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In Psalm 59:1-3 (CEV), David is desperate and says,

Save me, God!   

 I am about to drown.

I am sinking deep in the mud,    

and my feet are slipping.

I am about to be swept under    

by a mighty flood.

I am worn out from crying,    

and my throat is dry

I have waited for you    

till my eyes are blurred.


David’s feet are slipping, he is sinking in mud, and a flood is about to drown him! No wonder his throat is dry, and his eyes are blurred. He believes his enemies hate him, sneer at him, and he is like a stranger to his relatives and family. Rulers and judges gossip about him, and drunkards make up songs to mock him.


He feels sick and he wants God to trap his enemies, bind them with darkness, and destroy their camp. He is not praying for their forgiveness. Instead, he is praying for God’s protection, and he will reward God with the sacrifice of a song, rather than an ox or a bull.


When we use the word “deep,” we are often referring to something that is beyond the ordinary. We may have a deep sleep, meaning that it was almost impossible to wake up, or that we have a deep pain, one that no medication seems to alleviate. We can also be deeply in love, which is difficult to adequately describe, but certainly infers that we want to be together with someone as much as possible.


A deep wound requires suturing to close it and time to heal. It is physical, but sometimes the wounds between people, spouses for example, are not physical, yet so deep that they do not heal quickly and there may be a divorce. The marriage may be cut off, like an infected limb that will not heal.


Proverbs have deep meanings, offering good advice and wisdom, but they can also “wound deeply as any sword” (Proverbs 12.18, GNT). In such instances, the person’s thoughts “are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out” (20.5). They are “too deep for stupid people to understand” (24.7).


Seeds don’t germinate unless they fall into soil that is deep and rich enough to provide growth and, similarly, deep words mean much when the relationship between the individuals is profound. Jesus tells us “I am telling you the truth: those who hear my words and believe in him who sent me have eternal life. They will not be judged, but have already passed from death to life” (John 5.24). We can hear the words of Jesus, but we ignore or not understand the deep meaning of them. We cannot be satisfied with surface meanings.


In The Last Battle, the final book in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis depicts the end of Narnia and the entering into the new Narnia as follows: “The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.”


Once we “go further up and further in,” there are mysteries and surprises that God has prepared for us.

When I studied linguistics and grammar, I read about surface grammar and deep grammar. The former was what I might read or record, but the latter was about the semantics (meanings) and pragmatics (situational implications) of the language. Professor Kenneth L. Pike looked at grammar and culture in two dimensions, which he called the “etic” (from phonetic) and “emic” (from phonemic) perspectives.

Sometimes, when I read the Bible or even reflect on certain passages, I do so in terms of their theological content (an etic viewpoint), rather than one that is based on the dynamics of the culture (an emic viewpoint) in which the passages took place. Both perspectives are important, but if I want to share the total and full meanings, I must go beyond the surface and into the deeper meanings of God’s word.


Karl Franklin


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