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Psalm 41

Do as God does to be as God is

With enough strikes against us, we feel like giving up. For example, when we’re ill and someone wants to sideline us. That’s when we need to remind ourselves that our gracious God won’t ever abandon us.

A David psalm.

How enviable are
those who care for the poor!
Yahveh rescues them
when trouble strikes.
Yahveh protects them
and restores them to life.
They’re considered
the luckiest people around.
You don’t hand them over to their enemies.
Yahveh nurses them on their sickbed
restoring them to full health.

As for me, I said
“O Yahveh, be gracious to me.
Heal me, sinner that I am.”
My enemies maliciously ask
how long till I die
and my name is forgotten.
When they visit me
they mouth empty words
all the while gathering gossip
which they then go and blab everywhere.
Everyone who hates me
whispers together about me
imagining the worst—
that I’m in some plague’s death-grip
and will never get out of bed again.
Even my best friend
has turned on me—
the one I trusted completely
who ate at my table.
10 But you, Yahveh,
be gracious and raise me up again
so I can return the favor to them.

11 This is how I know
you’re on my side:
you haven’t let my enemies
triumph over me.
12 Instead, because of my integrity
you stand by me and welcome me
in your presence forever.
13 May Yahveh, Israel’s God
be blessed forever and ever.
Yes! Amen!

As with Psalm 1, this psalm declares who this world’s really fortunate people are. And again, it singles out people no one would normally pick. What makes those who care for the poor so blessed? God. Because they care for the poor like God does, he’s there for them when trouble strikes them. He protects them from harm and heals their diseases.

But David isn’t waxing philosophical here. He’s desperately ill and far from the perfect role model he’d like to be. Yet he doesn’t barter for his life. He simply asks God for mercy. Those who surround him wait, like vultures, for him to die. Eager to divide the spoils. They gossip, “He’s got one foot in the grave!” Even his trusted friend has turned on him. So in his weakness, David asks God to enable him to execute judgment on them.

And the fact that his enemies haven’t won yet—since he’s still alive—tells him God sees past his faults to the kind of man he is. Because he’s becoming like God, he’s confident God won’t ever abandon him. And for that, David will never stop praising him.

I want to be like you, God. To be remade in your likeness. To have your moral character, to be holy. Yet I’m surrounded by vultures who only want me dead. But not you, Lord—your welcome never wears out! So please forgive my sins, heal me and make me new. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on this truth:

How enviable are those who care for the poor!

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.