plea for help!
7 YHWH is my strength
and the shield my heart trusts in.
Because he’s helped me
my heart is full of joy
and overflows with songs of praise.
8 YHWH is the strength of his people
the fortress that saves his anointed.
9 Rescue your chosen people
and bless your inheritance.
Be their good shepherd
and carry them in your arms forever.


Like Psalm 27, this psalm is one of contrasting moods, but David reverses the order here, putting his plea first, his praise last. Though his life is in danger, he’s gotten no response to any of his urgent pleas directed toward God’s sanctuary. He fears God may have mixed him up with those who deserve to die. Verses 4-5 contrast the wicked person’s work with God’s work—respectively, doing evil and doing good. God’s work includes things like giving sunshine and rain, redeeming and blessing his people, and punishing evil.

Some Christians blanch when the psalmist asks God to judge evildoers, as if we should just forgive and forget their evil. But that’s not how a moral universe works. God will yet judge those who viciously attack the innocent, and we needn’t apologize for asking him to do so.

Here we must distinguish between personal and absolute forgiveness. God alone forgives the guilty absolutely, though that may not exempt them from temporal punishment. When we forgive, however—as Dietrich Bonhoeffer forgave the Nazis who oppressed him—this doesn’t mean we should pray the evildoer will escape punishment. The same Bonhoeffer who forgave the Nazis personally was right to pray that God would faithfully judge them for all their evils, as he did.

Verse 5 is pivotal: knowing God will ring down the curtain on evildoers, David realizes he’s been heard—YHWH will spare his life after all! So, his confidence spills out in joyful praise. The image of shepherd was always kingly in the ancient Middle East, though not typically kindly, as here. David concludes by commending his deliverer to all his people and asking God to carry them in his arms whenever their strength fails.

Many today live without regard for you or your laws, God. Thank you that you hold evildoers to account. Please bring evil’s reign of terror to its swift and timely end. Thank you that you also shelter and shepherd your people. Help me to trust you to bless and care for me always. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray these words:

Rescue your chosen people
and bless your inheritance.
Be their good shepherd
and carry them in your arms forever.

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.