Monday, September 13, 2010

Current State

“I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.” (Psalms 38:8 NAS95)
They say that in order to move to a desired state, we need to face the reality of today. What is my current state? The Psalmist says, "Uhh, ..."
The truth is, most of the time, you and I don't know our current state, especially when it comes to our desires and our motivations and attitudes and moods. We don't know ourselves very well. Our best moments can turn sour in a moment, and our depressions can sometimes reveal themselves in a sweet dependence on God. What is bad can be good, and what seems good can turn out pretty bad.
In Psalm 38:8, the psalmist uses three words that are bad, or good. The first two key words are passive. Then the psalmist groans because of a third condition, described by "agitation." So we will take them in order. "Benumbed" sounds bad to me. And yet this is the word that describes Jacob when he discovers that Joseph is alive after all those years (Genesis 45:26). He was "stunned." He was in shock, and his system did not know how to respond. But is that bad, or good? Maybe at times not knowing how to respond is a better response. "Badly crushed" sounds really bad. And yet in Psalm 51:17, the word is translated "contrite," describing a repentant heart. And that would be good. It seems that this psalmist is at the end of himself because of his sin. It is a most miserable condition. And it is exactly where he (we) need(s) to be.
These two passive verbs are translated somewhat differently in the LXX, and we find them used together, in the passive, in Genesis 15:13: "God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.'" Our words are "enslaved" and "oppressed." That's got to be bad. And yet God's people were exactly where they needed to be in preparation for the coming redemption/deliverance. (The LXX translators chose the common Greek word for "humbled" to render "oppressed.")
"Agitation" may result from things good or bad. One can be agitated in anticipation, or agitated out of regret. Sure, we would like to be at rest, all relaxed. But both students before the test, one prepared, the other unprepared, may both feel a sense of agitation.
All of this is to say that when we are benumbed and badly crushed and groaning due to agitation, we still may not be able to say a lot about our current state ... other than this: God is still on the throne, and He is at work in the world and in our lives; His sovereign purposes are able to salvage sinners like you and me, and He is even able to use our mess-ups for good; All of life is His laboratory, and though we at times feel like lab rats, He will wisely administer His goodness. This is our current state. Not bad.

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