Reading: Psalm 27
Goodness and Perfection
David is an interesting dude. He grows from shepherd boy to warring king, but the psalms reveal an inner, wrestling disquiet. He longs for God. He would set his warring ways aside, but continually begs for the crushing of his enemies. This inner violence clashes with the bare emotion of many of the psalms that are credited to David.
Toward the end of this psalm, which makes fairly routine allusion to God as refuge, protector, and strength, the psalmist says something that caught me off guard. Verse 13: “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
It’s striking for a couple of reasons. One, as we look at David’s reign in scripture, there’s not much of a feeling that it’s building toward any kind of peaceful resolution. He built the kingdom on war and maintains it on war. Any kind of vision toward peacefulness is surprising. More specifically, the phrase “in the land of the living” grabs my ear. It’s not just poetic—the understanding of the afterlife at the time was that the soul passed to Sheol, which simply means “the dwelling of the dead.” No distinction between “good dead” or “bad dead.” One was simply in the land of the living or in the land of the dead. David believes, firmly, that he will see God’s goodness while still in the land of the living.
False hope for a warring king? Maybe. But it reminds me of a phrase we employ in Wesleyan circles—“Christian perfection.” Wesley believed, also firmly, that he would achieve Christian perfection while in the land of the living. Candidates for ordination are asked if they profess the same belief. It’s meant to be the full culmination of our process of sanctification. I’m generally an unflinching realist, so naturally I struggle with this. Perfection? In this lifetime?
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (v14)
Indeed, and amen.
What goals of your faith journey seem impossible to you at times? How do you process those difficulties?
What is the greatest hope in your faith?
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