Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 54

God is my helper

With violence and oppression endemic in our world, it’s often hard to believe God will really right every wrong. But as the God of justice, he calls us to trust and to pray that he’ll do just that.

A David psalm. When the Ziphites went and told Saul, “David’s hideout is in our territory.”

O God, act in character, and rescue me!
Act in power, and take up my cause!
Listen to my prayer, God
and pay attention to what I’m saying.

Because outsiders are attacking me.
Thugs with no thought of God are after my life.

But God is my helper—
my Lord is the one who sustains my life.
May my enemies’ evil be turned back on them.
Keep your word now and finish them off.

I will sacrifice to you for all your bounty to me.
I’ll praise your name, YHWH, because it’s good.
Because he’s rescued me from all my troubles
and allowed me to see my enemies get their due.


Celebrity watching was no less popular in David’s day than it is now. Any of David’s fellow Israelites who wanted to know the truth about King Saul would have known he had an oversized ego and that David didn’t deserve his rage. Though the Ziphites were members of David’s own tribe, they went and told Saul where David was hiding. The Ziphites’ leaders thus ruthlessly sided with the oppressor, displaying their disregard for God. So even though they’re Israelites, David views them as people who had no part in Israel and no right to shape its future.

David responds to the crisis by pouring his heart out to God. He knows God alone can help him, that God alone is keeping him alive. He asks for God’s help not because he’s earned it, but because it’s in God’s character to rescue and to right this world’s wrongs. Some think David unkind for asking God to bring the evildoers’ evil back on their own heads. But David isn’t taking justice into his own hands—he’s simply asking God to act. And evil will end no other way.

David concludes on a note of thanksgiving for God’s unexpected grace in rescuing him. In fact, he’s so confident about God’s character that he views God’s rescue of him as a done deal. He will witness his enemies’ downfall. His God won’t fail him. And when God sets things right, David will freely offer his thanks.

Thank you, Jesus, that you care for the oppressed and will one day right every wrong. Help me rest in that knowledge when I feel condemned by evildoers, hemmed in or harried by darkness. Let me rest in your goodness, knowing you will never let evil have the last word. Amen.

Meditate on this truth during your free moments today:

Surely God is my helper—
my Lord is the one who sustains my life.

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.