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Psalm 4

Peace in the midst of trouble

Those who spurn God often oppose those who seek him. Sometimes fellow believers attack God-seekers also, adding to their griefs. In either case, we can turn to the God who hears the cry of the oppressed.

A David psalm.

Answer me when I call
O God of my vindication!
When I was backed into a corner
you got me out of it.
Be gracious to me now
and hear my prayer.

How long will you people of influence
drag my good name through the mud?
How long will you falsely accuse me
and traffic in lies?
Make no mistake:
Yahveh sets the faithful apart for himself
and Yahveh hears me when I call on him.

Don’t sin when you’re disturbed.
Rather, quiet your heart on your bed
and be still.
Offer sacrifices
with your heart intent on honoring God
and put your trust in Yahveh.

Many are saying,
“Who will bring us success?”
You alone, Yahveh.
Lift up your radiant face on us!
You’ve filled my heart
with more joy than they have
when their barns overflow with grain and wine.

I lie down and sleep peacefully
since you alone, Yahveh
make me rest secure.

David may have written this with either Saul or Absalom in hot pursuit. People are dishonoring him, falsely accusing him and lying about him, and it’s already been going on far too long. He clearly can’t just wish these enemies away. So he turns to the God who exonerates him and who graciously released him once when he similarly had no way out—the God who hears and honors all who cry to him.

David counsels us not to not react to disturbance in ways that only make matters worse, but rather do these three things: calm down, offer sacrifices to align ourselves with God and his purposes, and put our trust in Yahveh—the God who redeemed his undeserving, hopelessly oppressed people from Egypt. Something no pagan would ever have credited their gods with doing.

Amidst all the hand wringing in his camp, David knows who alone can rescue him and restore his life. He asks Yahveh simply to smile on his oppressed people. He knows the God who cares for the oppressed beams more joy into his heart than his enemies have at the best of times. And with that comes restful sleep in the knowledge that he’s safe in Yahveh’s strong arms.

However many oppose me, Lord, you’ve set me apart for yourself. You, my redeemer, will yet bring me out into the open. Keep me from making things worse for myself. Help me to wait on you. Lift up your beaming face and give me rest in the safety of your embrace. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Many are saying, “Who will bring us success?”
You alone, Yahveh! Lift up your radiant face on us.

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.