Psalms For Life
Looking for content on a specific topic?
Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 4

Peace in the midst of trouble

Those who spurn God often oppose his people. Our fellow believers sometimes drag us down too, adding to our griefs. In both cases, we can turn to the God who hears the cries of the oppressed.

A David psalm.

Answer me when I call
O God of my vindication!
When I was backed into the corner
you brought me out into an open space.
Be gracious to me now
and hear my prayer.

How long will you people of influence
drag my good name through the mud?
How long will you falsely accuse me
and traffic in lies?
Make no mistake:
YHWH sets the faithful one apart for himself
and YHWH hears me when I call on him.

4 Temble, and don’t give in to sin.
Rather, quiet your heart on your bed
and be still.
Offer sacrifices
with your heart intent on honoring God
and put your trust in YHWH.

Many are saying,
“Who will bring us good fortune?”
Lift up your shining face on us, YHWH!
You’ve filled my heart
with more joy than they have
when their barns overflow with grain and wine.

I lie down and sleep peacefully
since you alone, YHWH
make me rest secure.

David may have written this with either Saul or Absalom in hot pursuit. People are dishonoring him, falsely accusing him and lying about him, and it’s already been going on far too long. He clearly can’t just wish these enemies away. So he turns to the God who exonerates him and who graciously released him once when he similarly had no way out—the God who hears and honors all who cry to him.

David counsels his followers to tremble and not react in ways that make matters worse. He tells them to calm down, offer sacrifices to align themselves with God and his purposes, and put their trust in YHWH—the God who redeemed his undeserving, hopelessly oppressed people from Egypt. Something no pagan would ever have credited their gods with doing.

Amidst all the hand wringing in his camp, David knows who alone can rescue him and restore his life. He asks YHWH simply to smile on his oppressed people. He knows the God who cares for the oppressed beams more joy into his heart than his enemies have at the best of times. And with that comes restful sleep in the knowledge that he’s safe in YHWH’s strong arms.

However many oppose me, Jesus, you’ve set me apart for yourself. You, my redeemer, will yet bring me out into the open. Keep me from making things worse for myself. Help me to wait on you. Lift up your beaming face and give me rest in the safety of your embrace. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Many are saying, “Who will bring us good fortune?”
Lift up your shining face on us, YHWH!

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.