The Abundant Life  (December 19, 2017)

For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol.  Psalm 88:3  NASB

Has had enough – Is your life filled to the brim?  Oh, I didn’t ask if it is filled up with good things.  I just asked if you feel as if it is up to the top.  Yes, it’s true that most of the time this Hebrew word, śābēaʿ, means, “to be satisfied with nourishment,” but in this verse the same word means “to be filled with evil, distress, and misfortune.”  Perhaps the only difference is perspective or attitude.  This double-duty word is ambiguous.  Context makes all the difference.

Isn’t that true of life?  It’s all about context.  Some of the time even things we used to consider blessings feel like curses. Some of the time disasters turn out to be victories.  Some of the time we have no idea which way the wind will blow.  The outcome often depends entirely on our attitude.  And some of the time we feel as if we’ve just had enough, that life has turned into nothing more than a rush to the grave; that our cup is overflowing with the same bitterness that Yeshua’s cup held on that cold evening in the garden.  Sometimes we want to stop at the end of the first verse of Psalm 22 or substitute the first verse of Psalm 23.

Let’s be sure we don’t read this translation of Psalm 88 as if it were only about spiritual matters.  The English rendition of nephesh is incorrect despite its ubiquity. Nephesh is the Hebrew concept of person, that is, everything that makes me who I am.   It’s not just my spiritual dimension.  That would make the word Greek (like “soul”).  It’s about all of my life, and there are certainly times when I feel as if my life has just had all it can take.  It might be about my job, my family, my country, my circumstances, or my state of worship.  Anything will do.  It’s context that matters, isn’t it?

We should also notice the syntax.  The word for “has had enough” is first in this sentence.  David wants to emphasize its significance.  It’s the feeling that is driving this statement.  Sure, David might cognitively know that YHVH is in charge.  He might have a solid theology sitting on the shelf, but at this moment, none of that matters.  As Tournier noted, life is an emotional event.  If we don’t deal with how we feel, we will soon find that we have had enough.

Perhaps you will find it interesting that Yeshua’s remark about abundant living probably used the same Hebrew verb.  That helps us realize that we are in the process of filling up our lives with God’s purposes or with our own.  The life-container can’t hold both at the same time.  What you’re pouring in will determine the ultimate outcome, either drawing close to She’ol or drawing close to the Father.  It’s the same action in a different direction.  On reflection, we might notice that a lot of life is just like this.  Same steps—different goals.  Maybe it’s time to check your emotional compass.

Topical Index: śābēaʿ, to fill up, to satisfy, Psalm 88:3

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Richard Bridgan

“In you, O Yahweh, I have taken refuge. Let me not be put to shame ever. Deliver me by your righteousness. Incline your ear to me. Quickly deliver me. Become my rock of refuge, a fortified keep to save me. For you are my rock and my fortress. So, for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me… Into your hand I commit my spirit… ” Psalm 31:1-3,5