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Psalm 64

The best defense

To think of prayer as any sort of protection against an evildoer’s poisonous tongue seems the height of folly. Yet according to this psalm, the best defense is a divine offense—simply in answer to prayer.

A David psalm.

1 O God, hear my anguished cry!
Protect my life from the enemy’s terror.
2 Hide me from the band of evildoers
this mob of malcontents.
They sharpen their tongues like swords
and aim their bitter words like arrows.

They shoot at the innocent from hiding
they shoot suddenly and without fear.
They hold firm to their evil intent.
They speak of secretly setting traps
saying, “Who will see them?”
Plotting their evil scheme, they gloat
“We’ve planned the perfect crime!”
The human heart and mind are inscrutable.[1]

But God will let fly his arrow
and they’ll suddenly be wounded.
Their own tongues will trip them up
such that onlookers will flee.
Everyone will stand in awe
talking about God’s judgment
taking it seriously.
10 God-seekers will rejoice in Yahveh
and take refuge in him.
And all who long to please him
will praise him.

Words can give life or take it away. David is threatened by deadly words, with evildoers conspiring and plotting against him. Whether threats, slander, curses or lies, the words are spoken suddenly from hiding and are part of a supposedly perfect plot. In their arrogance, David’s enemies are confident no one will ever trace their crime back to them.

Feeling terribly vulnerable, David cries out for God to hear, protect and hide him from his enemies. And “those who devise plots against him make one crucial mistake: they leave God out of their calculations. But in God’s world evil writes its own sordid obituary,”[2] as God uses the very tongues they felt so confident in to engineer their own downfall. God’s “arrows” are truly invisible and deadly accurate.

Thus, the evildoers who so carefully did everything in secret are made a public spectacle that causes everyone to flee in horror. The crowning irony is that, having considered themselves untouchable, they become a clear advertisement for God’s power,[3] as their defeat leaves people pondering and discussing God’s justice. His judgment of their evil makes his people happy, strengthens their resolve to trust him more and leads them to worship.

Lord, I’d like to silence those who speak viciously against me, but how much better if you make my enemies’ evil words be their own undoing. Help me to trust you to do that in such a way that justice is done, your name is honored, my faith is built up, and my joy overflows in worship. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on this truth:

God-seekers will rejoice in Yahveh and take refuge in him.
And all who long to please him will praise him.


[1] Cf. Jer. 17:9.

[2] Davidson, 202.

[3] J. Clinton McCann Jr., 480.

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.