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Psalm 108

Impossible possibility

The coming of God’s kingdom has always been impossible, humanly speaking. Knowing how we’re to participate in it sometimes seems impossible too. This psalm tackles that problem head-on.

My heart is set, God—
I won’t be stopped.
I’m going to sing and make music.
Wake up, my soul!
Wake up, harp and lyre!
Help me waken the dawn.
I’ll celebrate you among the nations, my Lord
sing your praises to everyone everywhere.
For your unfailing love is so vast
it reaches the heavens
and your faithfulness so big
it scrapes up against the clouds.

Rise up high above the heavens, O God!
Reign in glory over all the earth!
Stretch out your right hand and help us
so your beloved children are rescued. 

God has spoken in his holiness:
“In triumph I’ll parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Succoth.
Gilead is mine and Manasseh mine too.
Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter!
Moab is my washbasin
onto Edom I toss my shoes
and over Philistia shout triumphant!” 

10 Who will take me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom
11 if not you who have abandoned us, God?
For you no longer lead our armies into battle. 

12 Help us fight against our foes
since human help is worthless.
13 With God’s help we’ll fight courageously.
Yes, he’s the one
who will crush our oppressors!

This psalm is comprised of selections from two David psalms, seamlessly joined.[1] Far from being unoriginal, the psalm gives both passages new meaning by combining them in their now postexilic context.

Restored to their land, the Israelites joyfully celebrate God’s lovingkindness before the nations. But now they’re starting from scratch—with Jerusalem’s destruction in living memory. (Recalling the Edomites’ part in that catastrophe really pains them since the Edomites are their relatives through Esau.) This makes them reflect on their situation, what brought them to this point, and where they’re to go from here.

So God assures them he’s still committed to Israel—Ephraim and Judah—and still sovereign over the surrounding nations. But while they ruled over the nations named here in Israel’s heyday and believe God’s kingdom will yet cover the earth, they’ve neither Joshua nor David to lead them and don’t know how to proceed.

Despite God’s having brought them back “home,” their extreme vulnerability and other hardships in the land seemingly call his restoration of them into question. They know their challenges far exceed the realm of human help—that only God can establish his kingdom on earth. So they ask for his help and commit to partnering courageously with him, believing he’s the one who will win the victory.

Thank you, God, that you’ve begun restoring me, but the way ahead is often unclear and I’m very vulnerable to attack. Lead me against my foes, grant me your help, and make me courageous. I know human help is worthless in such a fight as this. May your kingdom come, I pray. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray this prayer:

Stretch out your right hand and help us
so your beloved children are rescued.


[1] Psalms 57:7-11 (vv. 1-5) and 60:5-12 (vv. 6-13). See further the commentary on those passages above.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name 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. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.