Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 75

God steadies the earth

Seeing injustice—maybe even just a minor injustice against us personally—we may decide God must judge it immediately. Asaph says God alone determines the timing of his judgment.

An Asaph psalm.

We thank you, O God!
We thank you that your name is near
and recount the wonderful things you do.

2 “At the time of my choosing
I will judge with justice.
3 When the earth
and all its inhabitants careen
I’m the one who steadies its pillars.  Selah.
4 I say to the arrogant
‘Enough boasting!’
and to the wicked
‘Enough lifting your horn up high!
5 Do not lift up your horn
or speak defiantly against the Rock.’”

6 Blessing, honor and power
come not from the east or the west
nor from the wilderness either.
7 God alone is judge
raising one up and making another fall.
8 YHWH holds a foaming cup in his hand
filled to the brim with mixed wine.
When God pours it out
earth’s evildoers drink it
right it down to its dregs.
9 As for me
I’ll proclaim this forever
making music to the God of Jacob.

10 “I will cut off all the horns of the wicked
but the horns of the just will be lifted up.”

The Psalms anthologist placed this psalm where they did as the divine response to Psalms 73 and 74’s wrestling—personally and corporately—with feeling abandoned to the arrogant evil of unbelievers. The Temple may be gone, but God’s ability to answer his people’s prayers remains unchanged. All the grace and power his name stands for is fully accessible to them wherever they are. And however bad things are, God is still sovereign, steadying the earth when catastrophe makes it careen and limiting the evildoers’ boasting and self-assertion.

The arrogant are told not to assert their dominance like a horned animal that’s overcome a rival. Their dominance in no way suggests that God won’t yet judge them for he alone decides when to ring down the curtain on evil. He’ll make the Babylonians drink down his judgment, but only when he says it’s time. God’s people must wait on him instead of equating what they want—individually or nationally—with his will. They may be tempted to look anywhere else for blessing, honor, and power—to look from one horizon to the other or even to the least likely place, the wilderness, for a miracle solution. Given how short the shelf life of this world’s blessing and honor is, they should look to God because true blessing and honor come ultimately from him alone.

Asaph embraces these truths wholeheartedly, in word and song, convinced that God will yet take down all evildoers and raise up all who truly trust in him.

Hurt by others’ evil, Lord, I want justice now. In my pain, I sometimes want relief and honor now, no matter the source. But true blessing and honor come from you. Thank you that you’re holy, sovereign, and never late in judging or blessing. Help me look to you for all my needs. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

God alone is judge
raising one up and making another fall.

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.