Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Subhumanity and Satisfaction

“Deliver my soul … from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”

David spends a portion of the 17th Psalm asking God to deliver him from wicked men and deadly enemies. But he finishes his meditation by asking for deliverance from a third, arguably less offensive group.

This last crowd sounds awfully familiar. Basically, it’s everyone who simply doesn’t appreciate the value of knowing God.

Deliver My Soul

David prays that he might be “delivered” from such people, and he’s not talking at all about salvation from hell here. No, I suspect that in this context “soul” simply means his heart, the seat of his deepest feelings. And who can’t relate? What Christian mother or father hasn’t agonized over a son whose “portion is in this life”, or a daughter who is “satisfied with children” but spiritually inert? And if not a child, then maybe a sister or a cousin or a best friend.

They are worldlings, at home with the pleasures of living and interested in nothing beyond their current experiences.

Hey, nothing wrong with enjoying life, and certainly nothing wrong with kids. As David says here, “You fill their womb with treasure,” and “They leave their abundance to their infants”.

That’s normal. That’s natural. And it’s not enough.

A Drop in the Bucket

To be “satisfied” is to be full. To push yourself back from the table of life and aspire to nothing more than what you already have. But this life is the equivalent of a drop in the bucket of eternity, the merest tip of the everlasting iceberg, a single head of wheat in the prairies, or a solitary star in the expanse of heaven. It is the most trivial part of any cliché we might care to spout about magnitude.

Why on earth would we be satisfied with that? David wasn’t.

The great king had a bunch of children, and he appears to have doted on more than one of them, sometimes to a fault. But if we read his psalms, it is clear they were not the source of meaning in his life. Being a spiritual man, as well as acutely self-aware, mere fatherhood didn’t answer to the longings of his heart. So here he looks past the treasures he has been given to the One who gives treasure, and he contemplates the sight of God himself.


And sure, in life you can get some idea of what God is like. Obedience to his law is a revelation of his character. Perhaps in a limited sense we can “behold” God’s face in righteousness, because his word is convenient human shorthand for everything God is.

But David wants more. For David, satisfaction is waking from the sleep of death to see the likeness, or the “form”, of God.

That’s about as close as we can get, really. The people of Israel didn’t see him. Moses tells them:
“Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.”
No, Israel didn’t see God. They were in no condition to do so. But Moses was, and did. God says, “He beholds the form of the Lord”. That’s what David longed for: the sort of fellowship with God that takes place face to face.

The Life of a Higher-Order Animal

Scripture tells us that mankind was uniquely created in the image of God, with the capacity to know and relate to our Creator. This being the case, to occupy ourselves only with what we can see, taste or touch — to be concerned only with the passing of our genes to the next generation and the feelings associated with that process — is to pretty much miss the point of existence. It is to be content to live the life of a higher-order animal.

The sights, sounds and sensations of earthly life do not have it in themselves to sate a soul created for communion with God. To claim to have found ultimate meaning and contentment in these things alone is not so much wicked as it is subhuman.

Or, as Paul puts it, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.”

Why? Because a soul with no appetite for the loveliness that is found in the person of Jesus Christ is a soul incapable of appreciating anything God has to offer.

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