The Psalms for a New Day website has just been redesigned and the website has moved to a new location. The page you are looking for has moved. Try the link below:
Looking for content on a specific topic?

Psalm 142

When other helpers fail

Some challenges leave us feeling deeply troubled—maybe even abandoned. David reminds us at such times that God, who knows the path we’re on, is our refuge, the reality we can always count on in this world.

A David maskil, from when he was in the cave. A prayer.

I cry aloud to Yahveh
I plead loudly with Yahveh for mercy.
2 pouring out my inner turmoil before him
telling him all my troubles.
3 When my spirit grows faint
you, Lord, know my path.

On the path I’m walking
they’ve hidden a trap for me.
4 Look around me and see:
no one’s willing to extend kindness to me
leaving every place of escape barred to me—
no one cares what happens to me.
5 I cry to you, Yahveh:
“You are my refuge
my only stake in this world.”

6 Respond to my cry
because I’ve never been this low!
Rescue me from the people stalking me
because they’re too powerful for me!
7 Bring me out of this prison
so I can praise your name.
Then God-seekers will surround me
because you’ve dealt so graciously with me.

David may be writing from the cave he hid in after escaping from Gath. Finding himself on King Saul’s hit list, he’d sought refuge among Saul’s enemies. It’s the obvious thing for a political refugee to do. But that mistake nearly cost David his life and made him realize that his own ingenuity could never solve his problems.

Stalked by powerful men bent on trapping and killing him, David has no one able and willing to help him. Nowhere to run to. He feels faint just thinking about it, but he knows that God knows where he is, how he got there, and what comes next. While desperately pleading for help, David realizes that earth’s creator and sustainer, Yahveh, is his true refuge, his stake in the world. So he urges God to set him free and envisions himself restored to the community of God-seekers, praising God for his rescue.

Significantly, David foresees the joy of deliverance while still in the cave. This reminds us of Jesus’ assurance of his resurrection’s joy even as his enemies plot his death. In calling us to take up our cross and follow him, Jesus invites us simultaneously to face opposition and trouble and to live by the unseen power of his resurrection, his strength complementing our weakness.

Abandoned by all your friends, Jesus, you went to the cross for me and for all too weak to help themselves. Help me to believe you’re at work in my situation even when I can’t see it. Help me trust you to guide me and believe the power of your resurrection can make me triumph. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

“You are my refuge
my only stake in this world.”

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.