Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 71

God of my whole life

Some think we praise God to put him in a good mood before asking him for things. In fact, praise opens us up to more of God’s infinite power by helping us see him more clearly.

1 I’ve taken refuge in you, YHWH.
Don’t ever let me be shamed.
Rescue me, deliver me
since you’re the God who sets things right.
Turn your ear my way and rescue me.
Be my rock of refuge
where I can always hide
my stronghold offering me safety
my rock, my fortress.
My God, rescue me
from the power of the wicked
from the grasp of ruthless evildoers.
You’re my hope, YHWH
the God I’ve trusted from childhood on.
I’ve depended on you since birth
when you brought me out of my mother’s womb
so you’re the one I always praise.
I’ve become a warning to many
but you’re my strong refuge.
I praise you
and proclaim your glory all day long.
Don’t cast me off in old age
or abandon me when my strength fails me.
10 Because my enemies talk about me
they watch my every move
and plot together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him!
Chase him down and seize him
because he’s got no one to save him!”
12 God, don’t stand aloof!
My God, rush to my aid!
13 May those who attack me
be dishonored and destroyed.
Cover those who want to hurt me
with defeat and disgrace.

14 As for me
I’ll keep on hoping in you
and praise you more and more.
15 I’ll proclaim your saving acts
your acts of deliverance day after day
though I can’t begin to count them all.
16 I’ll come announcing the incredible deeds
of Sovereign YHWH
paying tribute to your saving acts alone.
17 God, you’ve taught me from my youth.
and to this day I tell others
about the wonderful things you’ve done.
18 Even when I’m old and gray
don’t desert me, God.
Give me another chance
to proclaim your power to this generation
your power to all those yet to come.
19 Your saving justice
reaches to the heavens, Lord.
You’ve done awesome things!
Who is like you, O God?
20 You who have made me endure
many trials and tribulations
will restore me to life again
bringing me back up out of death’s abyss.
21 You’ll make my honor
even greater than before
and comfort me again.
22 I’ll praise you for your faithfulness
with the lute, my God
and sing to you with the lyre
Holy One of Israel.
23 I’ll shout for joy when I sing your praise
I’ll sing to you with all my heart
because you’ve delivered me.
24 Yes, all day long I’ll tell others
about your power to vindicate
after those trying to hurt me have slunk off
disgraced and discredited.

With enemies whispering and plotting his ruin, the psalmist repeatedly asks God for rescue and refuge. Because he’s aging, the psalmist knows others consider him a has-been, an easy mark. They also look at him and say, “You don’t want to turn out like that—abandoned!” So he asks God not to discard him, but rather let him once more proclaim God’s faithfulness to future generations, so they too can know and believe in the God who keeps his word and doesn’t forsake the weak.

The psalmist also emphasizes praise, starting with a 2:1 petition-to-praise ratio and reversing the ratio in the psalm’s second half. He doesn’t praise God to stroke God’s ego or make him more amenable to his petitions since God has none of the ego issues that plague us.

No, praise is a corrective we need most when we’re in trouble. Urgent need seems to demand nonstop petition. In fact, trouble counter-intuitively calls for continual praise, so we can see that the God who sets things right by faithfully rescuing the weak reigns over all we’re up against. Praise corrects the psalmist’s vision, opening him up to heaven’s determination to put things right in the world, backed up by all of heaven’s infinite resources. This gives him the hope of a future brighter than his past—even in old age. Seeing that, the psalmist imagines himself singing and shouting for joy, his rescue complete, his foes disgraced.

Jesus, free me from a mindset of scarcity and want to one tuned to your abundance and joy. Let me soar through the stratosphere of your sovereign power and love on the wings of prayer and praise till even my biggest needs are dwarfed and I discover your faithful provision afresh. Amen.

Pray this prayer in your free moments today:

Your saving justice
reaches to the heavens, Lord.
You’ve done awesome things!
Who is like you, O God?

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.