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Psalm 33

Faithful God

Rejoice in Yahveh
all you who trust in him.
Serving God and praising him belong together.[1]
2 Give thanks to Yahveh with the guitar—
offer him praise with the violin.
3 Sing him a brand-new song!
Play skillfully and shout for joy.

4 For Yahveh’s word holds true
and we can trust everything he does.
5 He loves all that’s right and just.
Yahveh’s steadfast love fills the earth.

6 The heavens were made by Yahveh’s word—
with a single breath
he spoke whole galaxies into being.
7 He pooled the waters together into seas
and poured the oceans into his vast reservoirs.

8 Let the whole earth fear Yahveh
and all its inhabitants stand in awe of him.
9 For he simply spoke and it came to be—
he commanded and there it was.
10 Yahveh blocks the nations’ Babel-schemes
and thwarts the peoples’ power plays.
11 But Yahveh’s purposes stand forever—
all his heart intends will last
from now till the end of time.

12 How happy the nation whose God is Yahveh
the people he’s chosen for his inheritance!
13 Yahveh looks down from heaven
and sees all of humankind.
14 From where he sits enthroned
he watches all of the earth’s inhabitants.
15 He who made everyone’s heart
understands everything they do.

16 No sovereign is saved by their military might
no soldier by their superior strength.
17 A warhorse doesn’t guarantee victory in battle—
such brawn doesn’t even ensure a clean get-away!
18 But Yahveh watches over all who fear him
and rely on his unflinching love
19 to rescue them from death
and keep them going through bouts of famine.

20 We wait for Yahveh to come through for us—
he’s our help and our shield.
21 Our hearts rejoice in him
for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love descend on us, Yahveh
for we put our hope in you.

Starting where Psalm 32 left off, this hymn extols Yahveh’s faithful love[2] and calls his people to praise him with the best music they can make. What sets his people apart is their vision of God, the psalm’s focus. And what sets Yahveh apart from the nations’ false gods is his incomparable greatness, moral goodness, unflinching love and perfect faithfulness. Being committed to all that’s right and just, he fills the earth with his unfailing love, such that his people can’t possibly venture beyond his love’s effective reach.

How do we know this? Yahveh’s spoken word alone accounts for creation’s faithfulness. Not human scheming, but rather God’s sovereignty accounts for human history’s order. Since he reads human hearts perfectly from afar and deals with everyone accordingly, nothing accounts for his blessing on his people Israel but the fact that he’s chosen them. Thus, they’re delivered from human aggression and natural disaster not by military might or human resources, but by Yahveh’s watchful care.[3]

We can thus rejoice in Yahveh even before we see the answers we seek. Because as the final verses tell us, the God we actively trust in, wait on and hope in[4] is faithful beyond all telling.

Lord, since nothing on earth can separate me from your love, how can I withhold my praise? Since you are perfectly faithful, how can I not rejoice in you? O Lord, may your unfailing love rest on me now as I wait on your mercy, trust in your goodness and hope in your faithfulness. Amen.


[1] The two Hebrew words used to refer to God’s people here are usually translated “the righteous” and “the upright.” But those English terms have powerful moral overtones suggesting an exclusivity missing in the psalmists’ usage. In the Psalms, those terms respectively designate those who cling to God’s mercy and his servants, whom he’s in the process of transforming; Jacobson (2014) 312-13. Thus, the Hebrew terms’ morality has to do with what their owners are called to become more than what they already are; Goldingay (2006) 465.

[2] Impossible to translate in a single word, the Hebrew noun hesed always indicates a deeply personal relationship and includes such ideas as covenant loyalty, faithful commitment, unfailing love and solidarity. It occurs 255 times in the Hebrew Bible, more than half of them being in the Psalms.

[3] These four points are made, respectively, in verses 4-7, verses 8-11, verses 12-15 and verses 16-19.

[4] To us, these three verbs (vv. 20-22) typically connote passivity, but their Hebrew equivalents never do to the psalmists.

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.