I’ve recently been reading through the Psalms each morning. The Psalms in the Bible are basically the inward songs of a man’s heart. They are the longings and cries which are tough to verbalise and explain.
This morning Psalm 34 particularly stuck a chord with me, and I wanted to share it with you.
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”
Thus speaks David the shepherd (the man who would one day become arguably the greatest King Israel ever enjoyed) while on the run, caught between a jealous master and an enemy King eager to crush him once and for all.
Psalm 34 gives us the amazing testimony of a man who has experienced God’s rescue.
Why does David refer to himself as poor?
It probably is fair to say that he was in a bad situation: having driven King Saul to a jealous rage he was forced to flee the Royal Court at night while guards came to arrest him, he lost his wife (the King’s daughter) and he was named the Number One Enemy-of-the-State. Having taken refuge inside the Philistine city of Gath, he was spotted by the Abimelech (Philistine King) who couldn’t believe his luck (David was after all his chief enemy). Our poor fugitive was thus forced to act crazy- the Bible describes the spittle running down his chin- in order to make good his escape.
Left without home or income, David was indeed poor. Perhaps it’s a good job then that the Lord delights in helping the poor and weak and lame. Psalm 34 goes on to say,
“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
The Bible never hides the truth. We all face afflictions. I have no idea of what you might be facing, but I do know that everyone faces their own battles; whether it be financial, health related, in relationships or even spiritual. David faced some major afflictions and yet he did the right thing,
“I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”
David actively was seeking God even in the midst of his poverty and woe. In Psalm 34, he encourages us to do exactly the same thing,
“Oh taste and see the the Lord is good!”
“Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together!”
“Oh fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!”
How can we truly seek God? Surely that is a question being asked across this planet and the answers come back thick and fast and almost always totally contradictory. Yet David has a series of answers ready- God has answered his own cry and therefore he is well placed to help us out.
“Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?”
You might be a future King but surely that is a stupid question David?! Obviously we all want life and many days to see good things!
Right, says David, and now I’ll tell you how to get them…
“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth…
Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.”
As our friends the Meerkats say ‘Simples’:
Just be good. Don’t do evil. Don’t lie. Don’t deceive. Speak nice things. Don’t hate others.
If you are anything like me, you will have picked up a problem there- sure, we can be good, sure we don’t do anything evil (after all, we aren’t Moriatti or Lex Luther!) but what about don’t Lie? I’ve done that more than once or twice. And don’t hate others?! Is that even possible? My heart is full of hate and distrust and suspicion and jealousy.
Eh oh. Double Eh oh.
By David’s standards in Psalm 34, I deserve to be slain by affliction, or to put it another way I deserve to have broken relationships, empty bank accounts, problems with the authorities and ultimately… death.
Thankfully Psalm 34 doesn’t leave it there. David ends with these words,
“The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”
No condemnation. If we have been redeemed by the Lord then we are innocent and righteous. No longer does the threat of affliction and death loom over us.
Only two weeks ago my granddad passed away after several years of degrading Alzheimer's – as a Christian he wasn’t free from disease or death but he was never afraid of the grave because he knew that he didn’t have a guilty soul. He had taken refuge in the Lord decades ago and knew that his saviour had heard his cry. He knew that the only thing he faced after death was an eternity with the most wonderful and loving God.
What does David mean when he mentions the Lord redeems the life of his servants? What does a redeemer do? They pay the price to buy something back (much like a ransom). We come with a vast and heavy ransom- who can afford to pay off the price for all the stupid lies I’ve told? For all the hatred and malice in my heart? Who could possibly afford to buy back my soul? There can only be one answer- Jesus Christ- God gave himself up on a cross, the worst form of execution known to mankind, to pay off the ransom demanded by my sins.
It is that same saviour which David is so keen so rejoice about! That is why he starts off the Psalm by saying:
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”