Unfortunately, no one guessed the verse that I referred to in the previous post. (I hope the next contest will yield a winner.) The challenge had been to guess which verse from the Hallel Psalms had impressed me so much as I read them on Passover. Since I had discussed death in the blog, I assumed everyone would find a verse with the word "death" in it (there are only four) and that I'd be sending out a lot of books.
In Psalm 116, the writer is speaking to the Lord and declares, "You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling"—verse 8. I was impressed with the fullness of the deliverance that is expressed therein. It is even more impressive when we look into the full meanings of the Hebrew words that are translated into English. So much is lost in translation, because of the different natures of the languages.
The word translated "delivered" is rendered "rescued" in my Hebrew/English interlinear Bible. The actual Hebrew word means "to pull off; to strip; to depart"; by implication, it means "to deliver, equip for fight, strengthen, or present." In other words, it means the kind of freedom that comes from having one's chains or shackles pulled off, stripped away, or forcibly removed; the kind of liberty that follows one's rescue from a prison or trap; the kind of deliverance that results in one's being strengthened and equipped to do battle and defend one's self; the kind of release that culminates in one's being presented as a free person.
Notice in all these definitions that it is not simply an escape, nor is it an elaborate and dramatic escape. The verb is what we term in English as "transitive"—the action passes from the subject to the object. The person being delivered or set free is rescued by a greater force than him or her self. The greater force delivers the lesser force.
"For you [Jehovah, J'shua, Jesus, Lord, God, the Holy One of Israel, the Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Triune God, Creator, and Redeemer] have delivered my soul from death . . . "
The word for "soul" is literally "breathing creature, animal or vitality"; the word comes from the verb root which means "to breathe" and "to be breathed upon." Just as God breathed life (vitality) into mankind, so is that life principle in each of us. It is what makes us a living creature. It is more than just having a set of lungs that work; it is more than just the physical operation of the body. For example, the expression is often used in connection with the number of people aboard a ship or plane. It refers to the person as an individual and to people as a collection of individuals.
Often we try to separate what is "soul" and what is "heart" (emotions) and what is "mind" (mental—the thoughts), and so on. But how do we separate those invisible parts of us that make us human—that combine to create our unique and individual personalities. Who I am as a person is what has been delivered from death, my personality as well as my body.
And what is "death"? The word simply means "death from natural or violent causes"; "the dead or hades" [the grave or hell]; figuratively, it means "pestilence" or "ruin." It is the process or act of dying. Last week we spoke about it as that which every person is appointed to. It is part of the human condition. Death awaits us all.
So if our body does die, how can we claim to be delivered from death? That is one of those wonderful paradoxes of the Judeo-Christian faith. The apostle Paul speaks of death as being "absent from the body" and "present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5: 8). Jesus said that whoever believes in Him, "though he were dead, yet shall he live" and that whoever lives and believes in Him "shall never die" (John 11: 25-26).
This is the merging of the spiritual and the natural. God, in His love and grace and mercy and holiness, has made a way—by faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer, not by our works or effort—by which our "soul" moves into heaven the moment our body dies; furthermore, at the appointed time, we will receive that new body which will reunite with our soul (our personality, that which makes us a unique individual). So in one sense we never die, and in another sense, though we (our bodies) die, we live again.
The believer is stripped away from, pulled out of, rescued from, caused to depart away from, and delivered from death. Death has no power over the soul of the believer, and ultimately death has no power over the body of the believer. "For you [Lord] have delivered my soul from death . . ."
Next time we'll go into the second deliverance: "my eyes from tears."
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