Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 57

Refuge

Feeling we’re responsible to take care of ourselves when threatened is stressful. But since God is our primary caretaker, our goal is simply to trust him and move in sync with him.

A David psalm. When he fled from Saul into the cave.

Be gracious to me, God
be gracious for I’ve taken refuge in you
and am hiding in the shadow of your wings
till the tempest blows past.
I cry out to God Most High
who fulfills his purposes for me.
He will send help from heaven and save me
humiliating those who trample on me.
God will send his unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lie down surrounded by lions.
Their teeth are spears and arrows
their tongues sharpened swords.

Rise up high above the heavens, O God!
Reign in glory over all the earth!

6 They set a trap for my feet
and I became despondent.
But though they dug a pit in my path
they’re the ones who fell into it.
My mind is resolute, God
my heart unwavering—
I’ll sing and make music.
Wake up, my soul!
Wake up, harp and lyre!
Let’s wake up the dawn!
I’ll celebrate you among the nations, my Lord
singing your praises to everyone everywhere.
10 Because your unfailing love is so vast
that it reaches the heavens
and your faithfulness touches the clouds.

11 Rise up high above the heavens, O God!
Reign in glory over all the earth!


Saul’s encounter with David in the cave is slapstick humorous. Seeking privacy to go to the bathroom, Saul enters the cave alone and unprotected, with no idea of who’s inside. Unseeing in the dark, exposed, and extremely vulnerable, he’s so preoccupied with the business at hand that he’s oblivious to all danger.

David could easily have seen this as the moment he’s been waiting for—providential—and killed Saul in cold blood. But he has no desire to kill Saul. Only in Saul’s paranoid thinking does he want Saul’s head. But in a completely different sense, this truly is the moment David’s waited for, because he can now demonstrably prove he’s not against Saul, as he does moments later. While Saul relieves himself, David cuts off the corner of Saul’s robe. Then when Saul has left the cave, David has someone return the piece of cloth to Saul as clear, hard proof that he could easily have killed Saul if he’d chosen to.

Before any of that happens, though, David realizes Saul’s army could easily have starved him out if only they’d known he and his men were in the cave. But then David watches in wonder as God turns the tables in such a way that David’s position in the cave makes Saul, not David, the vulnerable one. As David sees that God, not Saul, is the one in charge, God’s glory illumines the cave for him.

David knows Saul isn’t going to stop chasing him, but that’s suddenly irrelevant since he knows nothing can keep God from fulfilling his purposes for him. God will send him help and shelter him under his wings. So David responds with courage, not sighing in resignation, but rather singing for all he’s worth. Singing loud enough to waken the dawn. Even from the back of the cave.

Jesus, I want to be in sync with you, like David in the cave. Open my eyes to see you filling the darkness around me, sheltering me, fulfilling your purposes. Your unfailing love and faithfulness fill my world—you reign over all! Help me believe that and live into it. Amen.

Pray this prayer in your free moments today:

I cry out to God Most High
who fulfills his purposes for me.

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.