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Psalm 20

The battle is the Lord’s

A David psalm.

May Yahveh answer you
on the day of distress.[a]
May Jacob’s God
lift you high above danger.
2 May he send you help from his sanctuary
and strengthen you from Zion.
3 May he recall all your offerings
and delight in your sacrifices.
4 May he give you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans.
5 We’ll raise the roof
when we hear of your deliverance.
We’ll celebrate what God has done
with a parade, banners, the works.
May Yahveh give you
everything you ask for!

6 Now I know
that Yahveh will deliver his anointed king.
He’ll answer him from his holy heaven
with powerful acts of deliverance
by his outstretched hand.
7 Some boast about chariots
and some about horses
but we boast about all that Yahveh our God
has revealed himself to be.
8 Our enemies will bow down and fall flat
while we stand strong and tall.

9 Give your king victory, Yahveh!
Answer us on the day when we call.

In ancient times warfare frequently ended in the slaughter of a royal family. David’s people likely sang this psalm while he offered sacrifices before marching to battle, to encourage him to entrust the outcome to Yahveh, who rescued Israel from Pharaoh and Jacob from Esau. Neither Israel nor Jacob deserved deliverance. They both received the grace that seeks out and blesses the lost. The king’s sacrifices in Zion—home to God’s earthly sanctuary and gateway to heaven’s blessings—were his visible plea for grace. In this psalm, his people pronounce their blessing, trusting their covenant-keeping God to honor the king’s faith and grant him victory.

Verse six pivots from blessing to confident declaration, based on who Yahveh is. The Hebrew tense of “will deliver” (eushio) implies completed action, that the victory need only be claimed.[b] While generals often pompously parade military hardware to bolster their soldiers’ morale, the psalmist boasts only about God for, as important as weapons and other preparations are, he alone matters supremely. While those who stand in arrogance will bow and fall, the king—now bowing in worship—will stand victorious in battle.[c] The psalm ends by asking God to answer when his people call.

Immersed in the visible, I often find it hard to figure you into the equation, Lord. Help me see that, without you, the one factor that outweighs all else, all my best efforts aren’t enough. Help me see every battle you ask me to fight is actually yours—I just need to make your victory mine. Amen.


[a] This language is taken directly from Jacob’s confession in Genesis 35:3.

[b] Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983) 184.

[c] Craigie (1983) 187.

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.