My wife and I are reading through the Psalms in our evening reading and occasionally a nugget of the Psalms jumps out of the page. Don’t you love it when, after years of reading the “Old Book” passages become alive, reinforcing old teachings or simply warming your heart.
This is the book of Psalms, and it is rich.
I pray I can communicate a portion of the blessing we receive from this wonderful book.
As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?”
And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.
In our previous post, I considered what it means to consider the poor. During the discussion, I found that the term poor, may be understood to be equal to weak, or frail, without strength.
David continues with his cry out to God, referring to himself as one who is in need of healing. Although this healing may be referring to physical healing, I am of the opinion that David is speaking of spiritual healing, for verse 4 speaks of healing of his soul. His soul. Not his body, but his soul.
Many translations actually use the term soul, when David speaks “heal me” and appears as “heal my soul” in the KJV, NKJV, NASB, LSB, ASV, YLT, DBY and the WEB.
So what exactly is David referring to when he mentions his soul. It is the Hebrew word נֶפֶשׁ (nephesh), and is used to speak of breath, or of life. Strangely, I have found that the very same word used for our soul (נֶפֶשׁ) is also used in the Old Testament when referring to the life given to animals. Check out Genesis 1:20; 9:10; 24:30. Dang it, it also speaks of God Himself (Isaiah 1:14), when he refers to His “soul”.
With that very brief introduction to the Hebrew term נֶפֶשׁ, can we understand that David refers to a separate entity beyond his physical body, or simply an energy that is required to animate the body, and that upon death, this “energy” simply runs out? There may be some who would consider this life to be all there is, but even in the Old Testament, there was indications that the person, the soul, (the breath) existed after death.
Let’s consider about Ps 49:14
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.
The psalmist definitely expressed his hope in a redemption from the grave. (Sheol is considered a synonym for the grave in the Old Testament.)
How about Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Or from a different perspective, David expressed hope of seeing his departed baby after death, when he expressed his hope in 2 Samuel 12:23.
But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
The life provided to each of us is a gift of God, that which is our real person. I have heard it said that the body is simply a tent for the person to live in while the tent is available. (Was it Paul that used that metaphor?)
If David is seeking to find healing for his soul, many of the remaining requests have to do with his reputation. His enemies want his name to perish (vs 5), they spread empty (false) words of him (vs 6), and gather together hoping the worst for him (vs 7).
David reaches out to God for healing, for resuscitation of his soul, for a renewal and rescue of his soul, and yet the remaining verses, along with our next post, deal primarily with his reputation and standing in the community. These two aspects of life, in our modern way of thinking, are somewhat separate from one another. We, in the modern church, tend to separate our physical existence from the life reputation we experience.
This does not appear to be the Old Testament mindset. To have a good reputation is to be preferred above great riches. Sadly this is not the common thinking of today’s society.
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold
Proverbs 10:7 The reputation of the righteous leads to blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.
Yet, to have a good reputation brings with it some complex problems in this modern age.
First off, a reputation is based on a set of standards that a society accepts. Decades back, the Decalogue was still a standard our society referred to, but that seems to be slipping away in our North American culture. With that slippage, comes in a variable, feel good, nothing is wrong type of social acceptance, that allows for a good reputation to be assumed, even while in the midst of living in sin.
Secondly, those who fear God and seek to honor His Word, living under His authority and standing up for the good and right found in the Word, are maligned and considered trouble makers. Reputations are often smeared. Of course, a minority may respect the one who stands up, but the general population rejects, demeans and destroys the reputation of godly folk.
As David speaks of his enemies hoping for his worst, for his death, and uttering empty words, imaging the worst for him, we should realize this is an expected condition in our walk with God. True, we are to seek a good reputation, and to maintain integrity (whether others regard it or not), and yet the Lord speaks of an underlying condition we need to recognize as we follow Him.
Rejection by the World
Following Him will bring suffering and rejection from the world. Loss of friends, close relationships with family, damage to careers, and so much more may be part of the journey with the Lord.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12
Thankfully, at this time in our personal lives, we are not experiencing any active persecution, but during the brief times we have, the Lord has always strengthened us, given grace and mercy and brought about good from the pain. He is good. (BTW – please think of those who are under constant persecution – Remember them in your prayers!)
Rejection by the Church
Depending on the church you attend, there may come a time when those who were your closest allies may turn on you, spread slander and boot you out of the fellowship . Jesus warned His disciples of this, to the ultimate end of fellow “believers(?)” killing a believer in service to God!
They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. – John 16:2
Let me gently remind us that if our reputation in destroyed in the sight of others, due to their slander (not our foolishness) we are entering a level of knowledge of the Lord that the apostles and prophets enjoyed, and that the Lord took part in fully and finally.
Remember the words of the Lord in Matthew 5
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, – Matthew 5:44
And of the apostle in Romans 12
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. – Romans 12:17
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Rom 12:19-21
In the midst of social rejection, we are called to love and not hate, to pray and not slander, to feed our enemy and not be overcome of evil. Challenging words for us. We need strength!
Do not “reject the rejection”, but look to the One who understands the inner turmoil and pain you may experience. And rejoice! For He is good. Follow after Him.
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.