Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 95

Find rest today

We can easily worship God externally while inwardly doubting his goodness. This psalm reminds us that God wants our worship to express our heart’s devotion to him.

Come, sing for joy to YHWH!
Let’s shout our praise to the rock who saves us!
2 Let’s enter his presence
with songs of thanksgiving
and raise the roof with psalms of praise.
3 Because YHWH is a great God
a great king, far above every other god.
4 Earth’s deepest depths belong to him—
its highest heights are his to command.
5 The sea is his since he made it
dry land also, sculpted by his own hands.
6 Come, bow down and worship
let’s kneel before YHWH, our creator.
7 He’s our God
and we’re the flock he shepherds
the sheep of his pasture.

If only you’d hear his voice today:
8 “Don’t harden your hearts
as you did at Provocation Point
in the day of testing in the wilderness
9 when your ancestors put me to the test
and tried me even though they’d witnessed
all the things I’d done for them.
10 Forty long years I was grieved by that generation
till I finally declared:
‘They’re a people whose hearts continually stray.
They haven’t learned a single thing about my ways!’
11 So in my anger
I swore this solemn oath:
‘They’ll never enter into my rest!’”


Churches often use this psalm as a call to worship—minus the second half, with its jarring ending. Yet from God’s perspective, the two halves belong together. The psalm begins with rousing calls to worship God as creator, redeemer and shepherd-king. Its images of water and dry land bring together God’s creation of the earth and of Israel, in the exodus. God’s having the whole world in his hands was vital to his redemption of Israel, as he used the water and other natural forces to defeat Egypt’s gods, Pharaoh included.

But the exodus revealed not just God’s shepherd heart, but also the Israelites’ wandering hearts. The psalmist recounts how unresponsive the Israelites were in the wilderness, refusing to listen to God or believe he had their best interests at heart. Though they’d just witnessed his power and amazing grace displayed in their dramatic rescue, they quickly gave in to fear. They clearly needed water, but their fear turned God into a monster who had dragged them out into the wild to destroy them. And they decided they were better off not listening to him.

Lamenting his people’s refusal to believe in his goodness and power—even as Jesus did centuries later—YHWH said they hadn’t learned a single thing about him or what he wanted of them, and he swore they’d never enter his promised rest. Thus, the psalm’s ending implicitly asks, Which will you be: a sheep whose refusal to believe God leaves you restlessly wandering the wild or one who trusts your gracious shepherd to lead you home? If we’re willing to trust him, then no matter what tests we’re facing, we can live in the psalm’s first half, praising God for his faithful care. Only if we refuse to trust him, does he leave us to struggle in futility on our own.

As my good shepherd, Jesus, you laid down your life for me. Today you give me another chance to hear your voice and trust you. Yet I’m prone to doubt your goodness and demand you do things my way. Free me from thinking I can be in control. Help me believe your dreams for me are far bigger than mine. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

If only you’d hear his voice today:
“Don’t harden your hearts
as you did at Provocation Point
in the day of testing in the wilderness.”

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.