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Psalm 43

Plea for light in the dark 

Who hasn’t felt disappointed with God when falsely accused or otherwise mistreated? But instead of pulling away in our pain and closing our heart to him, this is when we must cry out to him all the more.

Declare me innocent, O God!
Take up my cause and save me
from these faithless, lying people.
For you alone are my God, my stronghold.
Why have you dumped me?
Why must I tramp about in gloom
harassed by my enemies?
Send out your light and your truth
to guide me.
Let them lead me back
to the holy hill where you live.
There I’ll go to the altar of God
my joy and delight
and praise you with the lyre
O God, my God!

Why are you so downcast, my soul?
Why in such turmoil?
Hope in God!
I will yet praise him
for coming to my rescue—
being my God.

Taking this psalm as the conclusion of Psalm 42, we know the psalmist is running scared, falsely accused, misrepresented, harassed, alone. Supremely confident in themselves, his enemies revile him for thinking God cares about him. He’s exhausted not just physically, but emotionally too. Depressed.

But even though he’s stumbling in the dark, he knows three vital truths. First, God alone can vindicate him. Second, God is his only hope and the source of his deepest joy. And third, this bewildering saga is far less about his need to escape those chasing him than his need to find rest in God again. He’s known the sweetness of that rest before. So one good thing this ordeal has brought him is a deep longing to rediscover the joy of God’s embrace.

Yet finding my way back to God is never just up to me. I must ask him to send out his light and truth to guide me home, and then follow them through the wilderness, like the Israelites followed the pillar of cloud and fire. So the psalmist alternately pours out his heart to God in prayer and redirects his focus from the storm he’s in to the God who has always rescued poor storm-tossed sinners.

Swallowed by my darkness, Lord, I seek no light but yours. You alone can guide me home. So please pierce my darkness with your truth and light. Release me from every falsehood, whether made by others or by me. Let me know once more the rest and joy of your embrace. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray this prayer:

Send out your light and your truth to guide me, Lord.

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.