Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 92

Anointed with fresh oil

More than ever before, we now see self-reliance as a far better bet than trusting God—with all the guesswork we think that would require. This psalm says such thinking couldn’t be more wrong.

A sabbath song.

It’s good to give thanks to YHWH
to sing praise to God Most High
2 to proclaim your unfailing love at dawn
your faithfulness at night
3 with a ten-stringed lute
and the music of the lyre.
4 Because what you’ve done
has made me glad, YHWH
I sing for joy
over what your hands have made.
5 How fantastic your feats, YHWH
how profound your plans!
6 Yet the senseless never understand—
the clueless never get it. 

7 Wicked people spring up like grass
and evildoers flourish briefly
but only to be utterly destroyed
8 while you, YHWH
reign supreme forever.
9 See your enemies, YHWH
see how your enemies perish!
See how all evildoers are decimated!

10 You will lift up my horn
like that of a wild ox.
You will anoint me with fresh oil.
11 With my own eyes
will I see my foes’ debacle
and with my own ears
hear my evil attackers’ downfall.
12 But God-seekers will thrive like palm trees
and grow as strong as the cedars of Lebanon.
13 Planted in YHWH’s house
they’ll flourish in the courts of our God.
14 Lithe and green
they’ll still bear fruit in old age
15 showing how righteous YHWH is.
He is my Rock
and there’s no fault in him.

Though similar in theme to Psalms 37 and 73, this psalm is the only one assigned to a specific day, Israel’s rest day. This suggests that it points to our need to listen to God, praise him, and rest in him, in contrast to the world’s telling us to rely on ourselves.

Many people totally miss what God is doing, but his love and faithfulness carry us both day and night—good reasons for us to praise him continually. He hasn’t forgotten us, no matter how we feel. So, responding with praise and thanks isn’t just positive thinking. It’s connecting with reality.

Verse 8, the psalm’s focal point, says God reigns supreme over all.[1] It’s set between two mentions of evildoers, who flourish briefly before being totally destroyed, underscoring the fact that God really is in control, however much it may look otherwise.

The rest of the psalm gives us two images of power and two of flourishing and, between these pairs, two mentions of his enemies’ defeat. The images of power are of a desert oryx’s raising its horns triumphantly and of the psalmist’s being anointed with fresh oil. Anointing for service was typically for life, but David was anointed king multiple times, as he gradually secured his kingdom—by God’s sovereign working, not his own machinations. David was anointed to reign over first his own tribe and then the entire nation, both times in fulfillment of Samuel’s prophetic anointing.

Unlike grass, which dies off as fast as it grows, God-seekers thrive like fruitful date palms and magnificent cedars. Planted in God’s inner garden, these trees remain fruitful even in old age. This assures us that God is someone we can count on always to do right by us.

As tempting as it is, Lord, trusting in myself alone is disastrous. The more I think I’m in control of my life, the more mistaken I am. Give me eyes to see all you’re doing and a heart to believe your ways are higher than mine and that I can count on you always to do right by me. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on this truth:

But God-seekers will thrive like palm trees
and grow as strong as the cedars of Lebanon.
Planted in YHWH’s house
they’ll flourish in the courts of our God.

[1] On each side of verse 8, there are exactly fifty-two Hebrew words in seven lines of text. The poem’s contents on either side of the verse also evidence a quasi-chiastic structure, pointing, again, to its midpoint.

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.