The Bible tells us that “God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). The exact similarities and differences between God and man are not known, except for what has been revealed to us through the life of Jesus Christ who possessed the divine nature of God (2 Peter 1:4) and yet, was like man in every respect (Hebrews 2:17). One of the characteristics of God that is shown to us in the Bible is that he is a trinity. God exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus indicated that he and his Father are one (John 17:11) and also referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Helper…who proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26). Unity or oneness is discussed in the book of Ephesians in the context of the body of Christ. Paul said that the body of Christ is being built up “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). In this verse, the fullness of Christ is referring to “God, in the completeness of His Being” (G4138). Genesis 2:7 tells us that “God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living creature.” The material part of man that God formed from the dust of the ground is referred to in Hebrew as chay (khahˊ-ee). The immaterial part of man is known as nephesh (nehˊ-fesh). “Nephesh means soul; self, life, person, heart. The basic meaning comes from its verbal form, naphash (5314), which refers to the essence of life, the act of breathing, taking breath (Genesis 2:7)…The Hebrew system of thought does not include the opposition of the terms ‘body’ and ‘soul,’ which are really Greek and Latin in origin. The Hebrew compares/contrasts ‘the inner self’ and ‘the outer appearance’ or, as viewed in a different context, ‘what one is to oneself’ as opposed to ‘what one appears to be to one’s observers.’ The goal of the Scriptures is to make the inner and the outer consistent…The soul of man, that immaterial part, which moves into the after life [the body is buried and decomposes] needs atonement to enter into God’s presence upon death” (H5315).
Man is referred to as a living (chay) creature (nephesh) in Genesis 2:7. After the fall, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, death entered into the world. The Hebrew word that is translated die in Genesis 2:17, muwth (mooth) means “to lose one’s life” (H4191). “When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, both spiritual and physical death came upon Adam and Eve and their descendants (cf. Romans 5:12). They experienced spiritual death immediately, resulting in their shame and their attempt to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:7).” The spiritual death that Adam and Eve experienced had to do with the breath of life or divine inspiration (H5397), what is referred to in the New Testament as zoe (dzo-ayˊ). “Zoe means life in the absolute sense, life as God has it, which the Father has in Himself, and which He gave to the Incarnate Son to have in Himself (John 5:26), and which the Son manifested in the world (1 John 1:2). From this life man has become alienated in consequence of the Fall (Ephesians 4:18), and of this life men become partakers through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:15), who becomes its Author to all such as trust in Him (Acts 3:15), and who is therefore said to be ‘the life’ of the believer (Colossians 3:4), because the life that He gives He maintains (John 6:35, 63). Eternal life is the present actual possession of the believer because of his relationship with Christ (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14), and that it will one day extend its domain to the sphere of the body is assured by the resurrection of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:4; 2 Timothy 1:10)” (G2222).
Romans 5:18-19 says of Christ’s death on the cross, “Therefore, as one trespass led to the condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life (zoe) for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Justification means “to declare to be just as one should be” (G1344) and is associated with the restoration of man’s divine image. In his letter to Titus, the Apostle Paul described justification as a two-part process. Paul said, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (zoe)” (Titus 3:4-7). Regeneration and renewal result in eternal life or zoe, life in the absolute sense (G2222). Paul indicated that renewal is dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul referred to this renewal as being “renewed in the spirit of your minds” and said that we must “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24). The spirit is distinct from the body and soul (G4151) and is the part of man that gives him the ability to communicate with God (G5590). The unity that exists between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is extended to mankind through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. Jesus prayed, “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one” (John 17:21-23).
Psalm 22 is an example of the oneness that Jesus prayed he would have with believers. “This is one of the psalms referred to as Messianic (other examples of Messianic portions would include Psalm 34:20; 40:6-8; 41:9; 45:6, 7; 69:21; 72:8; and 118:22). Psalms are classified as Messianic based on one or more of the three following criteria. First, consider the testimony of the writers of the Old Testament. When other books, in the context of discussing the Messiah, contain quotes or wording very similar to the lines from the psalms (e.g., Psalm 72:8, cf. Zechariah 9:10), it is a clear indication that a psalm is Messianic. Secondly, there are the citations from psalms that Christ applied to himself (e.g., Psalm 41:9, cf. John 13:18) or that New Testament writers identified as depicting Christ (e.g., Psalm 118:22, cf. Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7). Finally, there are statements in the psalms that, while never specifically identified as such in the Scriptures, clearly pertain to Jesus Christ (e.g., Psalm 22:1, cf. Matthew 27:46). It should be noted that within the ‘Messianic’ portions of individual psalms, some passages refer exclusively to Christ while others seem to also address a situation faced by the human writer” (note on Psalm 22:1-31). Psalm 22 begins with the question, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). Jesus spoke these words while he was dying on the cross (Matthew 27:46). Following this statement, David went on to say, “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (Psalm 22:3-5). The comparison between David’s personal experience and that of Jesus Christ on the cross highlights the identification that David had with his Savior. The mind of Christ was operating within David, enabling him to see his situation from Jesus’ perspective. Likewise, Jesus understood David’s suffering and associated himself with it in his atonement for the sins of the world.
David continued his side by side comparison of his and his Savior’s suffering in the following verses of Psalm 22. David wrote:
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! (Psalm 22:16-21)
The detail of David’s account of Christ’s crucifixion makes it seem as if he was there when it happened. David wrote Psalm 22 hundreds of years before Jesus was born, but the accuracy of his description is verified by the writers of all four gospels (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; 24:40; John 19:23, 37; 20:25).
Psalm 7 provides some insight into the anguish that David was experiencing during the time when he was being hunted by Saul’s army. The title of this psalm is “A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning the words of Cush, a Benjamite.” The source of David’s pain was the words that were being used to undermine his confidence; the insults and threats that were intended to break him down spiritually. David began his song with these verses:
O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust. Selah (Psalm 7:1-5)
The visual image that David created with his statement, “save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver” (Psalm 7:1-2), was that of a violent attack, a life threatening situation that he was helpless to escape. We know that David wasn’t concerned about a physical attack because his enemy’s target was his soul, the immaterial part of David, the inner man or from a Hebrew perspective, what David was to himself (H5315), his identity.
After he spared Saul’s life in the wilderness of Engedi, David called out to his pursuer and asked, “After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do your pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! May the LORD therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand” (1 Samuel 24:14-15). The Hebrew phrase that is translated plead my cause has to do with conducting a lawsuit, a legal contest between two adversaries (H7378/7379). David wanted the LORD to be the judge between him and Saul and to give the appropriate sentence, but he also said that the LORD would “see to it and plead my cause” (1 Samuel 24:15). In other words, David expected the LORD to come to his defense and to argue his case for him. John wrote in his first letter, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). The Greek word that is translated advocate, parakletos (par-akˊ-lay-tos) means “an intercessor…one who pleads the cause of anyone before a judge (1 John 2:1)” (G3875). John identified our advocate as Jesus Christ the righteous, but in his gospel, John used the word parakletos four times to refer to the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). Jesus told his disciples, “These things I have spoken to you while I am with you. But the Helper (parakletos), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would teach his disciples and bring to their remembrance the things that he had said to them. Teaching and remembrance have to do with putting thoughts in our minds (G5279). The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to develop the mind of Christ in us so that we are clear about our right standing with God. John said that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the world” (1 John 2:2). “Provision is made for the whole world, so that no one is, by divine predetermination, excluded from the scope of God’s mercy, the efficacy of the ‘propitiation,’ however, is made actual for those who believe” (G2434). The thing that David wanted the LORD to judge between him and Saul was which one of them had believed and received Jesus’ propitiation for his sins.
David had another encounter with Saul in the wilderness of Ziph and refused to harm him even though God had delivered him into his hand a second time. While David was heckling Abner for not protecting the king, 1 Samuel 26:17-24 tells us:
Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” And he said, “Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done? What evil is on my hands? Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth away from the presence of the Lord, for the king of Israel has come out to seek a single flea like one who hunts a partridge in the mountains.”
Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will no more do you harm, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake.” And David answered and said, “Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and take it. The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.”
David said that “the LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness” (1 Samuel 26:23). The righteousness that David was referring to was the righteousness that was counted to Abraham when he believed in the LORD (Genesis 15:6). The Hebrew word ʾemunah (em-oo-nawˊ), which is translated faithfulness, refers to “a fixed position” (H530) and therefore, could be thought of as enduring faith or a permanent trust in the Lord, implying that David had made a commitment to his relationship with the LORD. David said at the beginning of Psalm 7, “O LORD God, in you do I take refuge” (Psalm 7:1). The King James Version of the Bible states it this way, “Oh LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust.” David thought of the LORD as his God, a person that he could flee to for protection (H2620).
The thing that David was concerned about in his conflict with Saul was the safety and security of his soul. David asked the LORD to save him from all his pursuers and to deliver him, “lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces with none to deliver” (Psalm 7:1-2). David used similar language in Psalm 22:13 when he said, “they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.” It seems that the point that David was trying to make was that his soul was vulnerable to verbal attacks in the same way that a lion might be able to overpower him physically. On multiple occasions, a harmful spirit came upon Saul and in 1 Samuel 18:10 it states that Saul “raved within his house while David was playing the lyre.” While under the influence of a demonic spirit, it appears that Saul verbally abused David and others. 1 Samuel 20:30 states, “Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathon, and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness.’” David ran away from Saul to avoid these verbal attacks and may have felt like he was a coward because he didn’t stand up to Saul as he had the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45-47), but it is clear from the psalms that David wrote during this time that he was relying on God to save his life (Psalm 7:10; 54:4; 63:9-11).
Psalm 34, which is titled, “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away,” concludes with the statement, “The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:22). In this instance, nephesh is translated as life instead of soul. The Hebrew word that is translated condemned, ʾashem (aw-shameˊ) “is most often used to describe the product of sin—that is, guilt before God” (H816). Redemption is a refuge for the soul in that it provides a way for the soul to be released from the debt it owes God as a result of its guilt before him (H6299). After Peter asked Jesus the question, “how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21), Jesus used the parable of the unforgiving servant to show Peter that our souls need redemption because the debt of sin is too much for us to be able to pay it ourselves. Matthew 18:22-35 states:
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
The point that Jesus made at the end of the parable of the unforgiving servant was that God releasing our debt of sin is expected to produce godlike behavior in those of us who have received it because justification is supposed to make us act right (Romans 5:19). The ability to forgive others is evidence that our souls have been redeemed by God and that we have become one with Christ as was demonstrated by David letting Saul go free when he had the opportunity to kill him (1 Samuel 24:16-20; 26:21-23)