Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 65

Life in God’s kingdom

How tempting it is to seek total control to ensure we get the outcome we want, no matter what we’re up against. But as perfect as that may seem, the psalmist knows it’s a false hope, next to trusting in God.

A David psalm.

To you our praise belongs
O God, in Zion.
To you our vows are fulfilled
you hearer of prayer.
To you all of humankind comes
with their sins.
When our sins overwhelm us
you atone for them.
How blessed the one you choose to bring near
and invite to live in your courts!
We’re overwhelmed by your goodness
at home in your holy temple.

With awesome acts you faithfully answer us
O God our savior
becoming the hope of everyone everywhere
even those from distant lands overseas.
Clothed with the power
that holds the mountains in place
you still the sea’s wild roar
the roaring of its waves
as well as the uproar of nations.
Earth’s remotest peoples
stand in awe of your wonders.
The eastern and western skies sing for joy
at dawn and dusk.

You care for the earth and water it
making it extremely fertile.
Cascading down to earth
your inexhaustible rain-river
nurtures the earth’s crops
as you ordained.
10 Your downpours fill the fields’ furrows
and round down their ridges
softening the earth with showers
and blessing its young sprouts.
11 You crown the year with your bounty
leaving a trail of abundance
everywhere you go.
12 The desert dons a rich green vest
and the hills dress up in their party best.
13 The meadows are clothed with flocks
and the valleys garbed in golden grain.
They all sing and shout together for joy.

Life has always been a precarious business, and never more so than for farmers in a semi-arid land like ancient Israel. Though David doesn’t mention Baal, he has him in mind here since Baal worship’s popularity derived largely from its guarantee of agricultural abundance. Having replaced Baal worship with scientism and technology, we’re no less convinced than the ancient Israelites that we should be in control of our lives. Yet ironically, from polluting the earth to tearing our civic life apart, and destabilizing international relations, the more bent we are on securing our future, the less secure we are.

The alternative to trusting ourselves maniacally is trusting God, David’s concern here. Trusting God with everything big and small. Seeking his forgiveness and, as recipients of his undeserved welcome, living in constant communion with him. David focuses, in turn, on the relationship God offers his people in Zion, the sovereignty he exercises over the world, and the marriage of the two in earth’s lavish provision for his people. Thus, David holds out the promise that, rightly related to God, we can trust him to supply all our needs abundantly. And that’s cause for us to join in creation’s joyful celebration of the riotous goodness of God, as showcased here.

How amazing that, broken as I am, Lord, you’ve blotted out my sins, seated me at your table, and hear my every cry! Help me to trust you implicitly and pray as your Spirit leads, my requests curbed only by your limitless generosity and might and carried by joyful songs of praise. Amen.

In your spare moments today, pray this prayer:

How blessed the one you choose to bring near
and invite to live in your courts!
We’re overwhelmed by your goodness
at home in your holy temple.

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.