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Psalm 54

God is my helper

The prevalence of violence and cruelty in our world often makes it hard to believe God will judge and right every wrong. But as the God of justice, he calls us to believe and to pray that he will do just that.

A David psalm. When the Ziphites went and told Saul, “David’s hideout is in our territory.”

O God, act in character, and rescue me!
Act in power, and take up my cause!
Listen to my prayer, God
and pay attention to what I’m saying.

Because outsiders are attacking me.
Thugs with no thought of God are after my life.

But God is my helper—
my Lord is the one who sustains my life.
May my enemies’ evil be turned back on them.
Keep your word now and wipe them out.

I will sacrifice to you for all your bounty to me.
I’ll praise your name, Yahveh, because it’s good.
Because he’s rescued me from all my troubles
and allowed me to see my enemies get their due.

Royal watching was no less popular in David’s day than it is now. The whole country knew King Saul had an oversized ego, that David didn’t deserve his rage. In telling Saul where David was hiding, Ziph’s leaders ruthlessly sided with the oppressor, displaying their disregard for God. So even though they’re Israelites, David views them as people who didn’t belong in Israel and no right to shape its future.

David responds to the crisis by pouring his heart out to God. He knows God alone can help him, that God alone is keeping him alive. He asks for God’s help not because he’s earned it, but because it’s in God’s character to rescue and to right this world’s wrongs. It may seem unkind that he asks God to bring the evildoers’ evil back on their own heads. But David isn’t taking justice into his own hands—he’s simply asking God to act. And evil ends no other way.

David concludes on a note of thanksgiving for God’s unexpected grace in rescuing him. In fact, he seems to view it as a done deal. He will witness his enemies’ downfall. His God won’t fail him. And when God sets things right, David will freely offer his thanks.

Thank you that you care for the oppressed, God, and will one day right every wrong. Help me rest in that knowledge when I feel crowded or condemned by evildoers, hemmed in or harried by darkness. Let me rest in your goodness, knowing you won’t let evil have the last word. Amen.

Meditate on this truth during your free moments today:

Surely God is my helper—my Lord is the one who sustains my life.

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.