Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 46

The God of Jacob reigns

In the spiritual—if not the physical—realm, we’re surrounded by hostile forces determined to diminish and destroy us. So, we can take comfort in Jacob’s God, who is always unfailingly on his people’s side.

To the music director. A descendants of Korah psalm. According to alamoth.

God is our refuge and strength
always fully present to help us
when we’re in trouble.
So we won’t fear
though the earth itself gives way
and its mountains crash down into the sea.
Though its waters rage and roar
and the mountains quake
with their surging.  Selah

Brimful of joy
a river streams through God’s city
holy residence of the Most High.
5 With God himself at its heart
it won’t fall
for he’ll come to its aid at break of dawn.
Superpowers rant
and superpowers roil.
But he merely speaks
and the earth melts.
YHWH, Commander of Heaven’s Armies
is for us.
Jacob’s God is our fortress!

Come, behold what YHWH has done
what devastation he’s wreaked on earth:
breaking bows
snapping spears in two
burning chariots to ashes
he’s banned war the whole world over.
10 “Be still and acknowledge that I am God
supreme over the empires
supreme over all the earth!”
11 YHWH, Commander of Heaven’s Armies
is for us.
Jacob’s God is our fortress!


However hostile or chaotic the world is, God is for us. So we need not fear, even if the ground beneath our feet gives way and earth’s towering mountains come crashing into the sea. Because he’s here for us, he is our peace and is fully committed to establishing universal peace.

God is also our joy. The river here reminds us of Eden, whose multiple streams produced the garden’s rich abundance. Likewise, God’s presence with us produces overflowing confidence despite our obvious weakness. Since he’s made his home among us, we can count on him to defend us at first light. Whatever threats we face melt away in terror when he speaks. As Jacob’s God, YHWH wrestles us all into submission when, like Jacob, we need to be freed from our egotistical efforts to run the universe our way. But God also blesses us, transforms us, and commands heaven’s armies to protect us from our foes.

Inviting us to revel in YHWH’s military exploits, the psalmist then turns everything around, declaring that it’s war itself he’s destroyed. There’s only one fitting response to so great and so good a God: to stop resisting him, be still, and let him rule our lives. Since everyone on earth will submit to Jacob’s God in the end, the only question is whether or not we’ll postpone it or submit freely right now.

When all around my soul gives way, you then are all my hope and stay! Lord, I know I can trust you since you’ve come to live among us and fill the earth with peace. So help me to let go and grant you your absolute right to rule my life and to fill it with your peace. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these life-giving words:

“Be still and acknowledge that I am God
supreme over the empires
supreme over all the earth!”

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.