Psalm 34

Psalm 34

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.

1[a] I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

Lord, when David drooled on his beard and faked insanity, you had mercy on him. He knew that better things were in store for him in this life and the next and he put his trust in you. You used this experience to humble the king; you humble your servants today in similar ways.

2 My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Always the teacher, David used this experience to share his hear with those who suffer. The “afflicted” are to listen and rejoice. “Boast in the Lord,” David tells us. When he was going from bad to worse, he reflected, and his soul remained constantly on the Lord. Teach us to listen and hear your word, which makes our souls rejoice. My soul pants for you like a deer pants for water. Even during the times when I drool or face struggles, I’ll boast in the Lord and his salvation.

3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

Fellowship is a doctrine that has become much more clear to me these days. You know this Lord, before I have even written it, that it has. Abimilech’s abound today as before, but we remain focused on you. We testify to your truth, though you don’t need our testimony to establish your truth, you give us opportunities to exalt you with fellow believers. Teach me and whoever reads this to know how best to speak the truth in love. Thank you for Christians who exalt your name with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

Anxiety plagues me sometimes. Fears overwhelm me even when there is nothing but whispers to spark their existence. Guard our hearts and minds, Lord. The battle is spiritual and over our hearts and souls.

Take the entire book of Job. I know, Lord, that Job was a real man who faced severe trials. But we can look at the conversations as internal conversations that we all have. When things don’t go the way we had planned, we focus on the things that we’ve done wrong. We accuse ourselves in our minds, then we focus on our own righteousness. When things don’t get better we even go so far as to declare ourselves worthy – even at the expense of your righteousness. This is the human condition, and this is the way a Christian’s mind works. Our consciences now accuses, now defend us.

But thank you JESUS! for delivering us from all of our fears. The biggest fear we face apart from you is the fear of being inadequate and separated from you. That’s the fear that ignites our consciences to defend and accuse us. But you are greater than our hearts. Even when our hearts condemn us, you forgive and cleanse us from our anxiety and fear. Thank you for establishing God’s kingdom on earth for the sake of your saints – me and all who believe that Jesus came in the flesh!

5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

Is this right, king David. You have just been a drooling wreck of a disheveled exile and now you say you are radiant. God calls things that aren’t as though they are. That’s the central component of the one true faith in Jesus our Savior. By looking to him, we are found clean and shameless. But we don’t look that way.

Take the book of Revelation for example. John, the disciple Jesus loved, was imprisoned and lonely. He was probably dirty and smelled in his prison cell. And Jesus appeared. He came to John and walked between the “lampstands” tending to his church on earth. What IRONY! The resurrected Jesus in all his splendor coming to a prisoner on a lonely island. Jesus didn’t focus on John’s fifth or smell, but on himself. Thank you Jesus for focusing on what you have done and what we have received.

The greater irony in this story than the King of Kings coming to a lonely prisoner and showing him visions of eternity is the fact that this whole world is sick, sinful, dirty, and wretched. Naked and lonely. Terribly troubled. Yet, they do not turn and repent, buy expensive clothes and food without money. Instead, they refuse to be clean. That’s the only power they have, and this world exercises it. But to prisoners like John, like you, like me, we see how dark we are – and we are illuminated by the cross and the Gospel.

6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.

From bad to worse. We Christians are in a perpetual cycle of trouble to difficulty. The Apostle Paul boasted of his trials and troubles. We can’t avoid them. We spend time in our minds with Job and his friends. Yet, we poor people call on the Lord. AND HE HEARS US! He listens to those who are in trouble. Jesus said in this life we will have trouble. But he doesn’t tell us to try harder. He doesn’t give us a prescription to be better. He doesn’t help us become LIONS of men, but he helps us the only way we can be helped – by assuring us that he has overcome the world. And, he did it by his humiliation and death on the cross. While we were still SINNERS! That is the definition of love. God is love.

7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

The Old Testament reference for Jesus is often the “angel of the Lord”. God accepts us ONLY through faith. And, he makes it so necessary. We can’t see the angel of the Lord today. Things sure don’t LOOK like the angel of the Lord is with us. King David might have still had the drool on his beard when he wrote this. In all reality, he probably didn’t FEEL like the Lord had encamped around him. But he did. The Lord is still with those of us who aren’t lions of men.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

So come to his table, dear reader and dear soul within me. Bury your head in the arms of the man who faced horrors beyond description for you. He’s alive. Jesus has risen and his pierced arms and pierced feet are strong enough to shelter you from REAL or REALLY apparent fears. There is nothing on earth of value, nothing in heaven worth having, apart from this good Lord who welcomes the weak, the burdened, the hard-pressed.

9 Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

And, you won’t give up ANYTHING. Nothing of value at least. When we turn, and turn back after we’ve turned away (and repeat), God is always ready to give us EVERYTHING. He doesn’t withhold grace from us, but gives it freely to those who turn from their sins and come to him. When you can’t find the way out of your box, and this happens to me more often than not, Jesus wipes the spit off our faces, the tears, and the hurt, and holds us in his arms till we can get back up again.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

I have struggled with comparing myself with “lions” my entire life. I always focus on being a better man, a better person, a better wage earner (whatever, you pick it, I’ve wanted it). I compare myself with those who are successful in this world, and I go from learning from them, straight to jealousy. Zero to sixty in one second flat! The worst part about it is that I’ve done it so often that I can hardly recognize it until it’s time to refocus and turn back. And, again, I run back to the arms of a Savior who wants nothing more than for me to realize that this is all according to his plan.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

So, we learn from Jesus through our tough times. If you read this blog, you may get the idea that I am a very sullen and hard-pressed man. But, I don’t know if that is quite the case. What I am is a Christian who realizes that the difficult times in his life are the whetstones that make him a stronger Christian. If we are honest with ourselves, and we take God at his word, then you’d have to say that the easy times in your life really didn’t make that much of an impact on who you are as a person. God uses struggles to sharpen his servants, to refocus his saints, to build character and keep his children safe from the destiny that comes to all those who reject him. Keep me close, dear Lord. Keep me close.

12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,

And, teach me. Teach me that these difficulties are not permanent. Teach me that you’ve got better plans in store for me than even the good that may come in this life. Teach me patience and build in me endurance to press on for that which you have already earned for me on the cross.

13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.

Jesus keep me from using my mouth to injure, harm or hurt those who hurt me. Give me patience and endurance to continue to focus on you.

14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

Because peace and love are what remains when it’s all over. If we grasp after it now, we join in fellowship with the universal church and leave behind paths that would lead us to pierce ourselves with further grief. Keep our eyes on the prize.

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;

Thank you, Lord.

16 the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Thank you for advocating for me Lord. You do a better job of it than I do.

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.

Thank you again, Lord for hearing me. Thank you for listening to our cries.

18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Thank you, Lord.

19 A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;

To prove your love for us, you let us struggle and face trouble. Then you deliver us. THANK YOU, LORD!

20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

You allude to Jesus in this verse, Lord, whose bones were kept in tact. His body was beaten and he was killed, and by his wounds we are healed.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

Thank you for reminding us of this Lord. When we see those who do evil things prosper, this calms our hearts.

22 The LORD redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

To God be the GLORY!

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 34:1 This psalm is an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

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