Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 63

The God who puts our fears to flight

Crying out to God in our need, we experience his rescue and worship him afterward. But even when we cling to him, he’s the one who holds us fast.

A David psalm. When he was in the Judean wilderness.

O God, you’re my God—
I seek you with the dawn’s first light.
My soul thirsts for you
my body faints for you
in a thirsty wasteland
with no water anywhere.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
beheld your power and glory there.
3 Because your unfailing love
is better than life itself
I overflow with praise.

I will bless you as long as I live
lifting up my hands in your name.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with a rich feast
and I’ll praise you with joyful song.
Lying awake in bed
I remember you—
think of you through the night’s long hours.
Because you’ve helped me
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
While my soul clings to you
it’s your strong right hand that holds me fast. 

9 Those seeking to destroy my life
will end up in the underworld.
10 Felled by the sword
they’ll become carrion for jackals!
11 The king will rejoice in God
and all who swear by him will celebrate
but every mouth uttering lies
will be forever stopped.

David has fled to the Judean wilderness because men who twist the truth about him are out to kill him. This happened to David twice in his life: as a young man running from Saul and as a much older man running from his treasonous son Absalom. While he could have written this at either point, it seems more likely that he wrote it as a young man. With his plight robbing him of sleep, he turns his insomnia into prayer and is still praying when the sun comes up.

Interestingly, as dire as his situation is, he describes it only in the psalm’s last section because he knows God is his situation’s all-important factor. He can’t live without God, whose love is better than life itself. He’s seen God’s glorious power revealed in the sanctuary and found shelter beneath God’s gracious outspread wings. So he commits himself to God and seeks him every waking moment. As he does, God assures him he’ll come through for him and satisfy his soul. So in anticipation, David worships, weaving his verbal tapestry out of these three intertwining strands: longing for God, experience of God, and worship of God.

For everything David does for God, God does far more for him. David clings to God, but it’s God who holds him fast. So David thanks God for all his help. He’s convinced God will ensure that those determined to kill him end up as carrion—a grim picture, but it’s just the reality. When their lying mouths have been shut for good, David’s mouth will overflow with joyful praise. And he won’t celebrate God’s goodness in isolation because all God’s people will join in, implying that David will be reunited with his people.

O God, you’re my God. I long for you like parched land for rain. You’ve been my helper, and I rest in the shadow of your wings. Help me seek you more than anything else. Deliver me from the evil one, save me from myself, and fill my mouth with joyful songs of praise. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray this prayer:

While my soul clings to you
it’s your strong right hand that holds me fast. 


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.