Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 30

Joy in the morning 

When all is going well, we can easily forget we exist for God’s sake, not vice-versa. When we do, he typically uses pain or grief to reorient us to himself, his ultimate goal for us being true freedom and joy.

A David psalm. A song for the dedication of the temple.

I exalt you, YHWH
for you raised me up
refusing to let my enemies
rejoice over my defeat.
2 YHWH my God,
I cried out to you for help
and you restored me to life.
3 You snatched me out of the grave, YHWH
stopped my free fall into the pit
in mid-air.

4 Sing to YHWH
all you who are loyal to his covenant!
Give thanks at every mention of his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts but a moment
his grace and favor a lifetime.
Weeping may stay overnight
but in the morning—what joy! 

6 Once when everything was going my way
I crowed, “Nothing can stop me now!
God’s blessing has made me unshakable!”
7 But the moment you hid your face from me
I was panic-stricken.
8 I cried out to you, YHWH.
I begged the Lord for mercy:
9 “What will you gain from my death?
How will my departure
from this life benefit you?
Will my decomposing flesh praise you
and attest to your faithful care?
And if so, how convincing would that be?
10 Hear me, YHWH!
Be gracious to me!
Help me, YHWH!”

11 You turned my mourning into dancing—
stripped my sackcloth off me
and dressed me in pure joy!
12 So now I can’t help but praise you—
can’t keep quiet!
YHWH, my God
I will give you thanks forever!

We live our lives with God not sitting in the audience as spectator, but rather playing opposite us, as the lead actor in every scene we’re in. We’re dependent on him as the play’s director too, such that his every smile is joy, his every frown distress.

David introduces us to one act in his play before giving particulars, including a few lines of his dialogue with God (vv. 6-10). We don’t know his specific context, only that he’d become overconfident, presumptuous. Imagine young David beaming in Saul’s court—everyone’s hero, or so he thought—only later to flee from the insanely jealous Saul in terror. By turning away from David, God instantly reoriented him, reminding him of who needed whom.

The little guy desperate for the big guy’s help often becomes servile, fawning. But God doesn’t want that of us, and David doesn’t give it. Verse 9 offers a perfect example of the sort of honesty God wants, as David weaves a little black humor into his plea for pity—asking God how convincing the testimony of his maggot-ridden corpse would be if it could talk.

David concludes by remembering God’s sudden rescue, which led to his ecstatic joy, exuberant dancing, grateful praise, and this rock-solid truth: God’s anger doesn’t define him. It’s brief, momentary, long outlived by his favor. Weeping may be our unwelcome guest overnight, but in the morning—what joy! So, David determines to praise God in advance of his deliverance.

You smile on me, Jesus, and I think I’m the star of the show and forget my utter need of you. Thank you for revealing myself to me in your withdrawal. Keep me humbly trusting that your anger gives way to grace, a tearful night to a joy-filled dawn. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

His anger lasts but a moment
his grace and favor a lifetime.
Weeping may stay overnight
but in the morning—what joy! 

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.