Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 69

Seeking God’s kingdom

Suffering for God’s sake rarely appeals. Yet he uses suffering to turn evil into good in both our lives and the lives of those around us to move us toward his new creation, where suffering will be no more.

A David psalm.

Save me, God!
The water’s come up to my neck!
2 I’ve sunk into deep mire
with no foothold anywhere to be found!
Now I’m in deep water
the current sweeping me away.
3 My throat is hoarse
worn out from calling
my eyes strained
from looking for my God.
4 More people hate me for no reason
than I’ve got hairs on my head.
My treacherous enemies
bent on destroying me, are powerful.
Must I now give back
what I never stole?

5 God, you know
what a fool I’ve been—
none of my sins are hidden from you.
6 YHWH, God of Heaven’s Armies
don’t let those who hope in you
be humiliated because of me.
God of Israel
don’t let those who seek you
be disgraced because of me.
7 It’s because of you
I’ve been insulted
and am totally disgraced.
8 I’ve become an outcast
even to my own family
a pariah to my own flesh and blood.
9 Passion for your house has consumed me
and the insults of those insulting you
have fallen on me.
10 When I humbled myself by fasting
they scoffed—
11 when I dressed in sackcloth
they ridiculed.
12 I’ve become the talk of the town
the taunt of every town drunk.

13 But me, I keep on praying
asking you to make me flourish, YHWH.
In keeping with your amazing love, O God
answer me with your faithful deliverance.
14 Rescue me from this quagmire—
don’t let me go under!
Save me from my enemies
and the deep water I’m in!
15 Don’t let the surging tide sweep me away
and the ocean deep swallow me!
Don’t let the Pit close its gaping mouth on me!
16 Answer me, YHWH
in your unfailing love.
In the overflow of your tender mercy
turn to me.
17 Don’t hide your face from your servant.
Answer me quickly
because I’m in dire straits!

18 Come to my side and rescue me.
Save me from all my enemies.
19 You know how I’ve been insulted
disgraced and dishonored
and who all my enemies are.
20 Their insults have broken my heart
and left me in despair.
I looked for someone to take pity
but found no one—
someone to comfort me
but got only blank stares.
21 They gave me poison to eat
and sour wine to slake my thirst.
22 Let their banquets be their own undoing—
their prosperity their downfall.
23 Make their eyes grow too dim to see.
May they shake uncontrollably to their core.
24 Vent your fury on them
till your burning anger overtakes them.
25 Make their camp desolate
their tents deserted.
26 For they harassed the one you struck
and doubled the pain of the one you wounded.
27 Charge them with one crime after another—
don’t let them off the hook.
28 Blot their names
out of the register of the living—
don’t count them
among those who trust in you.

29 But as for me, wounded outcast that I am
raise me up by your saving power, O God.
30 I will praise God in song
and honor him by giving thanks.
31 This will please YHWH more
than sacrificing an ox or a bull
horns and hooves.
32 When the downtrodden see it
they’ll be glad.
You who seek God
take heart.
33 For YHWH listens to the destitute
he doesn’t despise captives.

34 Praise him, heaven and earth
the seas and everything that moves in them!
35 For God will save Zion
and build up Judah’s cities.
His people will live there
and make the land their own.
36 His servants’ descendants will inherit it
and those who love his name will live there.

Powerful oppressors have alienated David from his community and family, a terrible fate in the Middle East. Now everyone gossips about him and makes him the butt of their jokes. Totally isolated, he’s sure he’ll die unless God acts swiftly, decisively. Hence, his urgency-bordering-on-panic.

David knows he’s a sinner and has done foolish things, but he’s done nothing to harm his enemies. They insult him simply because he’s passionate about “God’s house”—that is, about pleasing God—and that commitment has cost him everything. Many assume he had zeal for pure Israelite worship in the tabernacle, as in Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. But David may have meant God’s house more broadly, referring to the entire divine enterprise in Israel, as opposed to the rebellious “house of Saul.” His enemies attack him because he loves God, whom they hate. Interestingly, David accepts that his suffering comes from God’s hand, yet he holds his persecutors responsible for their part in it.

Knowing he and his enemies both can’t come out on top, David asks God to rescue him and take his enemies down—to exclude them from the faith community’s protection and show no leniency. These prayers mirror David’s enemies’ evils. But instead of trying to implement the Torah’s eye-for-eye provision himself, he asks God to repay his enemies for their evil. We struggle with such verses, but Acts 1:16, 20, Rev. 16:1 and 21:27 refer to them.

He believes he’ll do this because God cares for his servants in distress. David anticipates his own joyful praise after being rescued and calls creation to join in celebrating the God who cares for the oppressed. Finally, David imagines the day when everyone in Zion flourishes, just as God always intended.

Jesus, it’s hard to imagine a world where everyone flourishes. Yet that’s what your kingdom will be. Help me to believe that wholeheartedly and seek your reign and way of living passionately. Break every form of oppression. Thank you that you care for the needy. Including me. Amen

In your spare moments today, pray this prayer:

Make me flourish, YHWH.
In keeping with your unfailing love, O God
answer me with your faithful deliverance.

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.