Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 96

The King is coming!

Though the world’s powerful people and their chosen gods seem always in control, God’s triumph over evil is decisive. His coming to make things right on earth is cause for joyful celebration.

Sing a brand-new song to YHWH!
Sing to YHWH, all the earth!
2 Sing to YHWH—praise his name.
Day after day announce it:
“The Lord has won the victory!”
3 Proclaim his glory to the nations.
Tell everyone everywhere
what amazing things he’s done.
4 Because YHWH is so great
he’s worthy of the highest praise
we can give him.
He’s to be revered above all gods
5 for all the nations’ gods are nothing-gods
while YHWH created the heavens!
6 Splendor and majesty surround him
strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.

7 Acknowledge YHWH, all you peoples
acknowledge YHWH’s strength and glory.
8 Give YHWH the glory he deserves!
Bring an offering and enter his courts.
9 Bow low before YHWH
in the splendor of his holiness.
Tremble before him, all the earth!
10 Announce to the nations:
“YHWH reigns!
He established the earth so firmly
that nothing can shake it.
He will judge its peoples with justice.”

11 So, celebrate, you heavens
and rejoice, earth!
Let the sea and everything in it
roar the chorus!
12 Throw a party
fields and all your inhabitants
and shout for joy
all you trees of the forest
13 at YHWH’s approach!
For he’s coming
coming to put everything to rights.
He’ll rule the world with justice
and its peoples with perfect fairness.


This call to sing a new song isn’t just driven by a desire for novelty. No, God’s decisive victory demands a brand-new song because no existing song will do. Which victory? The psalm’s heading in the Septuagint suggests that the psalmist had in mind God’s bringing his exiled people back home from captivity and enabling them to rebuild Jerusalem’s temple and city wall. Confirming the Septuagint’s title, most of the psalm reworks praise from the time when David brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem (1 Chron. 16:23-33). Against all odds, little Israel’s God has bested all the gods of the superpower, proving that there’s nothing godlike about them. The psalmist says this through a play on words since the word for “the gods” (elilim) is also an intensive plural of “nothing.” It is these nothing-gods who pit themselves against Israel’s Elohim, an intensive plural of power.

We’re to proclaim the good news to everyone since it’s clear proof that YHWH is no provincial god. God had always said he’d bless the whole world through Abraham, and this victory proves his plan is right on track, Israel’s years in exile notwithstanding. Justice is on the way for all of earth’s peoples, not just the rich and powerful. So everyone everywhere must acknowledge God’s supremacy and worship, giving him the honor he deserves because he’s truly like no other god.

But humankind’s celebration isn’t enough. The rest of creation must join the party too because all the seas, skies, farmlands, and forests have a stake in this victory too: the chaos ungodly societies unleash can devastate the environment around them, as the recurring forest fires our current climate crisis has unleashed on us makes abundantly clear. And God’s putting everything to rights includes the whole of creation.

I celebrate your victory over evil, Jesus! How thrilling it is that you’re coming not just to judge those who threaten your creation, but also to restore everything to its original purpose and unleash all the perfect goodness you’ve planned for us. Even so, Lord, come quickly! Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

“YHWH reigns!
He established the earth so firmly
that nothing can shake it.
He will judge its peoples with justice.”

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.