Psalm 34: Radiance in Suffering
February 11, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The context of this psalm, we are told, is extraordinary. Read the story in 1 Samuel 21:13. Evidently, whatever God’s sovereign rescue means, it does not mean something that is in contradiction to David taking initiative-bold, strange initiative-to the extent of pretending to be insane to save his life! We are to cry to God for help, for sure, but also take initiative ourselves.
It used to be said: work as if it all depended on you, pray as if it all depended on God. Better to say: work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you to will and act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13). In other words, the fact that you are working is a sign that God is at work in you. Which means, like David does, you can praise God for his rescue, however it is accomplished!
Perhaps you are facing a challenge yourself this morning. Pray to God for his help. And also pray that God would give you wisdom how to act. Look at the promises of this psalm! “Those who look to him are radiant” (34:5). There is a near visible mark of those who are depending on God. They seem, as it were, to shine with the glow of divine favor. Would you like to be that sort of person? Look to God, depend on him, ask him for help!
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (34:7).
As it is said: fear God, and you need fear nothing and no one else. Here is not a promise for reckless behavior or presumption. Note how Jesus did not use his right for angelic assistance as the devil tempted him to do. This is not, no, a promise that leads to human presumption in the face of God, but it is a promise that leads to Christian confidence. We need have no fear if we fear God.
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (34:8).
You are wondering about whether following God is really pleasurable? Whether committing your life fully and wholly to God is really a life that is good? Try it out! That’s what the psalm is saying. Taste and see! Come and try what it is to follow God, and if you follow him with faithfulness, you will not-no never-be disappointed!
“The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing” (34:10).
The promise is not that Christians never lack anything. The promise is that we lack no good thing. It is a hard promise to believe in the midst of suffering, in the Gulag, in Auschwitz, in the midst of persecution. Hard promise: true? Yes, for the true good that no one can take from us is the good of the presence of God. Many are the testimonies of those who have been in prison who have found the presence of Christ so sweet that afterwards they almost long to be back in prison again!
Then, from verses 11 to 16, David calls on his hearers, “O children,” to listen him about something in particular: that the way to find the good life is to “keep your tongue from evil, turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (34:13-14). This is no garden promise; it is a battle promise. It is quoted by Peter in 1 Peter 3:10-12 as he writes to a people in suffering.
What is the answer to suffering? We worship a suffering God in Christ. What is the practical action we should take in suffering? “Keep your tongue from evil, turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” For “the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry” (34:15).
This is no simplistic answer: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (34:18) and “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (34:19). There is no promise for no affliction, but there is promise for the Lord to deliver the faithful out of affliction! Therefore, seek him, follow him, trust him, turn from evil, seek peace and pursue it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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