Day 46: Yahweh Ha-Melech

Sing your praise to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and melodious song,

with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn.

Make a joyful symphony before [Yahweh Ha-Melech]!

Psalm 98:5-6

Yahweh Ha-Melech: The LORD the King

A few days ago, the name we studied was Eli Maelekhi, God My King. That is a worthwhile post to read before this one! That King was powerful, rescuing, provisionary – He was a King who took care of His people, and they flourished.

This King in Psalm 98 is all of that – and majestically victorious over all others.

Imagine this: many months ago, the men of the country left for war. Fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins – the whole town is full of nothing but women of all ages, and the too-old and too-young men. The women work the fields and keep the houses, mind the children and the trading, manage servants and stave off trouble. And through it all, they worry.

What could they do if an army marched in now? When the men returned, would their men return? Would their lives continue in freedom, or tomorrow would they be ripped from their homes, ripped from their children, ripped from the land, and forced to serve cruel masters?

News from the battle is rare and unhelpful; runners are the only source of information, and their news is old before it gets here.

But then, one day, over the hills comes one shouting: “The King is coming! THE KING IS COMING!”

That means only one thing: the battle is won, the men are coming home, and the enemy is defeated!

This Psalm is an exaltation – it is written from the moment the King’s arrival is announced, the lift of relief! after the oppressive months of unknown. Have you ever prayed so hard for so long for something and not known what God would say? Has God ever said “yes” after months and years of waiting? This is your psalm; you have seen the runner running and heard him shout, “The King is coming!” and know what it’s like, for the first time in months, to sleep in peace.

So believe it – and sing and dance about it!

Day 45: Yahweh Maginnenu

For the Lord is our defense, and the Holy One of Israel is our King.

Psalm 89:18 (KJ21)

Yahweh Maginnenu: The LORD our Defense (or, perhaps more accurately, the LORD our Shield)

Many years ago when I was first being taught to study the Bible, my teacher continually emphasized the importance of context in understanding Scripture. No verse is meant to stand alone; in fact, the Bible was not written in verses, but rather verse distinctions are simply our way of chopping up one of the longer texts of human history into pieces small enough for our finite minds to absorb.

Here in Psalm 89, I am reminded how important it is to remember that.

I spent a good amount of time this morning reading this one little verse in 53 different translations. Funny thing is, no one seems quite sure exactly what to do with it. (If you haven’t ever used biblegateway.com and discovered all their incredible side-by-side study tools, let me tell ya, you’re missing out! Free and AWESOME tool!)

This little verse is sandwiched between an exaltation of God’s power and love for His people and a desperate plea for God’s favor on behalf of King David. Here it is surrounded by a little of its context in the New Living Translation:

Powerful is your arm!
    Strong is your hand!
    Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.
    Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.
Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship,
    for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation.
    They exult in your righteousness.
You are their glorious strength.
    It pleases you to make us strong.
Yes, our protection comes from the Lord,
    and he, the Holy One of Israel, has given us our king.

Long ago you spoke in a vision to your faithful people.
You said, “I have raised up a warrior.
    I have selected him from the common people to be king.
I have found my servant David.
    I have anointed him with my holy oil.
I will steady him with my hand;
    with my powerful arm I will make him strong.
His enemies will not defeat him,
    nor will the wicked overpower him.

Psalm 89:13-22

Question is, which section does this little verse belong to? Some, like the translators of the KJ21 version, seem to think it belongs with the previous section and is declaring that the true King and Defense of Israel is God. Others think it’s a transition into the next section and is declaring that God has given Israel protection through the king He provided. Which leads me to the next question…

So what? (My favorite question ever, btw)

Why does it matter how we translate this verse anyhow? In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter – much. We have the whole counsel of Scripture to tell us who God is, and we know He both is the real King-Shield of Israel AND provided human kings at their request. So does this verse say God is King or God provided a king? Yes. Something like that.

But it does matter, too. It matters as a way of clearly understanding who God is; is He our King and our Defense (or Shield, as might be a better translation) Himself, or does He provide someone else to be? It is the difference between a parent who shows up at every peewee football game versus the one who sends a nanny in their place; it is good and responsible of a parent to hire a nanny to take care of the needs of their child when they cannot, but it is still not the same, not the face the child craves. My experience with God and my understanding of the rest of Scripture leans me toward the first. Our God is – unequivocally – a personal God. He is personally involved in the minutia of our lives, down to our daily bread! He is there at every game Himself, though we may lose every one.

But why does it matter so much in this particular verse?

Because God is our Defense. He is our shield. He is our “taking up,” as the likely most direct translation suggests; He is that which we carry with us to take for us the force of the blows aimed at us. This is hugely important, because no one else – no king, no stand-in, not the strongest of the strong – could take the blows like He can. Everyone and everything breaks but Him:

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.

Isaiah 54:17

Behind Yahweh Maginnenu and only behind Yahweh Maginnenu, The Lord Our Shield, we are utterly safe. This is why, I think, the Orthodox Jewish Bible translates it this way for His chosen nation, so that they may understand that whatever human king He places over them, it is still His Kingship that prevails, and ultimately His protection that truly saves them:

For Hashem [God] is our mogen [shield]; and the Kadosh Yisroel [God of Israel] is Malkeinu (our king).

Tehillim 89:18 (OJB)

It matters that this God of ours is our shield-king first, because even when our kings fail and our walls fall as is lamented later in this psalm, Yahweh Maginnenu does not. Ethan the Ezrahite, human author of this psalm, establishes first the kingship and power of God so that it is clear that though Israel’s human king is in decline (and Ethan’s prayer is for him to be revived), Israel is not without hope, and will never be without their King. God is King, God established David as king by covenant, and God alone can revive him – and because of that covenant, Israel has hope He will.

Our hope is in the same; not a man, but the King. As long as we have Him, we have hope. We have a promise. We are safe. ❤

Day 44: Elohim Tsebaoth

Turn us again to yourself, O [Elohim Tsebaoth].
    Make your face shine down upon us.
    Only then will we be saved.

Psalm 80:7

Elohim Tsebaoth (or Sabaoth)*: God of Hosts (or God of Heaven’s Armies)

*This name of God is directly related to Yahweh Sabaoth used by Hannah, Samuel’s mother. If you haven’t already, the post from Day 22 is worth a read!

Has anyone ever looked at you like that, with their “face shining”? Like when they look up and see you, and just the sight of you lights them up? Now imagine that person, with that expression, and picture that as the face of the top commander of the most powerful military in the world when he sees you. By day, the most powerful person in the universe. By night, completely lit up by the sight of you. Imagine if that person – was the God who commanded hosts of angels, Elohim Tsebaoth.

Now imagine you get kidnapped. HA. Poor kidnapper.

Day 43: El Maelekhi

Your procession has come into view, O God—
    the procession of [El Maelekhi] as he goes into the sanctuary.
Singers are in front, musicians behind;
    between them are young women playing tambourines.
Praise God, all you people of Israel;
    praise the Lord, the source of Israel’s life.

Psalm 68:24-26 (NLT)

El Maelekhi (or Melech): God My King

Here in the heart of David we find the secret to his remarkable life; this man who was a king of men had a King of his own. He rarely considered himself the ruler of Israel (and those rare moments ended in disaster!), but rather considered God the ultimate Ruler, the Decision Maker, Defender, Justice-serving King of Israel.

It is the usual view of a king to see him as a taker; a man who takes men for soldiers, takes work from servants, takes food from harvesters, takes money by taxes, takes, takes, takes. There are enough selfish kings in history to support this view! But God is not this kind of king, and neither should any king be.

What is a king, as he is meant to be? In ancient England, they called him a “gold-friend,” the one who was tasked with providing his companions with the resources they needed to live. It was his job to find new resources, organize the men who followed him in such a way that these resources could be obtained, and distribute them evenly and fairly amongst those who had worked for them. His hall was a place for his people to find refuge and hospitality when they were far from home, his table was open to many more than himself, and his strength was theirs to use when their own was not enough. He was a man who belonged to everyone but himself.

Of course few men made this kind of king. It is far from an easy thing to be, and even the strongest and wisest and most noble among us can’t be enough for everyone. But God is a King unlike any on this earth; His resources are endless, His doors are open to the empty-handed, and His strength is never spent. None who come to Him are ever refused; in His great hall, there is room for us all.

David knew like few other men the limitations of an earthly king; he knew he was not enough for his people. So he told them, over and over again, where to go when he failed them. He led them to their real King; he led the processions to the house of God, where all needs are met, the source of Israel’s life! El Maelekhi: God Our King.

Day 42: El Yeshuatenu

Praise the Lord; praise [El Yeshuatenu]!
    For each day he carries us in his arms. 

Psalm 68:19 (NLT)

El Yeshuatenu: God of Our Salvation (or God Our Savior)

Embedded in El Yeshuatenu is Yeshua; do you recognize that name? It was the name an angel handed to a young virgin the day he told her she would have a child from God, without a man. It was the name God gave His own Son. “El” means God; “tenu,” then, must mean our. This verse written in the Psalms, then, hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, in our language could say, “Praise the Lord; praise God Our Jesus.”

Whaaaat.

Did David, the Psalmist, know? No, I don’t think he did. He knew God was our Savior, and that is why he called Him by this name. He certainly knew the name Yeshua because it was a common one, having belonged first to Moses’ successor, the man who led the Israelites into the promised land itself where he, David, dwelled in strength and prosperity, where he knew this name in a much different context than we do. Nothing about this appearance of our Messiah’s name in the Old Testament, then, was humanly intentional. Isn’t it beautiful how God hid this in there only for us to find it hundreds and thousands of years later? The proof, the never-ending evidence that He intended our salvation all along! His joy in burying these treasures in His Word for us to find and His absolute pleasure in seeing us find them is that of a Father, an ‘Ab, telling His children a masterful story and delighting wholeheartedly in our delight.

And also He uses this name to open our minds to see, to prove again, that His Son is Who He said He is. He has been all along. He has been El Yeshuatenu, God our Salvation, from the beginning of time and before. God our Jesus still, as always, carrying us every day in His arms.

I and the Father are one.

John 10:30

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIV)

Day 41: ‘Ab (Abba)

[‘Ab] to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
    he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Psalm 68:5-6

‘Ab: Father

This is God. Can any one word better describe God’s relation to all that He has made than “Father?” There is a pile of “gods” in this world, but this is a characteristic I have never heard of in any of them but Him: that He concerns Himself so deeply with orphans to be called their Father, with widows to be called their defender; that He does not demand strength from His created, but is strength for them; that His heart is to protect and provide for the weak who cannot protect and provide for themselves. He alone walks against “the natural law” that says only the strong survive, and He – THE Strong – defends the weak.

Because our God is not a predator.

Predators attack the young, weak, and lonely. They trap the unsuspecting and bind them up for later. Strength used for its own appetite is a terrifying thing! Can you imagine a God who consumed the weak, and what a terrifying person He would be?

But our God is not a predator.

Our God is ‘Ab. Our God is Father: defender, provider, facilitator, joy-bringer. This is God.

Day 40: Elohim Chaseddi

But as for me, I will sing about your power.
    Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
    a place of safety when I am in distress.
O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
    for you, O God, are my refuge,
    Elohim Chaseddi.

Psalm 59:16-17

Elohim Chaseddi: God of My Mercy

David wrote this as a rabbit in a trap, a man under siege. His house, which should have been a place of safety, was surrounded. Men with orders to kill him had laid an ambush – perhaps because none of them dared challenge in open combat a man who had killed a giant? But that was their blindness, their folly, if so; the God who gave David victory then was no farther away now.

So they waited there for him to step out of his home, his refuge, out of his place of safety, and then they would attack! But like a turtle who carries his home with him always, David had a home they knew nothing about; God was David’s safe place, and He went with him everywhere.

When David’s sentence was death, then, God with His presence suspended it. When men would not show mercy, God stepped in. Mercy comes from God, not from men, because He is Elohim Chaseddi.

Day 39: Elohim Ozer Li

Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Pay attention to my plea.
For strangers are attacking me;
    violent people are trying to kill me.
    They care nothing for God. Interlude

But [Elohim Ozer Li].
    The Lord keeps me alive!
May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
    Do as you promised and put an end to them.

Psalm 54:3-5

Elohim Ozer Li: God is My Helper

I wish I lived with the conviction of David. The man knew when he was right, and he wasn’t afraid to be. He knew because he was following God, and God is never wrong. So long as he stood on the side God stands on, he was right.

David’s Psalms can sometimes seem so one-sided to me, so vengeful and vindictive. “Let those people BURN!” kind of attitude – doesn’t that seem a bit… unmerciful? But David also had the kind of enemies he looked in the eyes, smelled their breath, heard their weapons tear through the air as they tried to rip his soul right out of his body. They came after him when he was tired and hungry and had to use the bathroom; they kept coming whether he fought or ran, whether he won or lost, whether he wanted to fight or not. At some point, we all tire of fighting. So maybe David was angry, maybe he was vengeful – but he was also tired, I think, and just wanted it all to end. He had fought enough battles to know some only end in death.

This is the moment when he cries out to Elohim Ozer Li. This is the moment we cry out to Him, too. The moment we’re too tired to carry on, when we don’t want the fight, when we just want it to end! But the good news? This was not David’s last psalm. This was not David’s last psalm. Because there was more to David than the look in his eyes, the smell of his breath, the sound of his sword. David was not fighting alone. God helped. And God – n-e-v-e-r – loses.

Day 38: El Simchath Gili

Declare me innocent, O God!
    Defend me against these ungodly people.
    Rescue me from these unjust liars.
For you are God, my only safe haven.
    Why have you tossed me aside?
Why must I wander around in grief,
    oppressed by my enemies?
Send out your light and your truth;
    let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you live.
There I will go to the altar of God,
    to [El Simchath Gili].
I will praise you with my harp,
    O God, my God!

Psalm 43:4

El Simchath Gili: God of my Exceeding Joy (or God the Source of All My Joy)

What I love most about this name of God is where it is found. Psalms 42 and 43 speak so deeply to my heart because these declarations of faith in God’s goodness don’t come before the struggle or after the struggle, but in the midst. They’re like a rock tumbler of emotion; “I’m drowning in grief!” “God is my life!” “I’m so discouraged!” “God is my exceeding joy!” There is a fierce kind of faith that holds tenaciously to God’s goodness while it is being pummeled, and that is the kind I want.

Because. Because here it is – here in Psalm 43 is the moment the God-lover turns his eyes away from his hope that the world will bring him joy, and here he turns his eyes to God to do that instead. He knows where to go to find healing and joy: “Let them lead me to the place where You live.” God is love. Peace dwells in His presence, and He is the source of ALL our joy! Because Heaven is not some place where the streets are made of gold and soothing music fills them while people chat over a feast – no. Heaven is not a place at all; Heaven is a person, and wherever He is becomes Heaven because He is there.

That is a radical statement, so allow me to defend it. About a year ago, I posed this question to a room full of teenagers: “Imagine you are making plans for your Saturday, and you are invited to two events. An acquaintance invites you to go to a movie you’ve been dying to see with a group of people you don’t know very well and don’t have a lot in common with. Your crush invites you to go with him or her to volunteer to pick up trash along a trail in the blistering 90 degree heat as part of a community service project. Where are you going to go?” They didn’t even hesitate: to pick up trash, duh. Because who you’re with affects your enjoyment more than where you are or what you’re doing. Our hearts were made for relationship, and especially for relationship with God.

Why does the Bible talk about Heaven as a real place, then? Because it is. There is a place where God dwells fully visible to all, where He is the physical, visceral light, where He feasts with those He loves and walks down streets of gold, where the River of Life flows from His presence, where there is a house with enough rooms to house us all right there with Him. Because wherever God walks, life springs up around Him. Whatever His light falls upon becomes dazzlingly beautiful in Him. But none of it would be Heaven if He wasn’t there; it is Heaven because He is there. Perhaps I should say it like this, then: Heaven is not just a place; it is the place in the presence of a person, the person. El Simchath Gili, God of My Exceeding Joy! And if we know Him here on earth, though this mortal world and our sinful hearts may partially conceal Him, then we know a little of what Heaven’s joy is like. 🙂

Day 37: El Chaiyai

Now I am deeply discouraged,
    but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
    from the land of Mount Mizar.
 I hear the tumult of the raging seas
    as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
 But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
    and through each night I sing his songs,
    praying to [El Chaiyai].

Psalm 42:6b-8

El Chaiyai: God of My Life (or God Who Gives Me Life)

This defiant, raw faith is the reason I love the Psalms. For the past year or two, when I have been honest, I have described the way I’ve been feeling like this: caught in a riptide. I just get my feet under me before the next wave rolls back out to sea and takes the floor with it. It pulls me, and I fight with all my might, but I still feel I am losing ground. When all around my soul gives way… as your waves and surging tides sweep over me… I am clearly not the first to feel this way.

But each day! Each day! Day in, day out, no exception, “each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me.” This is not the God who makes things easy, but this is the God who gives me life. He is My wave breaker, My rock that doesn’t wash out to sea, the reason I am not washed away. He is the reason I live, but not just live; the life He brings is fresh and new every day and never fades. Everything fades but this. This life is not the fading life of earth! It is the eternal life in the presence of the God of Life – our God.