Psalm 40 and the Conflict of God's Will Versus Human Desire
In 1 Samuel 13:13-14, the prophet Samuel tells Saul, “The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, but now your kingdom will not continue; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart...” (419). By this, Samuel pronounces that because Saul chose to take matters into his own hands instead of trusting the will of God, his reign over the Israelite people would end. This establishes a prominent metanarrative within the Bible; the conflict between humans following their desires, contrary to carrying out God's will, and the repercussions that result. This metanarrative can be seen throughout the Bible in stories from Genesis, Exodus, 1 Samuel and 1 Kings. Psalm 40 also alludes and responds to this conflict which is repeatedly encountered by humanity. Through exegesis of Psalm 40's theological theme and literary structure, instruction on how humankind should respond concerning the biblical narrative of human desire conflicting God's will is found. First of all, it is important to have a clear understanding of the metanarrative by exploring various stories within the Bible that give highlights toward it. Genesis provides one of the first instances in which humankind becomes driven by desire and disobeys God's will. In Genesis 3:3, Eve tells the serpent who is trying to convince her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, “God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it...'” (15). Although God granted free will to humankind, he maintains a divine order which they must follow—therefore he sets rules. Eve was clearly aware of the rules, yet allowed the serpent to influence her into consuming the fruit. In order to achieve human defiance of the rule mentioned in the text, the serpent points out God's self-sufficiency and has them desire it. Thus, Humankind was led astray by an external force which had them cultivate a desire for self-sufficiency. The human desire became strong enough to lead to a defiance of God's will. The result was humankind inheriting death and hard labor. Afterwards, in the book of Exodus, Aaron serves as a prime example of another person who gives into human desire. The Israelites were becoming restless due to Moses not coming down from Mount Sinai, and ordered Aaron to provide something for them to praise. We see how Aaron responds to this in Exodus 32:4 as, “He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, 'These are your god's O Israel who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” (128). Aaron gives in to the pressure of the crowd and provides a golden calf for worship. Although God forbade any idolatrous worship, Aaron still provides a means to do so and the Israelites brought burnt offerings and sacrifices to it. Aaron's desire to please the people and have them keep patient overpowered his faith in Moses and God's will. Consequently, God told Moses of the situation and suggested he should lay his wrath upon them, but Moses was able to implore God into not doing so. Next, the high priest Eli and his sons serve as a demonstration of human desire being stronger than the want to follow God's will. It seemed Eli was a gluttonous man and allowed his sons to continue serving as priests while they acted greedily with sacrifice to God, had immoral intercourse with women serving at the entrance of the tabernacle, and carried out theft at the expense of God's worship. Instead of taking serious action against his sons, Eli does nothing more than mildly rebuke them. In 1 Samuel 2:29, God says to Eli through the words of a man of God, “Why then look with greedy eye at my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?” (404). Eli desired to keep his sons happy and they desired to keep themselves happy more than...
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