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Psalm 149

Battle hymn of God’s people

This world’s warfare deals out death and destruction. By contrast, Yahveh crowns the humble with life, while those who resist his love end up in bondage, excluded from the irrepressible joy of God’s song.

Praise Yahveh!
Sing Yahveh a new song
his praise in the assembly of the committed.
2 Let Israel rejoice in its maker
Zion’s children celebrate their king.
3 Let them praise his name in dance
making music to him with tambourine and lyre
4 because Yahveh delights in his people
and crowns the humble with victory.

5 Let the committed celebrate their glory
singing for joy from their beds.
6 With ecstatic praise of God in their mouths
and a two-edged sword in their hands
7 to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples
8 to bind their kings in shackles
all their power brokers in iron chains
9 enacting the sentence written against them.
This is the glory of all those devoted to God.
Praise Yahveh!

Next to last among the Psalter’s five concluding praise psalms, this psalm calls God’s devoted people to sing a new song celebrating his epoch-making victory. By delivering his people—crowning them with victory over their oppressors—their maker, defender, redeemer, and king proves how much he delights in them. And God’s humble people celebrate with song and dance, like the Israelites freed from Egyptian slavery long before.

Many find the militarism of this psalm’s second part jarring: joyful praise and a lethal sword. However, God makes only the “humble” or “meek”—those Jesus later said would inherit the earth—his warriors. They seek God’s honor by fulfilling the prophet’s oracle against rebel nations. This is his people’s glory since they triumph alongside their divine king and know his irrepressible joy.

This psalm adds complexity to the Psalter in two ways. First, its judgment for kings and peoples contrasts with Psalm 148’s call for both to join in celebrating God’s greatness. Second, it presents God’s triumphing over the nations through his people, not through his anointed king, as Psalm 2 has it. Yet this psalm combines with Psalm 2 to frame the Psalter as a whole. Thus, we’re given two unresolved paradoxes, which doubtless left post-exilic Jews wondering just how God’s kingdom would come.

You came to defeat evil, Jesus, as both God’s humble servant and conquering king. And you call me to fight as you fought, with weapons unlike those the world wields, yet weapons so powerful they can demolish enemy strongholds. I glory in your victory and in your calling me to share in it. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Yahveh delights in his people
and crowns the humble with victory.

Psalm 148

Brother sun, sister moon

Secularists claim they belong to themselves, not God. The psalmist calls everyone to join the rest of creation in worshipping the God who made it all. That’s where we find true freedom, joy, and rest.

Praise Yahveh!
Praise Yahveh from the heavens
praise him, heavenly heights.
2 Praise him, all his angels
praise him, all his heavenly armies.
3 Praise him, sun and moon
praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, highest heavens
and you cloud-seas of the sky.
5 Join together in praising Yahveh’s name
for he commanded and they were created.
6 He assigned them their places forever
setting boundaries that cannot be crossed.

7 Praise Yahveh from the earth
you sea monsters and all you ocean deeps
8 lightning and hail, snow and fog
storm winds that obey his commands
9 mountains and all hills
fruit trees and all cedars.
10 Animals wild and tame
crawling creatures and all flying fowl.
11 Kings of the earth and all the nations
the powerful and all leaders on earth
12 young men and women
seniors and children alike.
13 Join together in praising Yahveh’s name
for his name alone is exalted
and his majesty towers over
everything in heaven and earth.
14 He has lifted high the horn of his people
the praise of all those devoted to him
the Israelites, the people near him.
Praise Yahveh!

The inspiration for St. Francis’ “Canticle to the Sun,” this psalm issues the third of the Psalter’s last five calls to praise Yahveh, Lord of all. Evoking Genesis 1, it begins by calling everything in the heavens to praise God: his angel armies, sun, moon, stars, and the rain-filled cloud-seas he created. We moderns consider such things as stars and clouds mute, inanimate objects. But the psalmist knows that, since God fires the sun, its glorious light ascribes greatness to him moment-by-moment. Likewise, the clouds attest to his power and glory.

The psalm’s second half brings in the earthly chorus: oceans, forces of nature, landforms, flora and fauna, and all earth’s peoples. The storm winds so beyond our control unfailingly obey God’s command. Indeed, everything he’s created ascribes glory to him by doing what he created it to do. Thus, as choirmaster, the psalmist cues humankind—earth’s most powerful people included—to join the rest of creation in ascribing unmeasured glory to God.

The psalm ends declaring that Yahveh has raised up the horn of the Israelites who are near him, their horn, surprisingly, being their praise of God. That is, his people’s strength, dignity, fame, and joy lie in their determination to honor God as he deserves.

When you came to reign over your creation, Jesus, we all—Gentile and Jew—rejected you as king. But your unfailing love overcame our hate and won you the name above every name. Lord, let me glimpse more of your glory so that I may wholeheartedly join creation in worshipping you. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Join together in praising Yahveh’s name
for his name alone is exalted
and his majesty towers over everything in heaven and earth.

Psalm 147

Rebuilder of broken dreams

Why would the God who created all the wonders of the cosmos shun the powerful to care for the broken and bleeding? Because besides being perfectly just, the psalmist says, God is unfailingly gracious.

Praise Yahveh!
How good to sing praise to our God!
How pleasant, how right!
2 Yahveh rebuilds Jerusalem—
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and bandages their wounds.
4 He tallies the number of the stars
calling each of them by name.
5 How great is Yahveh:
his power is absolute
his understanding beyond telling!
6 Yahveh lifts up the downtrodden
and throws the self-serving to the ground.

7 Sing your thanks to Yahveh.
Sing your God’s praises on the lyre.
8 He fills the sky with dark clouds
bringing rain to the land
and making grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives all the animals their food
even the young ravens when they cry.
10 He takes no delight in the horse’s strength
or the warrior’s powerful legs.
11 But Yahveh delights in those who revere him
who put their hope in his unfailing love.

12 Praise Yahveh, Jerusalem!
Praise your God, Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your children within your walls.
14 He grants peace within your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
15 He sends his command to earth
his word travels swiftly!
16 He spreads out snow like a wool blanket
and dusts the world with hoarfrost like ashes.
17 He scatters hailstones
like they’re mere breadcrumbs.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
18 Then he gives the word and everything melts
he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
19 He revealed his words to Jacob
his laws and rulings to Israel.
20 He’s done this for no other nation:
none of them have any knowledge of his laws.
Praise Yahveh!

This psalm, second of the Psalter’s five concluding psalms, weaves together calls to praise with the book’s two basic reasons for praise: God’s sovereignty over creation and his gracious redemptive work. Between bracketing calls to praise, the psalmist calls individuals and then the community to praise.

Yahveh rebuilds Jerusalem by gathering Israel’s outcasts, or exiles, healing their broken hearts, bandaging their wounds. He lifts up the oppressed and judges their oppressors, thus, setting the world to rights—granting his people security, blessing, well-being, and satisfaction.

Yahveh’s naming each of the stars—still innumerable to us—attests to his incomparable understanding. He, not Ba’al, the Canaanite fertility god, sends rainclouds to water the earth that feeds earth’s creatures, right down to scrappy raven nestlings. His command paints the trees with fairylike hoarfrost and sends the harshest icy blast. Then his word melts everything to bring on spring. The same word guided Israel in a way that no other nation was guided.

At the psalm’s heart, the God who is signally unimpressed by military might—the warhorse’s strength, the warrior’s stamina—delights, instead, in those who revere him and hope in his unfailing love.[1] This, turning worldly ideas of national power and glory on their head, must have comforted the struggling post-exilic community, threatened by malicious enemies.

You poured your life out, Jesus, to gather outcasts, heal our hearts, and bandage our wounds. For you’re that kind of God. And what excites you is my reverence for you and my hope in your endless grace, however disqualified I feel. I praise you my great creator and redeemer God! Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Yahveh delights in those who revere him
who put their hope in his unfailing love.


[1] The psalm is chiastic:  A: call to praise (vv. 1-2), B: Yahveh restores his people ravaged by the nations (vv. 3-4), C: his sovereignty over creation’s farthest reaches (vv. 4-5), D: Yahveh blesses the oppressed and judges their enemies (v. 6),  E: call to musical praise (v. 7), F: Yahveh, implicitly not Ba’al, grants creation’s fertility (vv. 8-9), F: hope in Yahveh, not Israel’s army, implicitly grants Israel security (vv. 10-11), E: call to the nation to praise (v. 12), D: God blesses his people, implicitly surrounded by enemies (vv. 13-14), C: Yahveh’s sovereignty over earth’s weather (vv. 15-18), B: God blesses his people like none of the other nations (vv. 19-20b), A: call to praise (v. 20c).

Psalm 146

Forever faithful

Even though professing Christians have contributed much to the world’s injustice, many remain happily oblivious to it. But God is not unseeing or uncaring, and he will faithfully act on behalf of the poor.

Praise Yahveh!
Praise Yahveh, my soul.
2 I will praise Yahveh as long as I live
I’ll sing praises to my God my whole life long.

3 Put no trust in powerful people—
mere mortals who have no power to rescue you.
4 When they breathe their last
they return to dust
and that same day
all their big plans come to nothing.

5 How blessed the person whose help is Jacob’s God
who puts their hope in Yahveh their God
6 Maker of heaven and earth
the sea and everything in them.

He remains forever faithful!

7 He gives justice to the oppressed
and food to the hungry.
Yahveh sets prisoners free.
8 Yahveh opens the eyes of the blind.
Yahveh lifts up those bent beneath life’s load.

Yahveh loves those who seek to please him.
9 Yahveh protects the resident alien
and provides for the orphan and widow
but he makes the path of the self-seeking
lead to nowhere.

10 Yahveh will reign forever and ever—
your God, Zion
will rule through endless ages.
Praise Yahveh!

This psalm begins the book’s concluding five-psalm crescendo of praise, listing many things to thank God for. No sooner does the psalmist commit to praising God always than she warns against our perennial temptation to rely on the most powerful people around us. Their help seems so much more real and tangible than God’s. So we’re tempted to rely on them for success, even when doing so involves us in their disenfranchisement of the weak. But the powerbrokers’ powers are short-lived while those who trust in Jacob’s God are forever blessed, regardless of the odds they may currently face. Because Yahveh remains faithful forever.[1]

Yahveh is faithful as both creator and redeemer. He acts on behalf of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the blind, those weighed down, aliens, orphans, widows. He’s also devoted to those who please him, who actively care for those he cares for, and he opposes to all whose self-seeking hurts them.

Because Zion’s God will reign forever, his values are the order of the day. Though our world is far from just now, our Creator-redeemer is determined to make it a place where all can flourish, regardless of their skin color or other supposed defects. Hearing this, how can we help but break out into praise?

Jesus, you freed captives, fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, and lifted up those bent over. You died and rose again to ensure that—against all resistance—your kingdom’s values will prevail on earth and your kingdom never end. Thank you, Lord, that you remain faithful forever! Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

How blessed the person whose help is Jacob’s God
who puts their hope in Yahveh their God…
He remains forever faithful!


[1] The psalm’s chiastic structure puts the focus on its central point, God’s faithfulness: the psalmist’s commitment to praise Yahveh always (1-2), the futility of trusting powerful people (3-4), the blessedness of trusting Jacob’s creator God (5-6b), Yahveh’s eternal faithfulness (6c), the righteousness of (Zion’s) redeemer God (7-8b), the efficacy of trusting Yahveh (8c-9), Yahveh’s eternal reign and praiseworthiness (10).


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.