Devotion from Eugene Peterson’s ‘Every Step an Arrival’
God Gives Us Life in Place of Death
“I said to myself…..
‘Soul, you’ve been rescued from death;
Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears;
And you, Food, were kept from stumbling.’
I’m striding in the presence of God,
Alive in the land of the living!”
One of the ways the Hebrew poets emphasized what they wanted to say was by putting two or three roughly synonymous statements one on top of the other. Here the psalmist parallels “Soul, you’ve been rescued from death” with “Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears” and “You, Foot, were kept from stumbling.” In other words, a dead soul, tearful eyes, and stumbling feet are roughly synonymous. He is not talking about a man embalmed and ready to be dug into the ground; he is talking about himself in the state of biological life but existential death. A medical doctor would certify him alive, but he knows that he is already dead.
The reason the Hebrew could talk this way was because for him the basic fact of life was the reality of God. The Hebrews thought not as a biologist or physiologist but as a theologian. If God was not present and alive in a man’s life, he was dead. The Hebrew author expressed this most forcibly in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God had commanded them not to eat of a certain fruit from a certain tree, for if they did they would surely die. And then they ate it, and they died. But they didn’t drop over dead. Yet the realm of death had invaded their existence.
The “land of the living “ is the place where everything is in correspondence with its environment, living up to its created potential—that is, living openly toward God.
Is life without God merely breathing out of habit, existing but with nowhere to go? Think about his work of giving you life in place of death. Name ways he continues to give you the gift of life.