Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 31

Safekeeping

What do you do when you feel yourself such a mess that people avoid you, of no use to God or anyone else? This can easily lead us to panic. But it can also activate our faith, as we hold him to his word.

A David psalm.

I take refuge in you, YHWH.
Don’t stand by watching as I’m disgraced.
Rescue me for you’re the God
who always upholds what’s right.
2 Bend low and hear me!
Hurry and save me!
Be my rock of refuge
a stronghold to save me.
3 Because that’s what you are—
my rock and my fortress.
Lead and guide me
for the honor of your name.
4 Release me from the trap secretly set for me.
There’s nobody I can count on but you.
5 Into your hand
I commit my spirit.
You’ve redeemed me
YHWH, faithful God.
6 I can’t stand those who worship false gods.
I put my trust in YHWH alone.
7 I rejoice in you and celebrate your mercy
for you see my pain
you know my soul’s anguish.
8 You didn’t hand me over to my enemies—
you planted my feet in a wide open place.
9 Be gracious to me, YHWH
for I’m in distress.
Grief is wasting my vision
my soul and body too.
10 My life is worn out by sadness
my vitality by groaning.
My sins have so sapped my strength
that even my bones waste away.
11 I’ve become a joke to all my enemies
a horror to my neighbors.
A fright show to even my friends—
whoever sees me in the street runs from me.
12 I’m forgotten like someone dead and gone
as unwanted as a broken jar.
13 I hear all the rumors swirling around me
spreading terror everywhere.
My enemies conspire against me
plotting to take my life.
14 But I hereby put my trust in you, YHWH
and confess that you are my God.
15 My entire life is in your hands.
Save me from falling
into the hands of my enemies
who pursue me relentlessly.
16 Smile down on your servant.
Take pity on me and save me.
17 Don’t let me be humiliated, YHWH
because I’ve cried out to you.
Let the wicked be disgraced instead.
Let the silence of the grave take them
18 and their lying lips lie deathly still
for they speak against God-seekers
with arrogance and contempt.

19 How lavish the goodness
you’ve stored up for those who fear you!
You do good to those who trust you
in full view of everyone.
20 You protect them securely in your presence
from those who plot against them.
You keep them safe
from accusing tongues.
21 May YHWH be praised
for the wonderful way
he showed his unrelenting love for me
22 Panic-stricken, I exclaimed:
“I’ve been driven out of your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I pleaded with you for help.
23 Love YHWH
all you who belong to him!
YHWH protects the faithful
and he repays the arrogant in full.
24 Be strong and courageous
all you who wait on YHWH!


David’s urgent cries for God’s refuge, rescue, release, favor, and guidance evidence his deep distress. He speaks of being hunted and ostracized. He’s aware of his own sins, rumors that magnify his fears, and the huge toll it all takes on him. Rejected as worthless, his energy ebbing away, he feels diminished in body and soul and has come to see his life through a darkened lens.

It’s not just that his arrogant, deceitful, derisive enemies are bent on killing him. David knows, even if they don’t, that they’re part of a bigger plot—to thwart God’s purposes on earth since it’s through David that God has said he’ll fulfill those purposes. Hence, David’s cry that God would put them out of commission once and for all is really a cry that he would curse the enemies of good in his world.

David’s overriding issue is that his present reality doesn’t remotely match God’s covenantal promise to honor and bless his servants and take down their adversaries. But David doesn’t rail against God. Instead, he declares God to be faithful and pleads with him to keep his promise. David repeatedly expresses his faith in God and puts himself in God’s hands—not fatalistically, but rather in confidence that God will hold him fast.

Thus, David stakes everything on God’s faithfulness—saying, “What happens to me is yours to decide”–even when everything seems to suggest that God is unfaithful. Faithful to the end, Jesus’ prayed David’s words from the cross in the same spirit and faith. David ends his poem by calling his community to respond to God’s past demonstrations of steadfast love by loving him, no matter what.

Lord, you’re not careless about keeping your promises. And far from being stingy, you’re generous, want me to flourish, and categorically won’t let anything separate me from your love. Help me love you as you love me and hold you to your word until you answer me. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Love YHWH
all you who belong to him!
YHWH protects the faithful
and he repays the arrogant in full.

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.