Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Third Psalm: An Addendum

*I am writing this separately from the previous commentary on the third psalm for two reasons. The first is that the premise of this post didn't fit well thematically with the rest. The second is that it might be a stretch as far as sound interpretation. So, although I always support viewing my commentary (or any other commentary) with healthy, intelligent skepticism, I welcome it in this post even more than usual.

As I read the third psalm, I was struck by the beauty of a metaphor, or, perhaps more accurately, a euphemism in other biblical texts. The idea of sleep being somewhat analogous to death would add great depth in understanding how the temporal redemption that David experienced is a picture of the spiritual redemption that the New Testament writers champion. From what I can find, the word sleep is used quite clearly in this analogous way twice by Old Testament writers: Daniel 12:2 and Psalm 90:5. It is used at least eight times in the New Testament. Of the two Old Testament texts, only Daniel connects the metaphor with the idea of resurrection.

This is the shaky, but not completely unprecedented, ground on which I choose to continue. The opening of the third psalm speaks of opposition that claims there is no deliverance from its power. Death is the greatest opposition of this kind. The huge amount of resources that we spend masking the effects of aging and evading death, until it refuses to be evaded, provides proof that we feel this opposition acutely.

The wonderful beauty of this metaphor forms as we consider the faith that David shows in this time of trial. He is able to surrender himself to sleep, perhaps the second most vulnerable of human positions, with peaceful ease. David's faith in God's ability and will to save him is so absolute that he rests soundly. As we make the comparison, we see the believer faced with death, the most vulnerable of human positions. He is able to approach it with the same peaceful ease because, like David, the believer has faith that his salvation is not dependent on his own performance, but is only dependent on God's power and will to save those who acknowledge the truth of the situation.

As David sleeps soundly, the believer dies with no fear, and then the miraculous occurs. David wakes knowing that God has protected him and will continue to protect him, but the hope for the believer is so much more than this. The believer wakes from death to eternal life, as if life on earth were just a short dream. How magnificently poetic that whether referring to the resurrection of the believer or the temporal salvation of David, the reason and way is clear: "For the Lord sustains me," the psalmist proclaims. Only God could bring safety to David, and only God can bring eternal life to the believer. The tangible redemption that David experienced is a microcosm, a type, a shadow of what God's plan for his people was all along. So we can end triumphantly with the psalmist's final lines. "Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people!"

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