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Psalm 125

Those who trust in Yahveh

The ancient world was full of abuse and conflict, just like ours today. Israelite believers faced such challenges both at home and on pilgrimage. This psalm calls them to live, trusting in the God of peace.

A song of ascents.

Those who trust in Yahveh
are like Mount Zion
immovable, enduring forever.
2 Just like the mountains surround Jerusalem
so Yahveh surrounds his people
now and for all time.
3 The evildoers’ scepter won’t extend
over what’s been allotted to the just forever
lest the just acquiesce
and take part in evil themselves.
4 Do good, Yahveh
to those who themselves do good
whose hearts are true to you.
5 But may Yahveh banish
those who angle off on twisted paths
as well as those who oppress others.
May peace be upon Israel!

The psalmist says those trusting in Yahveh are as well-founded and unshakable as Mount Zion—protected by God, just as Jerusalem is by the surrounding mountains.

But these images don’t mean everything’s fine in the world because, while God has allotted lands to his people, the scepter ruling over them is in the hands of the wrong people: evildoers. The psalmist doesn’t say whether the people oppressing them are foreigners or Israelites of King Saul or King Ahab’s ilk, likely because it makes very little difference. In fact, the latter may be worse since the just will be more tempted to go with the flow and follow their rulers’ ways if their rulers are Israelites.

Trusting in the safety and security God gives, the psalmist assures her people that evildoers won’t always be in charge. Otherwise, it would seem pointless for believers to resist evil. That leads her to pray that God will make those who walk the path of goodness flourish and sideline those who deviate from his path. Since God’s creation is all about goodness, evil doesn’t belong anywhere in it. The psalmist prays this prayer because she knows God is the only one who can bring true peace and well-being to Israel.

Jesus, this world belongs to you, and I’m secure in you. Yet evildoers dominate almost everywhere—business, government, education, the arts. Help me hold to your path and not let go of your kingdom’s values. Banish evil and give me and all the just your perfect peace, I pray. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray this prayer:

Do good, Yahveh to those who do good
whose hearts are true to you.

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.