by Robert Jacobs
I know this is going to sound super cheesy, but the Bible really is an amazing book. Aside from the fact that it is the inspired word of God, the text as a whole possesses an amazing literary unity. Passages written thousands of years apart share an inexplicable harmony in message and imagery, imparting a textual integrity unattainable in any other way.
While biblical scholars throughout the ages have noted these inter-textual connections, every once in a while I will stumble upon one that I have never seen discussed before. Just such an event happened to me this week. I was sipping on my coffee one morning when I was struck by the last verse of Psalm 17: “As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”
Satisfaction. It’s something that almost everyone who comes to Living Hope says that they seek. They long to be satisfied, to be fulfilled, to have their deepest needs met. As I looked at those nine letters, I began to wonder what David meant when he said that he would be satisfied in seeing God. At first, I took the intellectual high road, seeing David’s satisfaction as some kind of spiritual fulfillment. Simple enough. But something kept my eyes locked on those words.
I decided to dig deeper. Hebrew is a complex language—actually that’s a bit of an understatement—and there are a plethora of words that David could have used in his poem to indicate satisfaction. As I searched through my Hebrew Old Testament tools, I was shocked by what I discovered. David chose the word sâbêa, a “state of physical contentment, due to having physical needs met in abundance or excess.”
This posed a problem for my original interpretation of the passage. While the psalm could be referring to some kind of spiritual fulfillment, David clearly deploys a word that brings up an image of the physical rather than the purely spiritual. It was in this moment that I discovered my inter-textual connection.
Back on June 28, I wrote a devotional titled “Look but Don’t Touch” (You can find it here). In that devotional, I discuss Christ’s teaching that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The word used for lust indicates more than sexual desire, reflecting a deeper longing to use or consume the object of view for one’s own satisfaction.
Though Psalm 17 and Matthew chapter 5 were penned a little over a thousand years apart, Christ and David use strikingly similar imagery to explain the truth of God. In Matthew, Christ declares that trying to fill the physical and spiritual longing for connectedness through lust as sin, while David states that only true satisfaction and fulfillment comes from keeping our gaze on the Father. Both use words that, while also referring to the spiritual, highlight the physical nature of these concepts.
As I mulled over this inter-textual connection, I began to think about how we talk about singleness in our culture. (I know this sounds like a stretch, but follow me.) Within the Church, we often track people’s “progress” by watching as they move through pre-set life goals. Kids grow up, graduate from high school, possibly go to college, get married, have kids themselves, retire from their chosen career, and then invest in their grandchildren. For those who are single, this pre-determined life path can apply an inordinate amount of pressure. Even past the walls of the Church, US culture mocks those who are single, particularly if they have decided to abstain from sex outside of marriage. Consequently, voices both inside and outside the Church seem to be screaming that you are missing out if you are not in a relationship, that you will never be fulfilled or fully satisfied.
But what do Christ and David say? Jesus tells us that seeking to consume others for our own sexual gratification is sin, and we know that sin leads to death. David, through his poetry, reminds us that we will find total satisfaction through being in relationship with God rather than man, not limiting this idea to some kind of “ethereal” or “spiritual” satisfaction through his diction.
The question for us, then, is do we believe Jesus and David? Do we believe that consuming others with our eyes is sin and that sin gives birth to death? Do we believe that being in right fellowship with God will meet ALL our needs, fully satisfying us to the core? Or, do we believe that we can find the satisfaction we so desperately long for by using others to fulfill our desires, that God can only give us some kind of theoretical spiritual fulfillment that we are supposed to make due with rather than having true satisfaction?
Turn your gaze upon God. Be ever in awe of His love. As both David and Christ testify together, only He, not this world, will satisfy. And those “needs [will be] met in abundance or excess.”
 J. Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc 1997).