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Psalm 147

Rebuilder of broken dreams

Why would the God who created all the wonders of the cosmos shun the powerful to care for the broken and bleeding? Because besides being perfectly just, the psalmist says, God is unfailingly gracious.

Praise Yahveh!
How good to sing praise to our God!
How pleasant, how right!
2 Yahveh rebuilds Jerusalem—
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and bandages their wounds.
4 He tallies the number of the stars
calling each of them by name.
5 How great is Yahveh:
his power is absolute
his understanding beyond telling!
6 Yahveh lifts up the downtrodden
and throws the self-serving to the ground.

7 Sing your thanks to Yahveh.
Sing your God’s praises on the lyre.
8 He fills the sky with dark clouds
bringing rain to the land
and making grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives all the animals their food
even the young ravens when they cry.
10 He takes no delight in the horse’s strength
or the warrior’s powerful legs.
11 But Yahveh delights in those who revere him
who put their hope in his unfailing love.

12 Praise Yahveh, Jerusalem!
Praise your God, Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your children within your walls.
14 He grants peace within your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
15 He sends his command to earth
his word travels swiftly!
16 He spreads out snow like a wool blanket
and dusts the world with hoarfrost like ashes.
17 He scatters hailstones
like they’re mere breadcrumbs.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
18 Then he gives the word and everything melts
he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
19 He revealed his words to Jacob
his laws and rulings to Israel.
20 He’s done this for no other nation:
none of them have any knowledge of his laws.
Praise Yahveh!

This psalm, second of the Psalter’s five concluding psalms, weaves together calls to praise with the book’s two basic reasons for praise: God’s sovereignty over creation and his gracious redemptive work. Between bracketing calls to praise, the psalmist calls individuals and then the community to praise.

Yahveh rebuilds Jerusalem by gathering Israel’s outcasts, or exiles, healing their broken hearts, bandaging their wounds. He lifts up the oppressed and judges their oppressors, thus, setting the world to rights—granting his people security, blessing, well-being, and satisfaction.

Yahveh’s naming each of the stars—still innumerable to us—attests to his incomparable understanding. He, not Ba’al, the Canaanite fertility god, sends rainclouds to water the earth that feeds earth’s creatures, right down to scrappy raven nestlings. His command paints the trees with fairylike hoarfrost and sends the harshest icy blast. Then his word melts everything to bring on spring. The same word guided Israel in a way that no other nation was guided.

At the psalm’s heart, the God who is signally unimpressed by military might—the warhorse’s strength, the warrior’s stamina—delights, instead, in those who revere him and hope in his unfailing love.[1] This, turning worldly ideas of national power and glory on their head, must have comforted the struggling post-exilic community, threatened by malicious enemies.

You poured your life out, Jesus, to gather outcasts, heal our hearts, and bandage our wounds. For you’re that kind of God. And what excites you is my reverence for you and my hope in your endless grace, however disqualified I feel. I praise you my great creator and redeemer God! Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Yahveh delights in those who revere him
who put their hope in his unfailing love.


[1] The psalm is chiastic:  A: call to praise (vv. 1-2), B: Yahveh restores his people ravaged by the nations (vv. 3-4), C: his sovereignty over creation’s farthest reaches (vv. 4-5), D: Yahveh blesses the oppressed and judges their enemies (v. 6),  E: call to musical praise (v. 7), F: Yahveh, implicitly not Ba’al, grants creation’s fertility (vv. 8-9), F: hope in Yahveh, not Israel’s army, implicitly grants Israel security (vv. 10-11), E: call to the nation to praise (v. 12), D: God blesses his people, implicitly surrounded by enemies (vv. 13-14), C: Yahveh’s sovereignty over earth’s weather (vv. 15-18), B: God blesses his people like none of the other nations (vv. 19-20b), A: call to praise (v. 20c).

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.