Category Archives: God

Consequences of Sin

let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, 
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust.
Selah.(Psalm 7:5 ESV)

Only the righteous can stand before God. “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers” (Psalm 5:5 ESV). 

We see in the Hebrew Scripture instances where an adversary stands before God and challenges Him in how He treated people. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them” (Job 1:6 ESV; see also Job 2:1) Satan is a proper noun, not a name, and means adversary, one who withstands or stands against. Twice in the book of Job, a spiritual being who was an adversary contests God’s dealings with Job, whom God calls a righteous man. Twice, God gives the adversary permission to deal with Job in a harsh manner, to test Job’s resolve to serve God. 

In another instance Jesus tells Peter that an adversary has asked for him.“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:31-32 ESV). If this adversary is the devil, he will finally be driven away from God and imprisoned for eternity. “[A]nd the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10 ESV).

Only God is righteous. He gives His righteousness to those who are His. He embeds His righteousness in those He creates and then in those who believe the Gospel. Those who rebel against God cannot compromise His righteous character. The moment they rebel and sin they cease being righteous before Him. For God’s enemies to find any evidence of sin in God they can use to accuse God of unrighteousness gives them control over Him. Jesus, in this Psalm, makes a statement that gives His adversaries control if they find such evidence of sin in Him. “[I]f there is wrong in my hand,” (Psalm 7:4 ESV) then let the enemy be victorious. 

The Deceiver looks for anything in God and those who are His to use against Him, and them, to claim victory. There is nothing. If there were, then Jesus tells us God cannot be God. If there is sin in God, in His Son, the King of kings, then let it pursue and overtake, trample His life and lay His glory in the dust. “Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust.”

Pursue means to persecute and is the same word used in verse 1. “O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me” (Psalm 7:1 ESV). Overtake means to reach out and secure, to attain. To tramplemeans to tread upon, to step on and stand on and laymeans to settle upon, dwell upon. These three words show absolute victory over an enemy. 

Being God’s enemy means God is viewed as an enemy. Those at war do not stop until they have utterly defeated their enemy. His pursuers and adversaries torment Jesus’ soul, that which is His very being, that which make Him who He is, His breath and substance, passions and desires, His moral character. Jesus’ enemy will examine on His life, that which is growing, active and fresh, the eternal energy which animates God. Jesus’ enemy, if there is found in Him any unrighteousness, will succeed in destroying God by overshadowing His glory, His splendor and honor, the eternal abundance of the riches, dignity and reverence due God because He is God. Should it find anything unrighteous in God, in His Son, then it has the upper hand and will defeat God.

This will never happen. The enemies of God cannot succeed in fining sin in God because there is no sin in God. There is no sin in His Son. Though Jesus walked the earth in the flesh and suffered the temptations of His enemies, He did not sin. He was God and Man the way God originally intended, a sinless servant.“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17 ESV). He alone, because He is sinless, is able to offer the sacrifice which covers our sin before God’s eyes. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV). If there is sin in Jesus he could never accomplish His eternal purpose. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV).

Jesus stood before kings and rulers and was condemned by them to death, though He was innocent of any crime against man or against God. They, led by the Deceiver, wanted Him dead because they want God dead. For some reason, the Deceiver thought they could kill Jesus. God cannot die. God cannot sin. None will take His place.

For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right. (Isaiah 45:18-19 ESV)

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God’s Enemy

let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, a
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust.
Selah. (Psalm 7:5 ESV)

Who is God’s enemy? Enemy means a personal foe that may be an individual or a corporate group, whose main characteristic is hatred. God’s enemy is an adversary whose intent is to usurp God’s ultimate authority and destroy all which represents Him.

God alone is uncreated and created all things. Does this mean He created His own enemies? Before He created the heavens and the earth and all contained in the universe, there was nothing but God. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2 ESV). We do not know, and He does not tell us, when He created the heavenly beings, mostly called angels, who dwell with Him in eternity. They are created beings. We are told He created Man in His image. 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

We are not told if angels carry the image of God. Angels are intelligent, moral, active beings, capable of making decisions. Yet, the theological assumption of many is that angels do not have the total image of God. This is an assumption which cannot be verified with Scripture or in nature. The writer of Hebrews tells us angels are God’s servants, as is all creation, sent to serve those created in His image. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14 ESV). Peter tells us angels “long to look”into the grace and salvation offered to a rebellious people spoken of by the prophets of Scripture (1 Peter 1:10-12).

In the Garden of Eden was a creature, called a serpent, who was a created being who spoke to, lied to, and tempted our first parents. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’” (Genesis 3:1 ESV). We assume the Deceiver, a heavenly being who rebelled against God, inhabited a dumb creature, a snake, and spoke to Eve, a person given the image of God. Within free-will, and within both Adam and Eve, was the possibility of rebellion, the ability to obey out of love or disobey out of self-interest. Within the Deceiver, a created being, was the desire to destroy the relationship between every person and God, who created all people for relationship with Him. Eve saw, and reasoned correctly, that the fruit of the forbidden tree“was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6 ESV). She reasoned incorrectly that God was withholding something from her. Her flesh, the intentions of her heart and her pride in desiring something not given to her by God, influenced her decision to rebel. “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16 ESV). She was tempted and succumbed to the temptation and sinned. Because Adam followed her into sin, sin affected all their offspring, which includes all people except Jesus, separating everyone from God.

There are now three enemies of God, actively fighting against Him seeking to destroy anything created and designed to serve Him. First, people are God’s enemies. Yet, God created people for relationship by giving them His image. He, therefore, offers a means to reestablish that relationship, changing those who are His enemies into those who actively serve and love Him. Secondly, sin is His enemy. Sin acts like it has a personality by taking on the personality of the sinner. God told Cain “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7 ESV). Sin enslaves people. Finally, the Deceiver is an enemy of God. One of God’s promises is to destroy the Deceiver. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV). The fulfillment of this promise is in Jesus Christ. 

We were enemies of God but are now servants. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10 ESV). Sin will finally and ultimately be destroyed. The Deceiver will be cast away from God’s presence. “[A]nd the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10 ESV). God’s enemies cannot succeed.

Innocent

O LORD my God, if I have done this,  
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause, (Psalm 7:3-4 ESV)

David cannot make the claim stated by this verse. Though he is the author of the Psalm and did great things for Israel and for God, his hands were covered with blood. Both those who were David’s friends and enemies suffered at his hands. 

While a young man, after his induction into the service of Saul, David earned more respect and esteem from the people than the king. Saul, angry, and going insane at losing the honor that comes with the throne to any person, tried multiple times to kill David. Fleeing Saul, David declares to Saul’s son, Jonathan, his friend, his innocence. “Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?” (1 Samuel 20:8 ESV). In his early life there was nothing any could hold against David. Later in his life, after he ascends the throne vacated by king Saul’s death, is different. For example, David murdered one of his own soldiers, Uriah, a man supremely loyal to him, to cover up his adultery with the Uriah’s wife (2 Samuel 11). David knew his sin and repented (Psalm 51). He still continued to sin and then to repent.

Every person who has ever lived, or will ever live, sins and is guilty before God. God takes note of how we treat both our friends and our enemies.  Repaid means to deal out, to recompense and give bountifully. The word friend is actually not used in this verse put is a translation of a word that means those with whom we have a pledge and bond of peace. To repay a friend with evil, which means all the word implies, suggests a solemn agreement between two has been arbitrarily violated. Or what of his enemies, those who cause him distress and try to bind him, press hard against him, treat with hostility and harass him? Has he plundered them without cause, which means to deliver up to death or take away for an empty reason, for vanity, just because he can. His actions motivated by the intention of his heart, is focused on self, not focused God. Self becomes the standard by which others are measured and judged.

Jesus, speaking through David, asks God to examine His heart and judge His actions. The Son of God stands before God willing to face any test which would reveal any sin. “If I have done this,” if anything in me shows the evidence of “wrong in my hands,” which is iniquity, unrighteousness, injustice, violently criminal acts against God and other, carried out by any part of my being. Are there any sinful actions for which I am accountable? If sin is present at any time then there is sin in the heart that breeds more sin. In Psalm 7:3-4, Jesus is asking to God to let happen to Him that which happens to those who sin. “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:9-10 ESV).

There is One, the Righteous Man of these Psalms, who does not sin. He cannot sin. Though tempted by the Deceiver, weakened in His human flesh, surrounded by a world which tugs and pulls toward sin, He did not sin. Why is it important Jesus is sinless?

God taught His people that the physical animals sacrificed for sin must have no blemishes (see Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 1:3; Numbers 6:14). A sacrifice for sin is required to cover the sins of the one offering the sacrifice.  Annually, the blood of a lamb was poured out over the cover, the mercy seat of the ark, containing the broken Ten Commandments. God would look down and see the blood and not the laws which were broken and violated. Before the priest could do this for the people he had to cover his own sin. All people sin whether priests and kings and those who fall under their authority.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV)

Jesus had to be prefect so the sacrifice He offered would not first be for Himself. Only God is perfect and sinless, and Jesus is God in the flesh. No creature is capable of becoming sinless once sin corrupts his life. Jesus, God in the flesh, came specifically to die as a sacrifice for the sin of those created in His image. His death fulfills the requirements of the law. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV). God’s law is not just the written, verbally declared commandments given in the Hebrew Scripture. God’s law is embedded in the hearts of those who are His. Intimate knowledge of the eternal law of God is given as an integral part of the image of God. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14-15 ESV). Those who sin know they sin. Jesus did not sin. Standing before God, He opens Himself to judicial examination, declaring His innocence of all wrongdoing, making Himself the only sacrifice worthy and capable of fulfilling the promises of God.

God, The Deliverer

O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; 
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 
(Psalm 7:1 ESV)

There is only One God.

In the beginning of time, before there was anything, there was God. He is uncreated, existing eternally. God is not constrained by time or anything created which is bound by time. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2 ESV). 

Theology finds a reasonable doctrine of the Trinity within Scripture. God is Three in One yet exists as One God in three persons. God, the Father, who created all things through His Word, God the Son, who brought all things into existence, and God the Spirit, who breathes into creation making it alive. Creation points to God. 

Man, created in the image of God, is the greatest evidence for the truth of God. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26 ESV). There is only One God and all of creation points to Him. Man’s image, with all of the intricacies of the image, both spiritual and physical, is ageless evidence of the truth of the reality of God.

David begins Psalm 7 with a declaration of God. “O LORD, my God.” He declares God’s name, YHWH, first used 11 times in Genesis 2. His name is known from the beginning of time. David uses a combination of two words to describe God. YHWH means existing one. God alone existed before anything else. He adds the word elohiym, which means divine one, God, ruler and judge, but may also be used for the lesser gods and idols worshipped by people who hate God. Thus, God, the Existing One is given as a name and proper title of the only true God.

Only One God has the power and ability to deliver from sin and from the enemies of those who are citizens of His kingdom. To deliver means to tear away, strip off, snatch off, recover, rescue. Those who pursue with the intent of overtaking and destroying are relentless in their goal to hound and capture those who are their enemies. For the enemies of God are God’s enemies and are enslaved by sin. [T]he wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 ESV). They can do nothing but sin. Like Cain, sin captures people. “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7 ESV). Sin’s desire is to totally possess every person. God cannot abide sin in His presence. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4 ESV). There is a war between those who are God’s and those who are not God’s. On one side all die, for sin takes no prisoners. The other side is filled with those rescued and delivered from sin.

We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, not of the dark, worldly, rebellious kingdom ruled by sin. We are chosen by God, set apart by the Spirit of God, covered with the blood of Christ. As citizens of His kingdom, our allegiance and commitment is to follow and obey Him. Peter writes to all Christians in the known world. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV). As citizens of God’s kingdom, we are at war with our own flesh, with the world and with the Deceiver, who wars to separate everyone from God.

Eternity is our home. God will finally deliver us from the world that continually attacks and pursues us to do us harm. Still, God has left us in the world for two reasons. We are to witness about Him and His wonder and power. He is also preparing us for eternity with Him. As citizens of His kingdom our every action shows we are His. “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV). God created us for Himself. He will not leave us or abandon us but will rescue and deliver us from the assaults and relentless pursuit of our enemies.

Introduction to Psalm 7

A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD 
concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite. (Psalm 7:1 ESV)

Who is Cush, the Benjaminite? What did he say? Why was David concerned about the words of this man? What are the circumstances of the confrontation between Cush and David? When did this happen? There are many unanswered questions about Cush in Scripture. 

In the Hebrew Scripture Cush means one of three things. First, Cush is the country of Ethiopia, a land south of Israel. “The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush” (Genesis 2:13 ESV). Secondly, Cush is a name, first used for a grandson of Noah, the son of Ham (see Genesis 10:6). Finally, cush means black and may refer to skin color. The tenor of this Psalm suggests the person David is speaking about has an unrighteous character. However, there easily could have been a person, a Benjaminite, named Cush who opposed and challenged David. If he is a person then he is mentioned in Scripture only here.

Cush spoke against David. His words, and even his business and occupation, were against David. He was a vocal, active opponent of David. David was the enemy of Cush. Very possibly, Cush may have been a servant of king Saul, who continued his loyalty and allegiance for Saul after his death and David’s coronation. Saul was a Benjaminite and Cush may have been a close relative. In any case, it appears that Cush violently accused, criticized and blamed David for something and David responded with a song to God.

We do not have every circumstance of David’s life recorded in Scripture. Nor do we have every circumstance of the life of Christ recorded in the Gospels. Neither the annals of the kings of Israel or the Gospels are designed as a biography of the people mentioned. We are given information about these people so we might know God and recognize how He works. David sinned, reaping the consequences of his sin. Jesus never sinned, yet, felt He the brunt of the eternal consequences of sin.

We know that the Deceiver (from Genesis 3) is also an accuser, who brings charges of wrongdoing against those who belong to God “day and night.” “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10 ESV). We know that he (the Deceiver) lies and tempts people to walk away from the God who created them. He is a murderer and cannot speak the truth. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 ESV). From the beginning, when the serpent tempted Eve and Adam to rebel against God, the Deceiver has done everything he can to defeat God and destroy those created in God’s image.

David is speaking the words of Jesus in this Psalm. We know Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Man. Speaking to Mary about the child she would bear, Gabriel called Jesus the Son of God. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35 ESV). Jesus called Himself the Son of Man and had authority to forgive sin. “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic— ‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home” (Matthew 9:6 ESV). God, in the Psalms, calls Jesus His Son and makes Him King over the rebels who would throw off His authority.“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” “I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:6-7 ESV). God’s decree includes giving Jesus, His Son, dominion over all creation (Psalm 2:8-9; Psalm 8:6-8). Yet, even though He is the Son if God with God’s full authority, people will still attack Him and those who identify with Him. 

Mourning

I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. (Psalm 6:6 ESV)

Emotional duress is more exhausting than physical pain, bringing depression, despondency and even hopelessness. Weary means toil and labor, exhaustion from constant activity. Moaning  means sighing, an expression of grief or distress, to groan. The Psalmist is feeling internal grief because of imminent death. 

As king Hezekiah lay dying, he turned his face to the wall and prayed God would spare his life. “Like a swallow or a crane I chirp; I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!” (Isaiah 38:14 ESV). He was afraid of death and begged God through tears to allow him to live. “‘Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isaiah 38:3 ESV). After God gave him more years Hezekiah, showed why he was afraid of death. He had great wealth and no concern for his family. He showed off his wealth to the Babylonians. Isaiah prophesied what would happen.

Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 

Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:17-20 ESV)

Jesus faced death, setting His face to go to Jerusalem where He knew what would happen and the death He would endure. As He approached Jerusalem, He wept over the city and its people.“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19:41-42). Wept means to mourn and lament, to bewail, to shed tears as evidence of emotional pain and grief. Jesus felt anguish over the sum total of the act of sacrifice He would offer to God, His Father, for a people who cared nothing for either God or Him. He felt grief for the people, whose eyes and ears were closed and who refused to come to Him, repenting of their sin. Jesus performed signs and miracles and many did not believe Him. In a manner of speaking, Jesus flooded his bed with tears and drench(ed) my (His)couch with my weeping as He lived with and ministered to an obstinate people.

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:43 ESV; see Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:14)

Jesus showed His love for His people by dying for them. His weeping over Jerusalem was the release of emotion built over time. Jesus always knew what He was to do in Jerusalem that week and it grieved Him.

As He walked through the land, teaching people, performing miracles, and calling people to repentance, He saw they did not understand what He was doing. The religious leaders hated Him and conspired to murder Him. Many, being fed, wanted to make Him king, so He would continue feeding them. Many came to be healed. Many followed to see and be entertained by what He did. To be sure, there were many who believed Him and followed Him from devotion. But none had a complete understanding until after the Holy Spirit was given. Jesus lived among a people who could not understand because they were blinded by sin.

His grief built over time, coming to a head as He approached Jerusalem and His impending death by torture. Jesus was troubled in His innermost being. Soon after entering Jerusalem He told His disciples how troubled He was. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27-28 ESV). As much grief as He felt, God was His comfort. “Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again’” (John 12:28 ESV). 

God turns grief into joy.

Life or Death

For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? (Psalm 6:5 ESV)

God does not tell us much about eternity, either in or away from His presence. We can know being in His presence brings life and all of the peace and rest which comes with obedience and doing that for which people were created, and in Christ, re-created. We can also know those who exist outside of His presence, eternally absent from the source of life, are in agony and constant turmoil. These are simple and inadequate illustrations of the difference between heaven and hell. We know God will separate those who are His from those who continue willfully rebelling and sinning against Him.

God gives us clues about death, being separated from that which supports and maintains life. Death is the opposite of life. Death is non-life, removal from that which sustains life. In the physical world that which has life needs food, water and air. Remove any one of these three elements and life ceases, the organism dies and begins to decay. Sheol in the Hebrew is the equivalent of haides in the Greek, the grave, the pit, a place of no return, the place of the dead, the underworld. Both sheol and haides are considered hell by many. The place of the dead is not a place where those who die cease to exist but are conscious of who they are and their circumstances. 

David declares that those who have died have no remembrance of God and will not give Him praise. They will not remember Him nor thank Him or confess His greatness. This does not mean there is no consciousness for those in the grave. David is thinking of burial, the covering of dirt, entombing of a dead body, where it will decay. Those who knew the dead person can no longer hear their words or see their actions because in death they neither speak nor act.

Jacob uses the word sheol to describe what has happened to his son, Joseph, upon hearing the report of his death from his brothers. 

Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.(Genesis 37:34-35 ESV)

Those who have died are still under God’s control and government. Thus, the grave is an intermediate place between heaven and hell. Those who are wicked will eventually go to hell, away from God, the Giver of life, while those who are righteous will come into God’s eternal presence where they are sustained with life. Death and the grave bring mourning to those who remain alive. For those facing death there is tremendous fear of the unknown. They do not know what they are facing. 

King Hezekiah echoed David’s words as he lay dying, then wrote his own Psalm after he was healed, reflecting upon what God had done for him. When his body is placed in the grave he believed he would no longer praise God.

For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you;  those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. the father makes known to the children your faithfulness” (Isaiah 38:18-19 ESV)

Jesus faced death. He saw beyond death. He spoke often about His own death but always continued speaking about His resurrection and what would happen because of His resurrection. During the last Passover week, Phillip and Andrew brought to Him a request by some Greek believers who wanted to see Jesus. Knowing His death would draw all men, Jews and Greeks, to Himself, He responded with a small parable. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24 ESV). Many Christians believe this parable speaks directly to people. It does not. Jesus spoke about Himself. The grain of wheat is Jesus. Falling to the earth is His death. Bearing fruit is His resurrection. He must die to bring all to Himself. His fruit is the ingathering of all those who are His. They are in Him. He is their refuge.

But what of those who are not in Him? Death becomes eternal separation from God. There is a separation of those who hate God and continue in their rebellion against Him, and those who love God and obey His command to come to His Son. Hell becomes a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). Those who hate life are sentenced to not have life. Death ends life.

Those who love Him will receive life. But only those who love Him more than they love their own life will receive life from God. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26 ESV). For those who are separated out for God, physical death is not the end but the beginning of true life.