Many are the sorrows of the wrong; but as for the one trusting YHWH, kindness surrounds him. Psalm 32:10 (ISR)
Surrounds – The Hebrew word savav is spelled samech-bet-bet. Samech paints the picture of twisting slowly or turning. Bet is the picture of a tent or house. Let’s combine these images. Savav is the picture of something slowly circling the house twice. This Hebrew word picture doesn’t show us a single circumnavigation of the house. It shows us the action of going around and around and around the house. This action is continuous.
When we apply this picture to David’s psalm, we see that the idea here is not simply being held in God’s hand (surrounded). It is the picture of God’s continuous action encircling the righteous. Just as the Torah is a fence around those who uphold it, so God is constantly moving around and around the lives of His children, protecting and guiding them. The Creator circles the earth, searching out those who put their trust in Him in order that He may shelter their lives inside His protection (2 Chronicles 16:9a).
David contrasts God’s reliability with the many sorrows of the wicked. We would do well to reflect for a moment about this contrast. Why do the wicked have many sorrows? On the surface, it often appears that the wicked are blessed. They seem to have the secret to powerful and plentiful life. The psalmist Asaph eloquently described the apparent success of the wicked and the possible envy of their fortunes in Psalm 73. He concludes that it is all a sham. They face judgment. No amount of success in this life will rescue them from that fateful day. But this isn’t the only reason the wicked have many sorrows.
David might agree with his son that money and power make life easier. So, David’s insight can’t be about the inevitable twists and turns of living. Everyone experiences those traumas. What distinguishes the righteous from the wicked is something deeper. In the end, the wicked have no protection. Without a moment’s notice, everything can be taken away. Disaster can strike without warning. No amount of insurance, bodyguards or safety nets can ultimately protect us. As the Greeks clearly understood, in a world of random chance, anything can happen to you. The wicked are exposed to any possibility. So, the Greek poet Theognis said, “Not to be born is the best of all things for those who live on earth, and not to gaze on the radiance of the keen-burning sun. Once born, however, it is best to pass with all possible speed through Hades’ gates and to lie beneath a great heap of earth.” A man without God is alone in the universe. That is a great sorrow indeed! If you want the biblical parallel of this Greek poet, read Ecclesiastes. The Teacher comes to virtually the same conclusion. Without God, it’s all just hot air.
God’s encircling protection means much more than disaster prevention. It means purpose and hope in spite of disaster. My life has meaning because He cares for me.
Topical Index: Psalm 32:10, savav, surround, 2 Chronicles 16:9