Psalm 30; 49:10-15
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite sources on the Jewish perspective is Dennis Prager, a big name in political talk-radio. Although a lot of his show deals with politics, he also talks quite a bit about the Torah and the Hebew Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament. He also is a great apologist (defender) for what he calls ethical monotheism, the concept that there's one God who created everything, and who expects certain things from us, and who'll one day hold us accountable.
One day he was defending the idea of an afterlife, and he made a very interesting point. He proposed that you could not A) Believe in a just God and B) Not believe in an afterlife and a final judgment to come. The reason he cites is pretty compelling: In this world, there's a lot of injustice that never gets addressed at all, at least as far as we can see. A dictator with the blood of millions on his hands dies peacefully in his sleep (like Stalin). For every child abuser who’s caught by our legal system, there are countless others who never get discovered. Most murders, throughout history, never culminate in just punishment. So if you believe in a just God, then you have to believe that there'll come a day in which people get what they deserve.
That brings us to the topic for today. We've discussed this before, but since it’s so important and it relates to some troubling passages in the Psalms, I wanted to examine it a bit further here. If you read passages like 30:9, it almost sounds like it denies an afterlife at all. This one verse almost sounds materialistic, that once you die, you’re “worm food” and your existence ends.
Part of the problem for us is that we’re reading this with post-resurrection hindsight. The O.T. saints believed that God was just, and they also believed that some sort of judgment awaited them beyond the grave, but the details were somewhat vague. Paul said that Christ “has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” We don’t know everything about our True Home, but we do know a lot more than the O.T. saints did.
And this led to a lot of frustration for them, which you can sense in this and other passages, especially before the prophets came along. This is one of the reasons why Job was so frustrated: Despite his friends’ assertions, he knew quite well that a lot of bad things happen to good people, while a lot of evil people seemingly get away with murder. And that bothered him—a lot. As well it should.
But then you see--as I termed similar passages in Job--“sparks in the dark.” The sons of Korah, the authors of the second passage for today, were confident that, someday and somehow, their Lord would “redeem [their] life from the grave; he will surely take [them] to himself.”
Let's talk just for a moment about these mysterious "sons of Korah." Korah was a leader of a rebellion against Moses. Korah claimed that Moses had usurped leadership for himself, and he (Korah) wanted to lead a mutiny against him. The Lord showed very clearly how he thought of that, namely by opening the ground and swallowing Korah and his followers whole. However, apparently there were some of Korah's children who hadn't joined him in his rebellion, either by being too young or by repudiating him, and they survived. From these men came some great authors of some of our most beloved Psalms, like the 42nd and 46th. According to the superscriptions, there are a total of 11 psalms which are attributed to them.
The reason why I bring up today’s topic--why I think it’s important--is twofold. First, this explains some of the passages you’ll read in the Psalms, like today’s. The other reason is a reiteration of gratitude. I can find comfort, not only that there’s justice for the evil that people have done, but mercy for people like me. I know that I don’t deserve anything from God but judgment, but he’s forgiven me and adopted me through Christ. Unlike the B.C. saints, I don’t have to grope around and hope that everything will turn out alright in the end. I know it. I’ve got his promise on it, signed in his own blood.
Lord Jesus, I am so glad for the blessed hope I have in you. Because you live, I’ll live also. You've conquered the grave once and for all, and I share in that victory. Thank you.