In the Land of the Living

[7] Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
[8] For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
[9] I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

The psalmist is doing two things in these verses: he’s speaking to himself and then to God. He’s exhorting his soul and then thanking his Savior, and the connection between these two dynamics are a picture of faith in action. 

The psalmist knows that God has saved him: “When I was brought low,” he remembers, “[God] saved me” (verse 6). And then, because he knows that God has done this, he turns to himself and commands his soul to get this right: “Return, O my soul, to your rest” (verse 7).

The salvation of God and rest for our souls are referring to the same experience, although a lot of times it doesn’t actually play out that way. We can be saved, just like the psalmist, but our souls not be at rest. In fact, doesn’t it feel that way most of the time? Aren’t there whole seasons when it seems like we don’t have the rest we “know” we’re saved to have?

And if that’s the case, what do we do? What does faith look like when we can’t feel it?

Faith speaks up and addresses the soul. 

There is no abracadabra here. Just because we speak to our souls doesn’t mean that our souls immediately obey. Faith is not just the outcome of the soul spoken to, but it’s also the speaking itself. It’s in the address:

Hey, soul, stop the worrying. You don’t need to fear. Just rest, dear soul. Take your rest, and take it full. Because the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. He has gone before you and laid out a feast of grace. He has won you this haven of help, this covering of care. O my soul, you can rest.

And then faith lifts its eyes to God. The psalmist’s exhortation to his own soul turns into adoration for God and his deliverance:

You, O God, have delivered my soul! You have won the greatest victory for me, defeating the ultimate enemy of death, putting an end to my sorrow, preserving me from failure. I will walk in the land of the living. 

That last phrase is maybe the most profound: “I will walk in the land of the living.”

This is resurrection hope, I think, on its most straightforward level. I think the psalmist is looking to the future, in the ultimate future sense, and he is saying that he will be raised from the dead. He’s going to walk on the streets of gold, as it were (see Revelation 21:21).

But also, I think this resurrection hope has implications for every future sense — as in the future tomorrow, or an hour from now, or in five minutes.

I will walk in the land of the living means that I’m getting in on this resurrection hope here and now. I am going to live everyday, every moment, before the face of God. I’m going to lead my life and my thoughts and my speech like Jesus is in the room, because he is, and he sees all. It is God close and clear, in other words. That is the land of the living, and the fight of faith is the fight to walk there now

We walk there now by faith, but one day in sight. Amen, Father. Let it be.