Have you ever read a bible passage that took you by surprise? You can’t believe it’s there in black and white? As if you never saw it before?
Psalm 27 is a popular Psalm. It isn’t tucked away in some obscure book like Obadiah. A gold star to anyone who can quote a verse from Obadiah. My point is, I’m certain I have read Psalm 27. But this time it stopped me in my tracks especially vs.13. I first read the passage in my favorite NIV translation which appears in the graphic. But the amplified version helped me to understand it more fully.
Psalm 27:13-14 (AMP)
13 I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord, In the land of the living. 14 Wait for and confidently expect the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.
And that is one of the richest truths of the Holy Scripture. It is relevant to me and to you, today. Do you believe that? Do you rely on it practically?
NOT One and Done
As a new Christian I read the entire bible. I followed a system where I read some New and some Old Testament each day and I finished it all in a year. What a rich experience. I highly recommend it. But that was then. The Bible is not a one and done book.
Very practically, in my experience, each time I read it, there is something that hits me like fresh revelation. That is because I’m in a different place both literally and spiritually. And as I mature in my faith, the Holy Spirit reveals more of His truth.
If the Bible remains completely mysterious and intimidating, perhaps that’s your tip off that you’re not growing in your faith. And the quickest remedy to that dilemma is to open The Book. If you’d like some direction, please ask.
You can’t handle the truth!
When new to the faith, it’s common to struggle to understand much of the Bible. I think of the famous scene from “A Few Good Men” where Jack Nicolson, Colonel Jessup, is on the stand and being cross examined by the young Tom Cruise. With a memorable face of rage and spittle coming out, Cournel Jessup hollers,“You can’t handle the truth!”
In my opinion, our lack of understanding of the scripture is often due to the fact we can’t yet handle the truth. How are we able to handle it? We handle it, by becoming more mature in our faith. In addition to that, I believe when we earnestly read scripture the Holy Spirit takes on the role of intercessor. That means He is involved in gifting us (translating for us) with new understanding, another example of His grace.
Doug’s midlife crisis
My crazy husband has multiple degrees. When I asked him how many he laughed and said, you mean post graduate degrees? He has an MDIV, THM and DMIN. (You can ask him what all the letters mean). And… He’s not done. His latest dream is to acquire a PhD in New Testament which he begins this summer.
In my view, he is a bit insane. He is pursuing a PhD because… wait for it…he wants to. I joke that if this is his red Ferrari or new girlfriend, I’m Ok with it. This degree requires that he learn Greek and Hebrew more proficiently, write many papers, read a ton and spend a lot of money over five years, all of this, in addition to his very full time job.
He gave me “A Little Book for Bible Scholars” to help me to understand why he would voluntarily subject himself to this. The authors Richards and Dodson encourage students of the Bible to “add substance to their zeal. God’s Word, though simple and clear, has sophisticated depth and richness that only some discover.”
Even though I still don’t completely understand his motivation, I admire his desire. And, I’m extraordinarily proud of him, even if I still think he’s nuts.
In the land of the living
I digress… Back to Psalm 27. the phrase that gave me pause was “in the land of the living.” I couldn’t believe it. I felt the hot tears well up behind my eyes clouding my ability to read until a blink released them down my cheeks. How could I have missed this fabulous promise? I backed up and read all of chapter 27 to understand some context. I even looked to a commentary on the passage to be confident I was reading it correctly. Yes… in the land of the living, means IN MY LIFETIME. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. AMEN!!!!
David was in a tough spot when he wrote this psalm. He was being chased by enemies and foes who intended “to devour” his flesh, armies encamped and wars waged against him. His son Absalom may have even been a part of the plot. People were talking trash about him — “spouting malicious accusations.” To say David was in a dark place is an understatement. And instead of despair, David had hopeful confidence.
I admire David. It takes real faith to be confident in the Lord’s goodness while living in the midst of horrible circumstances.
My circumstances are very different than Davids’. But we both know disappointment and an uncertain future. The enemies I’m familiar with attack my handsome ginger, (Depression, loneliness, anger) and they linger to wreak havoc in our home. I confess that my hope on this side of heaven has wavered. I have not been confident of seeing His goodness in the land of the living. That changes today.
I’ve been praying for Ian as relentlessly as he has been pushing to move out. With two steps forward and one step back, we have made some progress. But because the process is so painstakingly slow, it’s easy to think it won’t happen. It may never happen.
I found other translations helpful. In the MSG translation, for example, it says… “Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit.”
I have never run a marathon. But what if I went to the effort to enter one, to train for one, and quit at mile 25? While it’s true that it’s impossible to know what mile I’m on, (and its possible I’m only at mile 10) what I do know is that I’m not running alone and He guarantees that I’ll finish, in my lifetime, “In the land of the living!”
It must be said that while it’s true I have seen God’s hand consistently throughout our ordeal, I’m still expectant that I won’t miss His declaration of goodness over all of it. It’s true I can’t know the specific outcome. I can’t know if Ian will become fully independent. But I believe with the Holy Spirit’s help, I won’t miss His GOODNESS either. It won’t be something small and insignificant. It will be something that makes me shout from the rafters, see what the Lord has done. See that that the Lord is good, in the land of the living.
Dear Jesus, When I despair, please remind me to take heart. Grant me strength and courage to keep on keeping on. Help me to be confident of Your goodness in my lifetime. While I wait, cause me to expect you to keep Your promise. Amen.