December 11, 2018

Bondage to the Status Quo

The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 
Then I called on the Name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

Ps. 116:3-4 

I am bothered by the Old Testament concept of death. All end up in Sheol, whether they're evil or good. And Sheol is a place of darkness and separation from God and all the living. Sheol might also be interpreted as nothingness, but is still negative. The only way I can reconcile it with anything but complete hopelessness is the notion that it is a place of sleep and rest.

I must, therefore, read this psalm from a Christian perspective, and interpret this as a prayer of Messiah, which was answered by God. Moreover, the First Letter of Peter has this to say about (what I believe to be) Sheol:
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison. [3:18-19]
I'm sure it's totally off-the-wall, but there's something else about "the pangs of Sheol" that cause me to wonder. The phrase translated as pangs of Sheol should probably be translated as some sort of constriction or straits, since מְצָרֵי שְׁאוֹל is obviously a parallel phrase to חֶבְלֵי-מָוֶת (the snares—or cords—of death). But what's fascinating here is that word מְצָרֵי, which is almost the same word as the place of Israel's bondage, Egypt (מִצְרָיִם).

Since the New Testament's resurrection corresponds with the Old Testament's exodus, then it is entirely plausible that being freed from the bondage of death is analogous to liberation from Egypt. Christians really need (in my opinion) to view our faith a lot more like this: What we gain through Christ is not so much a ticket to heaven as it is liberation from the strictures of death. And we don't need to die first before we experience, practice, and invite others to participate in this new life. It turns out the hopelessness I feel at the very idea of Sheol is what binds me to old, static ways of separateness, and the very thing that Christ freed me from in the resurrection.

Thank you, Lord, for freeing me from the hopelessness that keeps me in bondage to the status quo. Help me to live to the fullest the life you've given me in Jesus Christ, who taught me to pray...

No comments:

Post a Comment