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Psalm 134

Prayer in the night

God created his world as a place of perfect blessing, but our selfishness has filled it with cursing, to the pain and detriment of all. Our redemption begins with God’s blessing us and our blessing him in return.

A song of ascents.

Come, bless Yahveh
all you servants of Yahveh
who stand in Yahveh’s house by night.
2 Lift your hands toward his holy place
and bless Yahveh.
3 And may Yahveh
who made the heavens and the earth
bless you from Zion!

This final song of ascent calls God’s servants to glorify him, melding the idea of worshipper and servant together. The worshipper focuses on the object of their worship, just as the servant stands day and night, attentive their master’s direction. Hands raised in devotion and receptivity, the worshipper stands in Yahveh’s presence, praising him for his unfailing mercy. We were created for this.

The psalmist calls on Yahveh to bless his servants also. In fact, our lost world, so often marred by both verbal and physical cursing, needs God’s blessing more than anything else. He chose Abraham and Sarah so he could restore every people on earth to his blessing. Later he made Zion his earthly home, coming down to bless his people. There—in Jesus’ passion—he eventually showed humankind the full extent of his love for them. In fact, such passionate self-giving alone explains why obstinate people can hope for blessing from God.

Blessing God in return, we enter the circle of blessing, where he then blesses us again in a never-ending cycle, and we in turn bless those around us through the overflow of his love. He blesses us as the creator and sovereign Lord who will yet reunite heaven and earth in the fullness of his blessing. What joy!

Triune God, our world is awash with cursing, as you know all too well. You took all our abuse in your passion, your love fully exhausting the curse so you could include us in the endless circle of blessing that you are. Bless me now, Lord, and help me bless you freely in return. Amen.

Meditate on this divine call during your free moments today:

Come, bless Yahveh
all you servants of Yahveh
who stand in Yahveh’s house by night.

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.