Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 97

New management

We don’t worship gods of wood or stone, but our idols of consumerism and sensualism bind and impoverish us. Meanwhile, God calls us to embrace his reestablished his rule on earth with joy.

YHWH reigns!
Rejoice, earth!
Celebrate, you far-off islands!
2 Clouds and darkness surround him.
He founded his throne
on justice and righteousness.
3 Fire blazes before him
consuming his foes all around.
4 His lightning bolts light up the world.
The earth trembles at the sight.
5 The mountains melt like wax
at the approach of YHWH
at the approach of the Lord of the whole earth.

6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness
and all peoples behold his glory.
7 All those who worship idols are humiliated
who boast about their nothing-gods
for every god must bow before him.
8 Zion hears the news and celebrates
the towns of Judah burst into song, YHWH
on learning how
you’re putting everything to rights.
9 For you reign supreme over all the earth
exalted far above all gods, YHWH.

10 You who love YHWH, hate evil.
He guards the lives
of those who are faithful to him
rescuing them from the grasp of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for God’s people
and joy surprises those whose hearts are right.
12 Rejoice in YHWH, you God-seekers.
At every mention of it
praise his holy name!

Proclaiming that YHWH is king, the psalmist is announcing that the cosmos is under new management. This calls for cosmic celebration. She describes YHWH in terms of mysterious clouds and darkness, but as a king determined to see justice done and relationships made right–that is, characterized by love. Her picture of his coming to earth reminds us of Sinai’s lightning, consuming fire, and mountains liquified by earthquake. She’s making it clear that YHWH isn’t messing about—he’s utterly committed to seeing his will carried out on earth as it is in heaven.

The glories we behold every day in the skies above reveal God’s commitment to a beauty and order that’s right for all concerned. Everyone everywhere sees this, yet many persist in worshipping idols, bragging about their gods, so weak next to YHWH that they amount to nothing. While the powers behind those gods will all bow before YHWH, leaving their worshippers humiliated, Zion and its surrounding towns all sing for joy.

However, this proclamation goes out under circumstances that show the change of management isn’t yet fully in effect because the wicked still threaten God’s people. That’s one reason God calls us to hate what he hates, celebrate his triumph over evil, and praise his holy name. This calls for courage and for faith in God’s promise to protect us from evil and give us light and joy in him.

Jesus, I rejoice that you’ve disarmed the evil powers bent on impoverishing us and are totally committed to filling creation with your love. Help me live into that reality—to love as you love and hate what you hate. Give me courage, protect me from evil, and fill me with your joy. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Rejoice in YHWH, you God-seekers.
At every mention of it
praise his holy name!


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.