As you make your bed, so you must lie on it.” That’s one of the idioms my grandmother used to say. It meant that I had made up my mind for a certain course of action, and now I had to bear the consequences. I never liked it when she said that to me, but of course she was right. I had to own up to my mistakes and not try to blame other people. So, we all make our own beds, and we all lie in them, whether we like it or not!
The bed we make in our quote from Psalm 139 is clearly alluding to the afterlife. Looking at the Hebrew root words of this text, we read (using the OJB, Orthodox Jewish Bible):
“If I ascend up into Shamayim, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, hinei, Thou art there.”
The Hebrew word for “heaven” (literally heavens, plural), is one component of the three-part cosmos. The other two elements are Erets (the earth), and Sheol (the underworld). Shamayim is the place where God and other heavenly beings reside, Erets is the home of the living, and Sheol is the realm of the dead. No one on Earth is exempt from death; whether it’s animals or humans, Sheol cannot be avoided. We all die at some point, as we are aware.
“Go to hell!” is a rude curse word thrown at a person we deeply despise. What we mean by that could be: “I hate you, and I want you to be as far away from me as possible, I never want to see you again, just go to hell!”
Have you ever considered that sending a person to hell entails sending God to hell?
The worst place we can come up with, a place where we never want to return to – maybe something terrible we saw growing up, maybe a horrible situation we got ourselves into – let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that God was not there, because He was. God is familiar with all places, and that includes terrible places.
“Hell” by definition is a God-forsaken place, and God’s absence makes any place a hellhole. At the same time, God certainly is not oblivious to such places. Shocking as it may seem, God knows hell very well. To put it lightly, when it comes to the experience of hell, Jesus can rightfully say: “Been there, done that!” When He struggled on the cross, He cried out a prayer He remembered from the book of Psalms (see Psalm 22:1); recorded in the gospels, we read (Matthew 27:46):
“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)”
Jesus, the Son of God, for the first time ever, felt God-forsaken – and so He was. For a moment that probably felt like an eternity to Him, Jesus experienced the God forsaken-place that both humans and fallen angels have seen. Hell constitutes absence from God, and that is exactly what Jesus went through. Jesus knows what it means to hit rock bottom, and He descended to the bottom of the pit with a rescue mission: to save and to restore what is lost. On one occasion, while His disciples were competing for the best seats in God’s house, Jesus pointed out (Matthew 20:28):
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus went through hell to save us. This is wonderful news for us, because it means that no place is too low where God can’t reach us.
“There’s no mountain too high, no valley too low, no place you’ll ever find where His mercy won’t go. You can run and you can hide, but His love won’t let you get away, cause there’s no place too far from grace” Justin Todd Herod