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Psalm 31


A David psalm.

I take refuge in you, Yahveh.
Don’t stand by watching as I’m disgraced.
Rescue me for you’re the God
who always does what’s right.
2 Bend low and hear me!
Hurry and save me!
Be my rock of refuge
a mountain fortress to save me.
3 Because that’s what you are—
my rock and my fortress.
Lead and guide me
for the honor of your name.
4 Release me from the trap secretly set for me.
There’s no one I can count on but you.
5 Into your hand, I entrust myself.
You’ve redeemed me
Yahveh, faithful God.
6 I repudiate those who worship bogus gods.
I trust in Yahveh alone.
7 I rejoice in you and celebrate your mercy
for you see my pain
you know my soul’s anguish.
8 You didn’t hand me over to my enemies—
you planted my feet in wide-open country.[1]
9 Be gracious to me, Yahveh
for I’m in distress.
Grief is wasting my vision
wasting my soul and body too.
10 My life is worn out by sadness
my vitality by groaning.
And my sins have sapped my strength on me
to the point where even my bones waste away.
11 I’ve become a joke to all my enemies
a horror to my neighbors.
A fright show even to my friends—
any who see me in the street run from me.
12 I’m forgotten like someone dead and gone
unwanted like a broken jar.
13 I hear all the rumors swirling around me
spreading terror everywhere!
My enemies conspire against me
plotting to take my life.
14 But I hereby put my trust in you, Yahveh
and confess that you’re my God.
15 My entire life is in your hands.
Save me from falling
into the hands of my enemies
who relentlessly pursue me.
16 Smile down on your servant.
Take pity on me and save me.
17 Don’t let me be humiliated, Yahveh
because I’ve cried out to you.
Let the wicked be disgraced instead.
Let the silence of the grave take them
18 and their lying lips lie still
for they speak against God-seekers
with arrogance and contempt.

19 How lavish the goodness
you’ve stored up for those who fear you!
In front of everyone
you do good to those who trust you.
20 You protect them securely in your presence
from those who plot against them.
You keep them safe
from accusing tongues.
21 May Yahveh be praised
for the wonderful way
he showed his unflinching love to me
22 Panic-stricken, I exclaimed
“I’ve been driven out of your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I pleaded with you for help.
23 Love Yahveh
all you who belong to him!
Yahveh protects the faithful
but he repays the arrogant in full.
24 Be strong and courageous
all you who wait on Yahveh.

David urgently cries out here for God’s refuge, rescue, release, favor, guidance. He speaks of being hunted, ostracized, aware of his own sins and of rumors magnifying his fears, and the huge toll it all takes on him. Rejected as worthless, his energy ebbing away, he feels diminished in body and soul and sees his life through a darkened lens. With arrogant, deceitful, derisive enemies bent on killing him, it’s hardly surprising that he begs God to put them out of commission once and for all.

David’s issue is that his present reality doesn’t remotely match God’s covenantal promise to honor and bless his servants and shun and take down his adversaries. But David doesn’t rail against God. Instead, he reminds himself of God’s faithfulness and pleads with him to keep his promise. David repeatedly expresses his faith in God and puts himself in God’s hands (vv. 5, 15)—not fatalistically, but rather in confidence that God will hold onto him and not let go.[2] Thus, David depicts the challenge of staking everything on God’s faithfulness, even when everything seems to suggest he’s unfaithful. David concludes by calling his community to respond to God’s past demonstrations of steadfast love by loving him without letting go, no matter what.

Lord, you’re not slack about keeping your promises. And far from being stingy, you are generous, want me to flourish and won’t let anything separate me from your love. Help me to love you as you love me and pray without ceasing—holding you to your word—until you answer me. Amen.


[1] While some scholars consider this psalm a composite, I believe its repetition with variation points simply to David’s deep distress and urgency.

[2] Craigie (1983) 260. Jesus’ uttered these words (Lk. 23:46) in the same spirit and faith: “It’s up to you, God, what becomes of me, and I am willing to have it so.” Mays (1994) 144.

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.