Good stories capture the heart and the imagination. Good writing allows for the story to develop in such a way as to aim for the heart. There is no other goal behind storytelling or writing. Now, someone might say that “I am not writing to aim for the heart. I want to stimulate the intellect.” Well, the intellect involves the mind, which may or may not provoke the imagination. Nevertheless, I still fall back onto my very first sentence. In fact, I will go one step further to state that good stories or good writing stays with the reader or viewer only if it stirs the heart. Poetry accomplishes heart-stirring to such a degree that it may have no peer. The Psalms of the Old Testament represent some of the best and most memorable poems ever written precisely because they move the heart. Take a look at the following passage:
“17 If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. 18 When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up” 19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:17-19, ESV).
In three lines, the Psalmist uses vivid language to describe potential conditions had the Lord failed to respond to him. The first example is the metaphor of living in the land of silence. What an apt descriptor for the soul who does not have a personal relationship with the Lord. All that I have in that situation is me. According to the Psalmist, this is not a pleasurable prospect. When I reflect upon the meaning of living in the land of silence, I picture someone standing in the middle of a downtown metropolis all alone. There are no cars, no people, and no animals: sheer silence and inactivity. The silence is so deafening that you could hear a pin drop. It is not the picture of solitude…it is despair and isolation in its most magnified form. If the Lord had failed to respond to the Psalmist’s need, then his condition would have been like living in the land of silence.
When verse eighteen rolls around the way, the Psalmist shows his Lord’s love and concern for him at the moment of stumbling. In the author’s mind, he thinks, “my foot slips,” and it is at this moment that God’s steadfast love supports him or keeps him from falling. This scenario paints a scene of the Psalmist and his Lord walking side-by-side each other along the journey of life. It speaks of an intimate relationship between the creator and the creature. When the Psalmist describes the Lord’s love as steadfast, one is safe to assume that this scenario has happened several times before in the past. There is no other reason for the author to use the word steadfast about God’s love unless that has been the repeated experience. In fact, verse nineteen confirms this observation as the Psalmist rejoices over the Lord’s consoling presence in the midst of anxiety. Basically, the author has seen the faithfulness of his God time and time again in the face of internal and external oppression.
Because a passage’s context is important, the preceding verse to the text in question demonstrates the Psalmist’s trust and confidence in the Lord. He asks two rhetorical questions, “who rises up for me against the wicked, and who stands up for me against evildoers,” which find their answers in the Lord (Psalm 94:16-23, ESV). Now, the Psalmist ends his poem with the firm conviction that the Lord God will wipe out the wicked and their oppression. He has a deep sense of an ultimate vindication of the just in contrast to the ultimate judgment of the unjust (Psalm 94:23, ESV). Here is the main point: the Psalmist knows that his present and future condition is secure in the Lord because his God knows him and vice versa. Once again, this speaks to an intimate relationship. God vindicates his people because they are his even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Without this personal and intimate God in my life, I would be living in the land of silence, and ultimately consigned to that existence for eternity.