Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 5

Seeking refuge in God

By pleasing God, we sometimes spur those who despise him to attack us verbally or physically. But God still reigns supreme, and his implacable hatred of evil means we can count on his protection.

A David psalm. 

Listen to my prayer, YHWH
and consider my groaning.
Hear my cry for help
as I pray to you
my king and my God.
In the morning you hear my voice, YHWH
as I start each day, laying my case out before you
and waiting for your response.

You’re not a god who delights in evil
or accommodates wickedness.
The debauched can’t stand in your presence—
you hate all wrongdoers
and destroy those who tell lies.
YHWH loathes the bloodthirsty and treacherous.

But I, through the overflow of your steadfast love
will enter your house
there to fall in awe of you
before your holy temple.
Keep me on the path of righteousness, YHWH
Make your way plain to me
surrounded as I am by watchful foes.

For not a single thing they say is true—
their hearts are totally malignant
their throats an open grave
their tongues greased with flattery.
10 Declare them guilty, O God.
Let them be misled by their own counsel.
Banish them for their many crimes
since they’ve rebelled against you.

11 But may all who take refuge in you
rejoice and sing for joy forever.
Spread your protection over them
so all who love your name may revel in you.
12 For you bless those who are just, YHWH
and surround them with your favor like a shield.

Even though God reigns supreme, David is targeted by enemies who treacherously attack him, thus making themselves God’s enemies. Unable to enter God’s house in Jerusalem, David writes in exile, but he’s confident God will restore him to his rightful place in Jerusalem, where he’ll worship joyfully.

All he says of YHWH stands against the backdrop of the pagan gods. More messed up than their worshippers, the gods were believed to nurse over-inflated egos and care nothing for the weak and afflicted. By contrast, YHWH cares for the oppressed, which is why David pours out his heart to him each morning. Since God is holy and just, David knows he’ll inexorably oppose words and deeds aimed at violating and destroying him.

While the pagans had to merit their gods’ attention, David doesn’t recommend himself to God. Rather, YHWH’s  love flings the door wide open to the undeserving. Knowing his gracious God will welcome him, he pictures himself returning to God’s house and falling awestruck before his holy sanctuary. He asks God to banish his enemies by making them their own undoing and to guide him through the minefield of their treachery without letting him slip into their evil ways. That is, not fighting evil with evil. David asks for and affirms his faith in God’s protection and blessing on all who take shelter in him. And he imagines their subsequent joy and revelry in so awesome a God as this.

Jesus, I bow before you in a world bent on dethroning you. Thank you that you welcome and protect all who seek refuge in you. Keep me on the true path—looking to you, listening to you, honoring you—till the day you indeed reign in glory over all and earth’s joy can’t be contained. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray these words:

May all who take refuge in you
rejoice and sing for joy forever.
Spread your protection over them
so all who love your name may revel 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.