Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 3

Meeting God in life’s whirlwind

Sometimes when we get in the way of those bent on living their own—as opposed to God’s—version of the good life, they want it so bad they’ll stop at nothing to get it. Thankfully, God is our defender.

A David psalm, from when he fled from his son Absalom. 

So many enemies, YHWH—
mobs massing against me!
“Even God won’t deliver him this time!”
they guffaw and gush.
But you shield me from every blow
honor me with your presence
and raise up my downcast head. 

I cried to YHWH
and from his holy mountain he answered me.
I stretched out and slept
and woke up refreshed.
6 Because why should I fear these enemy hordes
closing in on every side
with him beside me? 

7 Rise up, YHWH!
Deliver me, God!
Yes, you’ll hit my enemies’ iron jaw
smashing their bared fangs.
Because deliverance belongs to you, YHWH
and your blessing to your people.

Like Psalm 2, this psalm responds to an attempted coup—only here David’s own egomaniacal son leads the power grab. David’s family life is a veritable train wreck. Absalom’s revolt came at the culmination of a whole series of failures on David’s part—failures to do right. David’s over-indulgent love for his sons kept him from faithfully holding them to account. When Absalom returned from self-exile, David left him in limbo, feeding the overblown sense of injustice that then led him to rebel.

Having fled Jerusalem, God’s royal residence, David remains conflicted, unwilling to respond as he should, yet grieved that his beloved son is seeking his head and dividing the nation. While David has been a fugitive before, now he’s the older guy in the chase, and his foes are convinced he’s done for.

So David cries out to God, whose care for him is already evident. And God graciously meets him where he is, giving him rest in the knowledge that nothing can separate him from God’s love. So this is what finding refuge in God looks like. David asks God to defend him against his foes and holds onto two truths that anchor him in the storm: nothing on earth can overthrow God’s sovereign rule and nothing can rob God’s people of his blessing.

No less a work in progress than David, I desperately need your grace, Lord. Deliver me from evil—my own as well as that of others. You mercifully shield me, honor me, and lift up my head. However hopeless things seem, I put my trust in you. All other ground is sinking sand. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

You shield me from every blow
honor me with your presence
and lift up my downcast head.


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.