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Psalm 117

The God whose love will win

We all choose between two kinds of power: self-centered, coercive power and the power of God’s love, which bears all for its object’s sake. This psalm calls us to worship the God whose love will triumph.

Praise Yahveh, all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
2 For Yahveh’s unfailing love for us is strong
and his faithfulness endures forever.
Praise Yahveh!

As the shortest psalm in the Psalter, this psalm is nevertheless enormous in its scope, calling everyone on earth to praise God, which would fulfill God’s promise to bless the whole world through Abraham. Since the Hebrew word rendered “strong” has military connotations, the psalmist implies that God must be worshiped universally because his unfailing love will triumph over evil.

We see two kinds of power in the world. That of Pharaoh and his gods, determined to maintain their egocentric existence through ruthless, dehumanizing coercion. And that of Yahveh, whose compassion for the enslaved Israelites was as undeserved as his commitment to them was enduring. Pharoah’s gods stood for the cruelty that destroyed anyone abandoning them for a rival. By contrast, Yahveh forgave the Israelites’ unfaithfulness time and again—not just at Sinai.

The thought here is that Pharoah and his ilk will ultimately sink while Yahveh realizes all his loving designs for creation. Earth’s peoples and nations will remain confused, warring, chaotic, and self-destructive till they heed the psalmist’s call to submit to the God whose love alone is strong enough to hold everything together. So we sing this psalm in the hope that God will yet heal the nations, gently binding them together as one—as he one day will.

You call us to live by the power of your love, God, to believe it will yet triumph over every rival form of power. Help me do that, Lord. And hasten the day when every people sees your love outpoured in Jesus’ passion and joins the throng worshipping the Lamb who died for them. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Yahveh’s unfailing love for us is strong
and his faithfulness endures forever.
Praise Yahveh!

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.