Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 76

Total victory

How do we respond to the injustice filling our daily news feed? This psalm celebrates God’s resounding victory over evil, confident that he reigns supreme, no matter what else is happening.

An Asaph psalm.

God is known in Judah
his name honored in Israel.
2 He made his lair in the city of Salem
his den in Zion.
3 There he shattered the fiery arrows
shields, swords, and other weapons of war.
4 How resplendent you are—
more majestic than the everlasting mountains!
5 The brave heroes have all been plundered.
Having sunk into deep sleep
none of the champion fighters
could find their hands!
6 When you roared, God of Jacob
both horse and rider stopped dead.

7 You, you are awesome!
Who can stand against you
when you become angry?
8 You pronounced your judgment from heaven.
The earth fell silent with dread
9 when you rose to enact justice
and deliver all the oppressed of the earth.

10 Human rage only ends up bringing you praise
as you respond
with the very least of your anger.
11 So make vows to YHWH, your God
and keep them.
Let all around him
bring tribute to the Awesome One
12 who curbs the ambition of princes
and strikes terror in all of earth’s kings.


The psalmist celebrates God’s conquest, as warrior-king of Salem, the Jebusite fortress that David made Israel’s capital city. Asaph’s use of “lair” and “den” implicitly likens God to a lion, one whose majestic roar stops his enemies cold in their tracks—think Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia. God instantly puts them to sleep, the sleep of death. This renders them unable to “find their hands,” like we can’t find our limbs or voices in nightmares. Having disarmed his enemies and destroyed their weapons, YHWH is more majestic than the sun-gilt mountains.

The psalmist also pictures God pronouncing his sentence in heaven’s court and then enforcing it on earth, ending injustice and rescuing the oppressed. Zion is where heaven and earth come together as one, and Israel’s warrior-king is like no other god since he utters universal judgments in favor of the downtrodden. He’s done tolerating arrogant human self-assertion and the violent oppression it spawns. Even responding with the least anger possible, he extinguishes human fury, as he did, for example, in his treatment of Pharaoh in the Exodus. Thus, instead of displaying their power, his enemies’ anger ultimately showcases God’s power, which brings him praise.

These images call for three responses: reverence since our king effortlessly shuts down earth’s rebels, humble devotion—making and keeping vows and faithfully giving him our gifts—and praise for his restoring justice and peace on the earth.

Jesus, you revealed your majesty on Zion’s holy hill, disarming your foes, making an utter spectacle of them. But earth’s oppressed still await universal justice. Help me believe you reign supreme and will yet renew all things. Help me live reverently, faithfully, generously. Amen.

During your free moments today, offer these words of praise:

How resplendent you are—
more majestic than the everlasting mountains!

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.