The Psalms for a New Day website has just been redesigned and the website has moved to a new location. The page you are looking for has moved. Try the link below:
Looking for content on a specific topic?

Psalm 97

New management

While we may not worship gods of wood or stone, our society’s idolatry is endemic in the consumerism and sensualism that impoverish us. And all the while, God calls us to live richly in his love and joy.

Yahveh reigns!
Rejoice, earth!
Celebrate, you far-off islands!
2 Clouds and darkness surround him.
He founded his throne
on doing what’s just and right.
3 Fire blazes before him
consuming his foes all around.
4 His lightning bolts light up the world.
The earth trembles at the sight.
5 The mountains melt like wax
at the approach of Yahveh
at the approach of the Lord of the whole earth.

6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness
and all peoples behold his glory.
7 All those who worship idols are humiliated
who boast about their nothing-gods
for every god must bow before him.
8 Zion hears the news and celebrates
the towns of Judah burst into song, Yahveh
on learning how
you’re putting everything to rights.
9 For you reign supreme over all the earth
exalted far above all rival gods, Yahveh.

10 You who love Yahveh
hate evil.
He guards the lives
of those who are faithful to him
rescuing them from the grasp of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for God’s people
and joy wells up in those whose hearts are right.
12 Rejoice in Yahveh
you God-seekers.
At every mention of it
praise his holy name.

In proclaiming Yahveh king, the psalmist is announcing that the cosmos is under new management. This calls for cosmic celebration. She describes Yahveh in terms of mysterious clouds and darkness, but as a king determined to see justice done and relationships characterized by love. Her picture of his coming to earth reminds us of Sinai’s lightning, consuming fire, and mountains liquified by earthquake. She’s making it clear that Yahveh isn’t messing about—he’s utterly committed to seeing that his will is done on earth as in heaven.

The glories we behold every day in the skies above reveal God’s commitment to a beauty and order that’s right for all concerned. Everyone everywhere sees this, yet many persist in worshipping idols, bragging about their nothing-gods. While the powers behind those gods will all bow before Yahveh, leaving their worshippers humiliated, Zion and its surrounding towns sing for joy.

However, this proclamation goes out under circumstances showing that the change of management isn’t yet fully in effect, that the wicked still threaten God’s people. Nevertheless, he calls us to hate what he hates, celebrate his triumph over evil and praise his holy name. This calls for courage and for faith in God’s promise to protect us from evil and give us light and joy in him.

Lord, I rejoice that you’ve disarmed the evil powers bent on impoverishing us and are fully committed to filling creation with your love. Help me live into that reality—to love as you love and hate the evils you hate. Give me courage, protect me from evil and fill me with joy in you. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Rejoice in Yahveh, you God-seekers.
At every mention of it, praise his holy name.

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.