Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 58

Cry for Justice

We can easily see injustices that hurt us, but less easily those that benefit us. What do we do when leaders secretly rig the system against us or our neighbor and violently enforce it? We must pray as David did.

For the worship leader, set to the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” A miktam of David.

Do you authorities really make just rulings?
Do you truly govern people fairly?
No, your hearts design
self-serving injustice in the earth.
Then you carefully measure out
violence in the land.

The wicked go wrong from the womb.
Career liars stray the minute they’re born.
Their venom is like the venom of a cobra
but a cobra that’s deaf—
its ears so thoroughly blocked
it’s immune to the snake charmer’s tunes
no matter how entrancing.

6 Defang them, God!
Shatter the jaws of these lions, YHWH!
Make them vanish like water into desert sand
and wither like trampled grass.
Make them like a slug that melts away as it moves
like a stillborn child that never sees the light of day.
Before what they’re cooking up starts heating
may God sweep it all away—
kindling, cauldron, brew, and all!

10 The just will be glad
when they see vengeance taken—
they’ll bathe their feet
in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then everyone will say
“It really does pay to do the right thing.
There really is a God dispensing justice on earth.”


Echoing themes we saw in Psalm 57, this psalm is concerned with how God can reign over a world filled with gross injustice. From David’s opening questions to his final confession, he’s disturbed by injustice operating in government’s highest levels. Arrogantly self-serving, its perpetrators do whatever they must do to get whatever they want. Born liars, they’ve done wrong for so long that they’ve squandered all possibility of doing right. They’re venomous snakes utterly immune to control, vicious lions that must be defanged.

David asks God to render the wicked harmless and then make a clean sweep of them, and to do so without delay. David is leaving vengeance to God—but not passively, indifferently. No, he’s desperate for God to act, to reestablish his rule in the world—for God’s kingdom to come.

Seeing David’s terrible picture of a celebratory bloodbath, we can judge him for his brutal honesty. Or we can ask God to shake us out of our complacency over systemic evil and make us long for justice for the oppressed. We can ask him to help us believe that doing good, walking in God’s path, will pay off in the end when his justice prevails over our messed up world.

Seeing the injustice of our authorities, let alone that of evil dictators elsewhere, I often struggle to believe your moral order holds firm in the universe, God. Help me see both oppressed and oppressor as you do, Lord. Deliver me from evil and may your kingdom come, I pray. Amen.

Meditate on this in your free moments today:

“It really does pay to do the right thing.
There really is a God dispensing justice on 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.