In my reflections on the Psalms I have been stalled on Psalm 27 for quite some time and have been spending a lot of time looking for that nugget that really stands out. There’s a lot of good stuff in it. The structure is interesting and I really love the expressed focus of seeking God but it’s verses 13 and 14 that have grabbed me. Here they are from the NIV:
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
The Message captures it like this:
I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with GOD! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with GOD.
At first glance, isolating those verses in Psalm 27 can look like we’re about to lean into a bit of motivational, feel good clap-trap, but there’s something bigger there that I’m interested in and it gets my heart beating a little faster.
How often do we view and promote the goal of the Christian life as being heaven after death and therefore ideas like sanctification get reduced to becoming as good as we can be before we die? Heaven is then used as a feel good security blanket and whilst I understand these sentiments, I think they have a tendency to strip the story of God and us of its real relevance and its potency. I get the sentiment but I feel that it makes the Christian faith of little relevance to the struggles that so many face in our world now. I want a faith that speaks to the grit of this reality.
What those ideas do is they say, yeah this world and life are unjust, yeah it really sucks, but don’t worry, when we die we’ll get to go to heaven. It reduces God to being other-worldly and this just being a place where we hold out until we die and get to ‘heaven.’
Those words from Psalm 27 pull us back and places our hope very squarely in this world and our present existence. I do what I do because I’m confident I’ll see the goodness of God in the land of the living in among all the ups and downs. Jesus echoed this sentiment when he talked about the reality that the kingdom had drawn near. John was ever aware of it has he penned his gospel and wrote about how God ‘moved into the neighbourhood’ (John 1:14 MSG).
God hasn’t vacated his creation. Just as his Spirit brooded over the chaotic waters in the opening verse of Genesis, so that same Spirit is still ever present throughout the land of the living now. Those who tip the balance of their hope towards an ethereal place for their ‘soul’ when they die are missing the weight of scripture. God is in the business of redeeming, reconciling and drawing his creation back to himself. God is in the business of making his goodness known in the land of the living and so that’s the business I’m in and I want to draw others into that journey no matter how tough that walk might be.
Is that goodness fully known now? No, but it will be and when it is, it is in the land of the living where that goodness will engulf everything. That’s the message of the story of Revelation. Revelation 21 and 22 squarely place the fullness of hope in the land of the living and it’s in the land of the living where we can give glimpses of that reality now even among the chaos so brutally expressed in that vision John had and wrote about.
So don’t quit. Don’t quit with God, and if you’re still walking the journey with God, don’t quit the land of the living. Never see this as the place to simply hold on till you die and get to go to heaven. See this is as the place where the reality of the divine can and will be made known. There’s a world groaning to be transformed by that reality – crying out for it. Let’s be part of that goodness being made known in the land of the living. Don’t quit.
Read more of my reflections on the Psalms.
Here’s why I’m walking this journey through the Psalms.