Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 33

Faithful God

We may feel driven to put our faith in other sources of help than God, especially when it seems he isn’t hearing our prayers. But we’re wrong to give in to that temptation because, besides being sovereign over all, God is singularly faithful too.

Rejoice in YHWH
all you who trust in him.
It’s beautiful and only right
that those who live right praise God.
2 Give thanks to YHWH with the lyre—
offer him praise with the ten-stringed harp.
3 Sing him a brand-new song!
Play skillfully and shout for joy.

4 For YHWH’s word holds true
and he’s faithful in all he does.
5 He loves all that’s right and just.
YHWH’s unrelenting love fills the earth.

6 The heavens were made by YHWH’s word—
with a single breath
he spoke whole galaxies into being.
7 He pooled the waters together into seas
and poured the oceans into vast reservoirs.

8 Let the whole earth fear YHWH
and all its inhabitants stand in awe of him.
9 For he simply spoke and it came to be—
he commanded and there it was.
10 YHWH blocks the nations’ Babel schemes
and thwarts the peoples’ power plays.
11 But YHWH’s purposes stand forever—
all his heart intends will last
from now till the end of time.

12 How happy the nation whose God is YHWH
the people he’s chosen for his inheritance.
13 YHWH looks down from heaven
and sees all of humankind.
14 From where he sits enthroned
he watches all of the earth’s inhabitants.
15 He who made everyone’s heart
understands everything they do.

16 No sovereign is saved by their military might
no soldier by their superior strength.
17 A warhorse doesn’t guarantee victory in battle—
its brawn doesn’t even ensure a clean get-away!
18 But YHWH watches over all who fear him
and rely on his unfailing love
19 to rescue them from death
and keep them alive when famine strikes.

20 We wait for YHWH to come through for us—
he’s our help and our shield.
21 Our hearts rejoice in him
for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love descend on us, YHWH
for we put our hope in you.

Starting where Psalm 32 left off, this hymn extols YHWH’s unfailing love and calls his people to praise him with the best music they can make. What sets his people apart is their vision of God, the psalm’s focus. And what sets YHWH apart from the surrounding nations’ false gods is YHWH’s incomparable greatness, moral goodness, unflinching love, and perfect faithfulness. Being committed to all that’s right and just, he fills the earth with his unfailing love, such that his people can’t possibly venture beyond its reach.

How do we know this? YHWH’s spoken word alone accounts for creation’s faithfulness. God’s sovereignty, not human plotting or ingenuity, is what accounts for history’s order. Since he reads human hearts perfectly from afar and deals with everyone accordingly, nothing accounts for his blessing on his people Israel but the fact that he’s chosen them. Thus, they’re delivered from natural disaster and human aggression not by their own resources or military might, but by YHWH’s loving, watchful care.

There are two kinds of power in the world: that of force and of authority. Against all visible odds, Jesus triumphed over evil not by force, either physical or psychological. He triumphed by sheer virtue of his love. That unfailing love enabled him to triumph, despite the wasting of his body and mind on the cross. Here the psalmist points us in the direction at such irresistible, authoritative love.

Since YHWH rules over both creation and human history by the power of his irresistible love, we can rejoice in him even before we see the answers we seek. Because, as the psalm’s concluding verses tell us, the God we trust in, wait on and hope in is faithful beyond all telling.

Jesus, nothing on earth can separate me from your love, so how can I withhold my praise? Since you are perfectly faithful, how can I not rejoice in you? O Lord, may your unfailing love rest on me now as I wait on your mercy, trust in your goodness, and hope in your faithfulness. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray these words:

May your unfailing love descend on us, YHWH
for we put our hope in you.

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.