Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 41

Do as God does to be like God

With enough strikes against us, we may feel like giving up when we’re ill or someone wants to sideline us. That’s when we need to remind ourselves that our gracious God won’t ever abandon us.

A David psalm.

How blessed are
those who care for the poor.
YHWH rescues them
when trouble strikes.
YHWH protects them
and restores them to life.
They’re considered
the luckiest people around.
You don’t hand them over to their enemies.
YHWH nurses them on their sickbed
restoring them to health.

As for me, I said
“O YHWH, be gracious to me.
Heal me, sinner that I am.”
My enemies maliciously ask
how long till I die
and my name is forgotten.
When they visit me
they mouth empty words
all the while gathering gossip
which they then go and blab everywhere.
Everyone who hates me
whispers together about me
imagining the worst—
that I’m in a plague’s death-grip
and will never get out of bed again.
Even my best friend
has turned on me—
the one I trusted completely
who ate at my table.
10 But you, YHWH,
be gracious and raise me up again
so I can return the favor to them.

11 This is how I know
you’re on my side:
my enemy won’t shout in triumph over me.
12 Instead, because of my integrity
you stand by me
and welcome me in your presence forever.
13 May YHWH, Israel’s God
be blessed forever and ever.
Yes! Amen!

As with Psalm 1, this psalm declares who this world’s truly enviable people are. And again, it singles out people we wouldn’t normally pick. What makes those who care for the poor so blessed? God. Because they care for the poor as God does, he’s there for them when trouble strikes. He protects them from harm and heals their diseases.

But David isn’t just waxing philosophical here. He’s desperately ill and far from the perfect role model he’d like to be. Yet he doesn’t barter for his life. He simply asks God for mercy. Like vultures, those who surround him wait for him to die—eager to divide the spoils. They gossip, “He’s got one foot in the grave!” Even his best friend has turned on him. So in his weakness, David asks God to enable him to execute judgment on them.

And the fact that his enemies haven’t won yet—since he’s still alive—tells him God sees past his faults to the kind of man he is. Because he’s becoming like God, he’s confident God won’t ever abandon him. And for that, David will never stop praising him.

I want to be like you, God. To be remade in your likeness. To have your moral character, to be holy. Yet I’m surrounded by vultures who only want me dead. But not you, Lord—your welcome never wears out! So please forgive my sins, heal me and make me new. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on this truth:

How blessed are
those who care for the poor.

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.