Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 59

With God in the real world 

People say it’s a dog-eat-dog existence in the “real world,” that you either eat or get eaten. This psalm advocates a different approach, one of trusting God to fight for us.

A David psalm. When Saul put his house under surveillance in order to kill him.

Rescue me from my foes, my God—
protect me from those attacking me!
Rescue me from these thugs—
from these hitmen protect me!
See them lurking to ambush me.
The powerful conspire against me
but not for anything I’ve done, YHWH.
4 No, they hurry into position for no fault of mine.
Wake up, God!
See what’s happening and help me!
YHWH, Commander of Heaven’s Armies
you’re Israel’s God.
Wake up and punish all your foes!
Don’t spare any of these traitors who plot evil!

Every night they run the city’s streets
like a pack of snarling dogs.
Their mouths belch abuse
through razor-sharp lips, they gas:
“Who hears a thing we say?”
But you laugh out loud, YHWH—
you scoff at all the nations.
My Strength, I wait for you to rescue me
because you’re my fortress, God.

10 The God whose love never fails
will come through for me.
God will ensure
that I witness my enemies’ defeat.
11 But don’t make quick work of them
lest my people forget just as quickly.
No, disband them
make them stagger and reel.
Take them down in slow-motion
O Lord, our Shield.
12 May all the arrogant curses and filthy lies
that pour out of their mouths
bring about their own downfall.
13 Obliterate them in your anger.
Decimate them so that everyone everywhere
knows that Israel’s God reigns supreme. Selah

14 Every night they run the city’s streets
like a pack of snarling dogs.
15 See, they roam and scavenge all night long
howling if they don’t get their fill.
16 But I sing of your power.
Every morning I shout
about your unfailing love.
For you’ve been my fortress
my refuge when I had nowhere else to turn.
17 O my Strength
I’ll sing praises to you
because you’re a high fortress to me
the God who shows me unfailing love.

Convinced that David threatens his supremacy, King Saul determines to get rid of him and puts him under constant surveillance. David can’t convince Saul of his innocence and, so, is forced to live in Saul’s trap. His enemies control everything outside his house, like a pack of wild dogs that run the city’s streets at night. So David cries out to God for protection, asking him to rid the world of his enemies, and in such a way that people don’t quickly forget what it says about where such self-seeking leads.

This may seem vengeful, but David knows someone is going to die—either him or his assassins. Disturbed by the evil example his enemies set for the nation, he asks God to make a memorable example of them in their deaths. And by praying this, he declares that he won’t take vengeance into his own hands.

David repeats his refrain about God’s being his strength to counter his repeated description of the menacing dogs and emphasize God’s faithfulness and unfailing love.

Like Psalms 56-58, this psalm declares that God rules the world. Though evil persists in it and often seems to have the upper hand, God’s love constantly works to counter it, blessing those who live by not the lust for power, but rather the power of love.

You reign, Lord, though evil often has the upper hand, leaving those who please you struggling. Help me to believe your love reigns and live accordingly, to walk by faith even when I can’t see what you’re doing. And help me praise you for your unfailing love and shelter. Amen.

Meditate on this in your free moments today: 

O my Strength
I’ll sing praises to you
because you’re a high fortress to me
the God who shows me unfailing love!

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.