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Psalm 92

Anointed with fresh oil

Perhaps more than any generation before us, we see self-reliance as a far safer bet than trusting God—with all the guesswork we think that necessitates. This psalm says such thinking couldn’t be more wrong.

A sabbath song.[1]

It’s good to give thanks to Yahveh
to sing praise to God Most High
2 to proclaim your unfailing love at dawn
your faithfulness at night
3 with a ten-stringed lute
and the music of the lyre.
4 For what you’ve done
has made me glad, Yahveh
and I sing for joy
over what your hands have made.
5 How fantastic are your feats, Yahveh
how profound your plans!
6 Yet senseless people never get it—
the clueless never understand. 

7 Wicked people spring up like grass
and evildoers flourish briefly
but only to be utterly destroyed.
8 while you, Yahveh
reign supreme forever.
9 See your enemies, Yahveh
see how your enemies perish.
See how all evildoers are decimated!

10 You will raise up my horn
like that of a wild ox.
You’ll anoint me with fresh oil.
11 With my own eyes
will I see my foes’ debacle
and with my own ears
hear my evil attackers’ downfall.
12 But God-seekers will thrive like palm trees
and stand strong as the cedars of Lebanon.
13 Planted in Yahveh’s house
they’ll flourish in the courts of our God.
14 Lithe and green
they’ll still bear fruit in old age
15 showing how righteous Yahveh is.
He is my Rock
and there’s no fault in him.

Many people totally miss what God is doing, but his love and faithfulness carry us both day and night—good reasons for us to praise him continually. He hasn’t forgotten us, no matter how we feel. So, responding with praise and thanks isn’t just positive thinking. It’s connecting with reality.

Verse 8, the psalm’s focal point, says God reigns supreme over all.[2] It’s set between two mentions of evildoers, who flourish briefly before being totally destroyed, underscoring the fact that God really is in control, however much it may look otherwise.

The rest of the psalm gives us two images of power and two of flourishing and, between these pairs, two mentions of his enemies’ defeat. The images of power are of a desert oryx’s raising its horns triumphantly and of the psalmist’s being anointed with fresh oil. Anointing for service was typically for life, but David was anointed king multiple times, as he secured his kingdom only gradually—by God’s sovereign working, not his own machinations.[3]

Unlike grass, which dies off as fast as it grows, God-seekers thrive like fruitful date palms and magnificent cedars. Planted in God’s courtyard garden, these trees remain fruitful even in old age. This assures us God is someone we can count on always to do right by us.

As tempting as it is, Lord, trusting in myself alone is disastrous. The more I think I’m in control of my life, the more deluded I am. Give me a heart to see all you’re doing and believe your ways are higher than mine. Teach me to rest in simple faith that I can count on you always to do right by me. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on this truth:

But God-seekers will thrive like palm trees
and stand strong as the cedars of Lebanon.
Planted in Yahveh’s house
they’ll flourish in the courts of our God.


[1] The only psalm assigned to a specific day, Israel’s day of rest, this psalm has thematic similarities to Psalms 37 and 73, suggesting that it points to our need to listen to God and rest in him, however much the world tells us we should rely on ourselves.

[2] On each side of verse 8, there are exactly fifty-two Hebrew words in seven lines of text. The poem’s contents on either side of the verse also evidence something of a chiastic structure, pointing, again, to its midpoint.

[3] After his prophetic anointing by Samuel, David was twice anointed king in fulfillment—first over his own tribe and finally over the entire nation (1 Sam. 16:13, 2 Sam. 2:4, 5:3).

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.