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Psalm 94

Avenging God

God wants to bless his people. But what if their police officers, political leaders and judges are thugs—what then? God will assuredly take all such evildoers down. And in the meantime, he’ll bless his own.

Yahveh, avenging God
blaze, avenging God!
2 Stand up, earth’s final judge
and give the arrogant what they deserve.

3 How long will evildoers, Yahveh
how long will evildoers party and prance?
4 All these wicked people spew out invective—
they bluster and brag to beat the band.
5 They crush your people, Yahveh
they oppress your very own.
6 They kill widows and immigrants
and murder the fatherless
7 assuring themselves,
“Yahveh isn’t looking—
Jacob’s God hasn’t got a clue!”

8 Listen, you morons!
When will you wise guys wise up?
9 Do you really think
the one who made our ears can’t hear?
The one who made our eyes can’t see?
10 Is the fount of all knowledge so dumb?
And do you think
the one who disciplines entire nations
isn’t up to rebuking you?
11 Yahveh knows what big plans
they have for themselves
and that they’ll all come to nothing.

12 How blessed are those you discipline
instructing them in your Word, Yahveh.
13 You grant them rest during dark days
while a pit is being dug
to take down the wicked.
14 Because Yahveh doesn’t forsake his people
he never abandons his own.
15 Judgment will once more be just
the longings of people of integrity fulfilled.

16 Who will side with me against evildoers
and defend me against self-seeking predators?
17 If Yahveh hadn’t come through for me
I’d have been permanently muted
in the silence of the grave.
18 But the moment I cried out:
“My foot’s slipping!”
your unfailing love held me fast, Yahveh.
19 When my anxiety mounted
your comfort brought me sweet relief.

20 Can toxic leaders be your allies—
those who abuse the weak under cover of law?
21 The wicked gang up on God-seekers
and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But Yahveh is my fortress
and God my rock of refuge.
23 God will make their sins recoil on them—
their own evil crash down on their heads.
Yahveh our God will totally do away with them.

What can God’s people do when the wicked gang up on them and God seems indifferent or impotent? We must renounce judgmentalism, but not judgment. Vengeance is God’s, not ours to take, though God typically uses human agents to enact his judgment, and his vengeance is never arbitrary. It always acts against the predatory on behalf of the vulnerable.

Evildoers will be destroyed, their plans will backfire, though not overnight. So the psalmist mocks them for their folly and, like the martyrs of the Apocalypse, she asks, How long, God, till you avenge?[1]

Justice will eventually come. But while we wait, what blessing is there for God-seekers, especially those with little chance of worldly success? Anyone who seeks God can experience him in all his transforming power. No matter how weak and poor we are, we can know the blessedness of God’s friendship: companionship, instruction, guidance, patient correction, protection, calm and joy. And God will never abandon us.[2]

At no charge, God transforms all who submit to him into his likeness, giving them a nobility, strength and wisdom evildoers know nothing about. And no matter how dark the night, we can walk in the assurance that we’re on the winning side, that God’s just rule will yet triumph and transform our entire planet.

Lord, I lament the evils of those who abuse your poor under cover of law. Stand up and restore justice on behalf of the weak and vulnerable, I pray. May your will be done in my life as it is in heaven. Help me to submit to you as you make me more just, merciful and humble like you. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

How blessed are those you apprentice
instructing them in your Word, Yahveh.


[1] Rev. 6:9-11.

[2] While verses 1-2 function as introduction, the rest of this psalm has a loose chiastic structure, with verses 12-15 forming its center, focusing on the blessedness of spiritual formation, of being discipled by God.

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.