The epigraph of Psalm 59 tells us which time that evil men sought David’s life and meant to kill him that he’s writing songs about today. It reads, “when Saul sent men and they watched the house in order to kill him,” an incident which you can review in further detail in 1 Samuel 19:8-18. And artists, writers, poets: remember that, like David, your life experiences can enrich your work with the manifold abundance of inspiration drawn from reality. So if your stuff is boring–like mine–then try drawing the ire of a demon-haunted king and going on the run while your country is beset with violent national enemies.
This psalm actually answers a question that I wasn’t entirely aware that I had. I’d started thinking lately: what if we die because we run out of money? We can’t afford food or medical attention or supplies–we can’t buy what we need to remain living. Perhaps, even in the case of needing medical technology that doesn’t even exist yet, we die because we can’t afford to develop the technology, we can’t pay the cost to make what we need possible. This is an absurd proposition, but it had started to take hold in my mind.
The sons of Korah are at it again with a song celebrating the king’s marriage. Imagine, for a moment, that you are getting married, and instead of picking out an existing song to be played at your wedding, you decide that no other song in existence will do. A new love song will have to be written to commemorate the occasion. What will be the theme of your song? What will it sound like? Will it talk about shooting your foes with arrows?
You might think, as you begin reading Psalm 41, that David’s speaking from a place of smooth sailing. The first few verses are a blessing, much like Psalm 1 or Psalm 15, for those who are generous to those without means. The message seems to be “God helps those who help the helpless,” which sounds like a message of orientation: fair recompense for good deeds, right? And then David reveals that the helpless man in need of aid is himself. It’s a Psalm of Complaint.
Welcome back to Psalm 18, gang. It should come as no surprise that a psalm of this length contains more material than I can adequately cover in one post. I’d wanted to tackle the issues raised by David’s triumphant destruction of his foes, but I didn’t get to yesterday, so we’re revisiting the passage to deal with its difficult questions, because the Bible is a Chocolate Book. David writes that God has “rescued him from the violent man” (48), but is he himself just like the violent men he counts as his enemies? And is God complicit in his brutality?
In this psalm, as in psalm 5, David urges God to protect him from his enemies and to bring justice to evildoers. However, much like Mitch Hedberg, this time he has taken out the old words and added new ones. For starters, there’s a much more serious threat against him this time. He sets the stage for his petition to God by stating, “Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me, or he will tear my soul like a lion, dragging me away, while there is none to deliver” (1-2). There’s no question that his enemies threaten his very life. Perhaps this is why he proposes to God that, if he has harmed his friends or made anyone his enemy without due cause, God should let his own enemies prevail against him(4-5). Without God’s intervention, it would seem that David is going to die anyway, so he might as well make his case on the strongest basis he can find: God’s own justice.
Actually, “Sad Zone” is probably too tame. “Misery Zone?” “Zone of Inconsolable Sorrow?” “Cry Hole?” There we go. Welcome to the Cry Hole. Perhaps you, too, have been to the Cry Hole. It is a place where it seems like the tears just won’t stop coming. And maybe they abate for long enough that you can go out in public, but then you feel them coming back, and you’re running for the nearest restroom stall to hide your tears in. Every night, like David, you make your bed swim in tears (6). The Cry Hole is a terrible place to be, and if I were currently in the Cry Hole, I would not refer to it so flippantly. I love a good laugh, but there’s nothing to laugh at in the Cry Hole. Which is why I hate being in the Cry Hole.
I think we’re finally ready to wrap up our survey of John. Based on the passages we’ve looked at and the themes of his book, if asked to articulate the gospel in more than a few sentences, I think John would put it something like this: “Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, put death to death on the cross and gave his life in order to give us life.” And he didn’t stay dead, either, which is where today’s passage, the entirety of John 20 comes in. It’s John’s account of Mary Magdalene and the disciples discovering the empty tomb, and Jesus’ post-death appearances. Death doesn’t get the last word. The Word gets the last word.
Why does the account of Lazarus’ resurrection only appear in John’s gospel? Of all of Jesus’ deals prior to his own resurrection, it’s probably the biggest; he raised a dude from the dead, and deals don’t get much bigger than that. How did this not make it into the other gospels? It’s weird.
But Jesus’ acts of healing, as we’ve seen, go hand-in-hand with the gospel. They’re a sign that God is straightening what’s gone crooked in his creation–and what greater sign is there that things have gone south in the universe than death? You think back to the garden of Eden, and after Adam and Eve sinned, God essentially says to them, “Well, you’re gonna have to not live forever now.”
Hey, look. It’s Good Friday. And it just so happens that the next instance of the word “gospel” in Mark is where the woman in Bethany with the perfume anoints Jesus for burial. How about that.