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Psalm 28

Faithful judge, faithful shepherd  

A David psalm.

I cry out to you
Yahveh, my rock.
Don’t turn deaf on me!
For if you don’t answer me
I’ll become just one more corpse
slung into an early grave.
2 Listen to the sound of my pleading
as I cry to you for help
lifting up my hands
toward your holy sanctuary.
3 Don’t drag me off
with the faithless who do evil.
Who speak peace to their neighbors
while devising trouble in their hearts.
4 Pay them for all their hard work—
every evil thing they’ve done—
wound for wound and grief for grief
just as they deserve.
5 Because they pay no attention
to any of Yahveh’s work—
all the things he does—
he will tear them down
never to rebuild them.

6 Blessed be Yahveh
because he heard my plea for help!
7 Yahveh is my strength
and the shield my heart trusts in.
Because he’s helped me
my heart is full of joy
and overflows with songs of praise.
8 Yahveh is the strength of his people
the fortress that saves his anointed.
9 Rescue your chosen people
and bless your inheritance.
As their good shepherd
carry them in your arms forever.

Like Psalm 27, this psalm is one of contrasting moods, but David reverses the order here, putting his plea first, his praise last. Though his life is in danger, he’s gotten no response to any of his urgent pleas directed toward God’s sanctuary. He fears God may have mixed him up with those who deserve to die. Verses 4-5 contrast the faithless person’s work with God’s work—respectively, doing evil and doing good.[1]

Many Christians blanch when the psalmist asks God to judge evildoers, as if we should just forgive and forget their evil. But that’s not how a moral universe works. God will yet judge those who viciously attack the innocent, and we needn’t apologize for asking him to.[2] Suppose David has murderous King Saul in mind. Then asking God to punish him lets David stand back and leave vengeance to God.

Verse 5 is pivotal: knowing God will ring down the curtain on evildoers, David realizes he’s been heard—Yahveh will spare his life after all! So, his confidence spills out in joyful praise. He concludes by commending his deliverer to all his people and asking God to carry them in his arms whenever their strength fails.[3]

Many today live without regard for you or your laws, God. Thank you that you hold evildoers to account. Please bring evil’s reign of terror to its swift and timely end. Thank you that you also shelter and shepherd your people. Help me to trust you to bless and care for me always. Amen.



[1] God’s work includes things like giving sunshine and rain, redeeming and blessing his people, and punishing evil.

[2] We must distinguish between personal and absolute forgiveness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, had just one biblical option open to him regarding personal forgiveness: unreservedly to forgive the Nazis who mistreated him. Besides being selfl-destructive, for him to withhold forgiveness would have been morally wrong. But God alone forgives absolutely—though that may not exempt the guilty from temporal punishment. And the same Bonhoeffer who forgave the Nazis personally was right to pray that God would faithfully judge them for all the evils they committed.

[3] In the ancient Middle East, the image of shepherd was always kingly, though not typically kindly, as here. On this, see Psalm 23 above.

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.