Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 9

God of justice and compassion

In a dog-eat-dog world where everyone looks out for Number 1, the poor and oppressed seemingly have no chance. But, says David, God cares and will defend those who can’t defend themselves.

A David psalm.

1 I thank you with all my heart, YHWH
and recount all the awesome things you’ve done.
2 I celebrate you, God Most High
and sing praise to your name!
3 When my foes turned tail
they stumbled and perished before you.
4 You upheld the justice of my cause
seated as the just king on your throne.
5 You blasted the nations
and devastated the wicked—
their names are totally forgotten.
6 The enemy is utterly and permanently ruined
their cities permanently wiped off the map
and all memory of them gone
7 while YHWH sits enthroned
executing justice forever.
8 He rules the world with equity
judging all its peoples fairly.
9 YHWH is a refuge for the oppressed
a shelter when they’re in trouble.
10 That’s why all who know your name
put their trust in you, YHWH—
you never desert anyone who turns to you.
11 So sing your praise to YHWH
who reigns from Zion.
Tell everyone everywhere what he does—
12 how the one who avenges bloodshed
remembers every single victim
and never turns a deaf ear
to the cries of the oppressed.

13 Be gracious to me, YHWH!
See how I suffer because of those who hate me.
Snatch me away from death’s gates
14 to burst through Zion’s gates
with news of how you’ve saved me.
15 The nations who reject you
have fallen into the pit they dug—
their own feet got tangled in the net they hid!
16 YHWH reveals his character by enacting justice
when the wicked get caught
in the trap they themselves made.
17 The wicked will plunge headlong into Sheol
and all the nations who forget God.
18 For the helpless won’t always be forgotten
nor the hopes of the oppressed forever go unmet.

19 Rise up, YHWH!
Don’t let mere mortals defy you.
Make the nations face your stern judgment.
20 Strike terror into them, YHWH—
let them know they’re just puny men.
Selah

Psalms 9 and 10 are crafted as a single acrostic, with Hebrew’s “a” (aleph) beginning Psalm 9, its “z” (tav) beginning Psalm 10’s final poetic unit. This tells us the two psalms complete each other.

David praises God for his just judgment of those who oppress the helpless, and he isn’t talking theory, but rather about his own enemies, his cause, his deliverance. Whether he’s thinking of God’s protecting him from Saul or defeating the Philistines, David has learned from experience that YHWH’s reign isn’t interrupted by his enemies’ abuse of power. He never ignores the cry of the afflicted, never deserts those who trust in him.

This prompts David to ask God to act on behalf of the oppressed by taking down the oppressor. But again, his prayer is personal, not generic. He needs deliverance now. With death threatening to swallow him alive, David has learned what to expect from God. In God’s economy, evil is its own undoing—no one is crafty enough to avoid the traps they set for others. Knowing what God is like, David freely asks him to judge his enemies, cut them down to size and stop them from flagrantly defying God.

Lord, you see every single act of oppression—you miss nothing. Thank you that you care, you never forsake those who turn to you, and you will yet right every wrong and avenge every unjust death. Rise up, Lord! End the reign of injustice and oppression now, I pray. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

The helpless won’t always be forgotten
nor the hopes of the oppressed die unmet.

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.