This Week's Focus Passage

‘unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living.’

Focus Passage: Psalm 27:13

‘unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living.’

Among some fifty translations available to view on a popular Bible website, each and every one of the fifty, save one, supplies something at the beginning of this verse in an attempt to clarify, or explain what was upon the mind of the psalmist when he simply began the line with an ‘unless.’ The historical and, in many circles, the traditional favorite, the King James Version of the Bible [KJV] has placed, albeit in italics, the expression, I had fainted, just before the ‘unless.’ This is followed by the American revision of the KJV known as the American Standard Version [ASV] 1901. Interestingly, the New King James [NKJV] has chosen rather to supply, I would have lost heart. The later revision of the ASV-1901, namely the New American Standard Bible [NASB], has likewise opted for a slightly differing concept as they have suggested, I would have despaired to precede the ‘unless.’ There are many thoughts among the other translations basically amounting to the same thing; that same thing being that they are injecting their understanding into the Scriptures. The only exception to these some fifty translations is, perhaps surprisingly enough, the Darby Translation. This translation put forward through the labors of John Nelson Darby from the original languages was published, in its completed state of both the Older and Newer Testaments, in 1890; several years subsequent to the death of Darby himself. John Nelson Darby—1800-1882—was the founder of the Plymouth Brethren movement in England. He is likely better known, and considered, as the father of modern Dispensationalism, and perhaps it is to be attributed to his insistence upon the literal view of the Word of God, that he was quite singular in his desire to allow that Word in Psalm 27:13 to stand as in the original without adding anything of the thoughts of men. This may be all the more remarkable when one considers the efforts of his American successor among Dispensationalists, who contributed to the spread of that school of thought with his well-known Scofield Reference Bible, the numerous ‘references’ being his own thoughts added to the Scriptures. It should be admitted; Scofield has followed the King James Version.

But just what is it that is being implied? The translators have assumed, or presumed to know the answer to the question, and they have therefore included these ‘amendments;’ italicized additions to the words of Scripture in order hopefully to clarify that which is intended. Isn’t it far better to allow for the Berean spirit spoken of so highly by the inspired author in Acts 17, for that they were examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so? What did David intend when he said, ‘unless’? What is it that is conditioned upon the ‘unless’? Unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living. What is the condition? What is the anticipated result if the writer had not believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living? The assumption is that he did believe that he would see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living. The qualifier is the ‘unless.’ This sets apart his thought. The Hebrew word loo-lay translated unless is capable of other renderings. It may also be translated ‘if not, except, had not, were it not that,’ or simply, if, leaving us with, if I had believed, or, were it not that I believed, or, had not I believed. These, of course, are all included in the perennial question that we are all faced with in our lives, and time again, ‘what if?’ What if I had done that? What if I had not done that? And here David is saying, or inquiring, were it not that I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living.

Now we truly don’t know if he would have fainted; we don’t know whether he would have despaired, or whether he might have lost heart. Depending upon what the trial, or the temptation, or the difficulty may have been, he well could have lost heart, despaired, and fainted all at once. The primary force of the statement is indeed the unless, and that he did neither lose heart, despair, or faint. And it was all due to the fact that he had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living.

We have in our society a popular expression, ‘seeing is believing.’ In fact, we have one of our fifty states that even boasts that they are the show-me state. The origin of this nickname is not known with certainty, but a popular answer ascribes it ‘to a speech by Congressman Willard Vandiver in 1899, who declared that, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri and you have got to show me.” This is absolutely not what David is saying, neither is he implying any such thing. Anachronistically speaking, he would have subscribed to the teaching in Hebrews that ‘faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.’ Rather than giving his imprimatur to the thought that ‘seeing is believing,’ he would rather have touted ‘believing is seeing.’ Unless I had believed to see. But the unless demonstrates to us that he indeed had believed to see, and ‘believing is seeing.’ He did, in fact, believe that he was going to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living. We’re not told what would have happened if he had not believed. Does it really matter; the point is that he did believe. We must believe to see, not see to believe! Let us iterate; this believing is the assurance of things hoped for. It is the conviction of things not seen. Blessed are they who have not seen, but believe.

What is the object of the psalmist’s belief? What is it that his believing sees? He is assured that he will see the goodness of Jehovah, and that in the land of the living.

We may read in the eighth verse of this wondrous psalm, My heart said unto thee, Thy face, Jehovah, I will seek. Is that not the language of prayer? Was it not the great desire of David to see the face of his Lord? Was that not his greatest longing? Is that not what he was so eloquently expressing in the fourth and fifth verses?

One thing have I asked of Jehovah, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, To behold [see] the beauty of Jehovah, And to inquire in his temple.

This believing in order to see agrees with Peter regarding Christ; though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible .Church

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