Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 37

A primer on faith

Against the temptation to take shortcuts and oppress others to get ahead, David says those who truly get ahead are the people who do things God’s way and wait for him to grant their desires.

A David psalm.

Don’t be incensed by evildoers
or envy those who do wrong.
2 For they’ll wither like grass
and fade just like field flowers.
3 Trust in YHWH and do good.
Live in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4 Make YHWH your joy and delight
and he’ll give you what your heart desires.
5 Depend on God in all you do—
rely on him and he’ll come through for you.
6 He’ll make your goodness as clear as day
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
7 Rest in YHWH
wait patiently for him.
Don’t be irked when evildoers
succeed in pulling off their hateful schemes.
8 Let go of all anger and rage.
Don’t nurse your irritations—
it only leads to evil.
9 For the self-seeking will end up with nothing
while those who wait for YHWH
will possess the land.
10 Wait a little while
and the faithless will be gone.
However hard you look for them
you won’t find them.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy all the benefits of peace.

12 The wicked plot against God-seekers
and gnash their teeth whenever they see them.
13 But YHWH only laughs at evildoers
for he sees how certain their doom is.
14 The self-seeking draw their swords
and bend back their bows
to take down the poor and needy
and slaughter those intent on doing what’s right.
15 But their bows will be broken
and their swords pierce their own hearts.
16 Better the little the God-seeker has
than all the wealth of the wicked.
17 For the power of evildoers will be broken
while YHWH supports those who seek him.
18 YHWH sees all the struggles the innocent face
and what they’ll inherit will last forever.
19 They aren’t left destitute in hard times—
even when famine strikes
they have more than enough.
20 But the wicked will perish
YHWH’s enemies will vanish
like the meadow’s beauty
gone up in wildfire smoke!

21 Evildoers borrow without repaying
but God-seekers are gracious and giving.
22 Those blessed by the Lord
will possess the land
but those cursed by him will be shut out.
23 When a person walks
in the way that pleases YHWH
he makes their every step secure.
24 When they stumble
they don’t fall headlong
because YHWH holds them by the hand.
25 My whole life long, youth to old age
I’ve never seen a God-seeker forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 Always gracious
they lend freely to the needy
and their children are a blessing.
27 Turn from evil and do good
and you’ll live in the land forever.
28 For YHWH loves justice
and never abandons his faithful servants.
They’ll be kept safe forever
but the evildoer’s descendants will be shut out.
29 God-seekers will possess the land
and live there forever. 

30 The faithful speak words of wisdom
and incessantly call for justice.
31 With God’s instruction in their hearts
they never take a false step.
32 The evildoer eyes the God-seeker
intent on killing them.
33 But YHWH won’t leave them in their clutches
or let them be condemned when they’re tried.
34 Hope in YHWH as you hold to his path
and he’ll raise you up to inherit the land.
When the wicked are wiped out
you’ll see it happen.
35 I once saw a ruthless tyrant
towering like a cedar of Lebanon.
36 But the next time I looked
they were gone!
Though I searched for them
they were nowhere to be found.
37 Keep your eye on the person of integrity
and behold the one who keeps God’s covenant
for the future belongs to the peace-loving
38 while rebels will be utterly destroyed
their future cut short.
39 God-seekers are rescued by YHWH.
He’s their refuge when trouble strikes.
40 YHWH helps them and rescues them—
he saves them from the wicked
and makes them prevail over them
because they take refuge in him.


David isn’t explaining how everything works or why God allows suffering. He isn’t giving a foolproof formula for success or a way to tell if someone pleases God. He’s urging us not to join the self-seekers in their dirty race to the top, but rather to seek what really matters and believe that the God who is fully in control is on our side and will help us if we wait on him.

Faithful living doesn’t mean missing out. It leads to flourishing and wholeness while self-seeking leads to a poverty of soul that’s eventually matched by one’s external situation. Counter-intuitive though it is, living for oneself is self-destructive. Since evildoers ultimately lose everything, they’re fools, their success a mere blip on the screen—nothing to envy. Moving in tempo with God often means patiently waiting on him, but we gain everything he has for us, which is true success.

Looking back on his life, David shares what he’s learned about walking with God. Waiting for God to give him the kingdom he had promised David years before. Waiting while Saul plotted his murder must have seemed really dumb. David had many other routes open to him. But throughout his long wait, God protected and provided for him, releasing him to live graciously, generously, till Saul finally came crashing down and David was vindicated.

“The land” (Heb. eretz) becomes whatever God is asking us to trust him for, including “the earth,”the other meaning of the Hebrew word (Mt. 5:5). We take it by faith. Thus, the meekness verse 11 speaks of involves actively waiting to receive something and refusing to take it in any other way than God chooses to give it. David modelled this repeatedly in his response to Saul. God ultimately gives all who delight in him what their hearts truly desire.

Jesus, keep me from abandoning my storm-tossed bark to join the self-seekers on the Titanic. Let me delight in you and live life out of your rich bounty. Help me to believe you’re really in control, to trust that—no matter what else happens—you’ll never let go of my hand. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Make YHWH your joy and delight
and he’ll give you what your heart desires.

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.