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Psalm 13

When my enemy is winning

A David psalm.

How long, Yahveh
will you go on ignoring me?
How long will you hide your face
whenever I seek your help?
2 How long must I store up anxious cares
while grief fills my heart day after day?
How long will you let my enemy
have the upper hand?

3 Look at me!
Answer me, Yahveh, my God!
Give light to my eyes
before death’s darkness takes me
4 my enemy crows, “I won!”
and my foes celebrate my downfall.

5 But I trust in your undying love—
my heart rejoices in your certain rescue.
6 Yes, I’ll sing praise to Yahveh
because he’s been so good to me.

In his four opening how longs, David isn’t asking God for a timeframe. He’s demanding action. His situation is all wrong, and everything points back to God, who is ignoring him—even worse, seemingly evading him. That explains the note of holy exasperation here. Exasperation because his covenant God is never there for him when he needs him. Holy because David is just asking God to do what he promised to do. Instead of peace and prosperity, David’s days are filled with anxiety, grief and discouragement, his enemies on top. He demands that God look at him, answer him and revive him before its too late and his enemies dance on his grave.

David pivots in verse five, not because his situation has changed, but because—far more importantly—God’s commitment to him hasn’t changed. David’s downfall would spell God’s own defeat, and that isn’t going to happen. The certainty and strength of Yahveh’s covenant love give him hope. Though God hasn’t rescued him, David knows it’s as settled as if it had already happened. So with his hope more certain than the darkness around him, he can see himself singing praise to God for acting on his behalf.

Lord, I echo David’s cry: How long will I be locked in a battle where the forces of darkness have the upper hand? Yet when I think how strong your love for me is, there can be no doubt about who will come out on top. I will yet praise you for you are truly worthy! Amen.

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.