Monday, June 16, 2008

Psalm 34 - I Will Bless the Lord at All Times

SCRIPTURE LINK: Psalm 34

BACKGROUND

This psalm is an invitation! David says, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together.” How utterly wonderful that across the centuries we can join David in magnifying and exalting our LORD. We are also invited to “taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” The Life Application Study Bible has a valuable insight into that invitation to “taste” in verse 8: “ ‘Taste and see’ does not mean, ‘Check out God’s credentials.’ Instead, it is a warm invitation: ‘Try this; I know you’ll like it.’ When we take that first step of obedience in following God, we cannot help discovering that he is good and kind. When we begin the Christian life, our knowledge of God is partial and incomplete. As we trust him daily, we experience how good he is.” (856) We are blessed as we trust in Him as our refuge; the more we trust, the more we taste His goodness.

This psalm begins with some background information: “A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed.” This probably refers to what happened in 1 Samuel 21: 10 – 22:2. So follow the link to that passage for the historical situation that prompted this psalm. A’chish was the king of Gath, a city state of the Philistines. In the heading of Psalm 34 he is referred to as Abimelech. It’s possible that Abimelech was the title given to all of Gath’s kings or A’chish could have been known by two names, a common occurrence in ancient times. David was running away from Saul, who was trying to take his life, and he ran to another country (Gath) – the enemy of Israel. When he pretended to be crazy, the king of Gath got fed up with him, and David fled Gath for the caves of Adullam. Perhaps David composed and sang this psalm to his men in those caves.

It is also thought that verse 20 foreshadows that Jesus, in His suffering for us, didn’t receive one broken bone.

“The passover lamb, of which not a bone was broken, prefigured Jesus as one, "not a bone of whose body should be broken;" and yet, at the same time, it prefigured the complete keeping and safety of Christ's body, the church; as it is written, He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken.” from Andrew A. Bonar's Commentary on Leviticus.

REFLECTION

David begins this psalm by boasting in and praising God, and then invites others to join him in telling of the LORD’s greatness. What characterizes those who receive God’s blessings? What are the blessings God gives them? If you haven’t read Psalm 34 yet, do it now, with those questions in mind.

Look at all the blessings mentioned in this psalm. I won’t look at all of them, but there are a few that ministered to my heart. Verse 5: “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.” This reminds me of Moses, who had to cover his face because it was so radiant after he was with God. It’s important who we look to in faith. Who are you looking at? Looking at Jesus removes our shame. If we’re focusing on Him then we aren’t focusing on what we have to be ashamed of.

Another image that impacts my heart is this: “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” (7) If we reverence God in our hearts and lives, we are surrounded by the angel of the LORD! How cool is that! That angel is camped all around us.

And this, in verse 15. “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” If I am in Christ, then I am forgiven, which means I am righteous. God is looking at me and listening to me – He’s tuned into me. I’m not just out there on the periphery of his interest, but at the center.

Don’t you feel like praising God when you meditate on these truths? Doesn’t it make you want to show Him you love Him? I think that’s the result it had on David, too.

What kind of people are blessed like that by God? Well, get this. It’s not the powerful or proud. Here are some phrases the psalm uses to describe those who are blessed by God. They seek Him (4, 10); they look to Him (5); they cry out to Him (6, 15, 17); they reverence or fear Him (9); they speak good (13); they are honest, not deceptive (13); they pursue peace (14); they are broken hearted rather than hard hearted (18); they are sorry for their sins (18); they belong to God, are His servants (22); they trust in the LORD (22).

There is one other verse that I want to reflect on and that’s verse 10. “The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good.” First of all, I wonder why the first half of the verse brings up young lions?

When our children were little my father used to ask them questions, kind of like a game, and one question was, “If you could be an animal, what animal would you want to be?” I remember our son’s answer the first time he was asked. “A lion, of course! It’s at the top of the food chain.” So maybe this verse uses young lions, fed by the most powerful of earthly creatures - adult lions, as a metaphor for those who are powerful and strong Being powerful or strong (or being their children) isn’t any guarantee of anything. Suffering happens. To all of us.

So what does the last part of the verse mean? Does it mean that nothing bad will ever happen to those who seek the LORD? I don’t think so. Further down in the psalm, in verse 19, we read “Many are the afflictions of the righteous… .” So we WILL have afflictions – guaranteed. What is good? Is it what make us happy? Is it ease and comfort? Is it physical safety? Is it plenty to eat? When we seek God, who is good, we will find HIM. He promises Himself to us. So we may suffer many things in this life (and many believers have), but we will not lack any good, because we are found in God, who is goodness.

I have been through some afflictions in my life – not terrible ones, but not always ordinary ones either. I can tell you from my own experience that I have found this psalm to be true. When I sought God in the middle of excruciatingly hard times, when I cried to Him – I did experience His goodness and His help, not always on my time table, though!

APPLICATION

Is there something you fear? I don’t think it’s any mistake that this psalm tells us that to be delivered from our fears we need to seek the LORD, to fear Him. If we’re fearing God, then we won’t fear other things. This psalm is a good reminder to refocus our gaze on Him, to cry to Him.

So look to God. Be broken before Him and cry to Him. Be honest with Him. Seek Him. He promises to satisfy you with His goodness. Trust Him.

PRAYER

Oh my Father God, I thank you for this psalm. I thank you that your help doesn’t come to me because I do things right or because I appear strong or independent or good – because I am none of those things. You know my heart. You know that it is often hard toward you. Thank you for using your word to soften it, to break it before you. Thanks that your answer to my cry comes because of who you are, in spite of me. Thank you that you have redeemed me! I have tasted and I do see that you are GOOD!
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