Monday, September 7, 2009

In THIS I trust

Is the first section of psalm 27 portraying a confident, faithful David? I have thought this way for many years, I now think differently. The analysis stems from one ambiguous word. בזאת, in this. To what is David referring as he concludes his firs section? Here is the text:

1 [A Psalm] of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil-doers came upon me to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and my foes, they stumbled and fell.
3 Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
If war should rise up on me, in THIS I will trust.

Commentaries abound as to what the 'this'is. Does it mean not 'this'but 'nevertheless'? (Hirsch)Or perhaps it refers to what he said beforehand--that God is his strength and salvation (Rashi, Meiri, Shlah, Amos Chacham)Ibn Ezra and Malbim round out the positions by suggesting it is the seeking of God he will presently discuss.

There are some exegetical issues to contend with in defining this word. First, does zot allow for a change from 'this' to nevertheless? A quick perusal of the Concordance shows that the vast majority of cases where zot appears it means 'this'.

If it is 'this', can it refer to that which has not yet been said? Perhaps, but one would expect the transition in the next verse to be smoother and not as abrupt as אחת שאלתי. Finally, if it refers to the faith and salvation he portrayed in the first verses we need to appreciate the polarity of faith and fear which pervades those verses.

How many times does David say that he has no fear or will not fear? How many times does he remind himself of his enemies and his impending destruction? Is this the tenor of a man overflowing with confidence? I think not.

David is not expressing confidence but the inner conflict he is experiencing in including God in his very real and practical crisis. This is not the time other-wordly illusions, it is time to fight. David struggles with his faith here, struggles to continue to believe, if not in God's impending salvation, then in God's decision to hide His face at this juncture. David battles with his inner demons and emerges victorious just by invoking God's name and bringing Him into David's realistic environment.

In THIS he will trust. In the struggle of finding the balance between confronting his problems while including God and faith in the picture. This vacillation is healthy, no extreme will be effective. Therefore the final verse teaches us a vital lesson in how to confront a harsh reality while continuing to keep God part of your vernacular and part of your life.

In THIS, we trust!