Lifting hearts to God in thanks and praise.

Saturday Psalm: 34

Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

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!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
    for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
    and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
    and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
    not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

There are so many verses in this psalm that have been made into worship music! There’s a company called Seeds that has verses 10 and 18 in two tracks (7, 9) on their first album and you can listen online here. They have a video of verse 10 which is fun to show kids. Here’s a video of Steve Green singing verse 13 with kids. But here’s the whole psalm with Karl Kohlhase, using verses 1 and 2 as a refrain, and here’s Shane and Shane’s version with some interesting word choices and verse 3 for a refrain. Because I love all things Rich Mullins, I couldn’t leave out his “Sing your Praise,” although the psalm in the bridge is 113 (we’ll get there)!

This is another Psalm written in couplets of meaning. I almost hear it as a friend riffing with David, answering him back line for line as in jazz. The context of this psalm is important too: David had acted like a madman before King Abimelech, and it worked, but here he is not boasting about himself at all but praising God completely. What comes out of David in the time of testing and relief is true praise, naming God’s power and encouraging those who look to him and do right to praise him too.

I don’t know any song dedicated to verse 5 but this time it leapt out to me. “Those who look to him are radiant/and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Here’s what I’m thinking. I’m so sad when I see shamefaced looks. My own face burns in shame when I’ve done wrong, and realize it. (This happened recently, so it’s fresh!) Shame is focused on a human’s wrong (“oh, the humanity!”) but those who look to God focus on him. God will never act in a way that shames us, David says. God is the one, the only one, who is perfect and to look to him, to know him, to love him, clears the self-shame off my face and replaces it with relief and shining love, sometimes even his glory. (This hasn’t happened recently, but it’s still a fresh memory.) So when we do wrong, we don’t have to internalize the shame but look to him, the forgiving, loving, cleansing one, and wait for him to work all things out.

The psalm has recommendations: keep your tongue from evil, deceit (lies, gossip?); do good; seek peace and pursue it. These are how you fear the Lord, and look to him.

Then verses 15-22 reassure us of how life goes: there will be trouble, but the Lord saves those who look to him. There are many afflictions for the righteous (those who do right) but the Lord delivers him out of them all (side note: deliverance can be instant and spectacular, or long road and lesson learning, or finally ending life to bring on eternity). The last two verses caught my attention as well. It’s affliction that will slay the wicked (but in v. 19 we just heard that the Lord saves the afflicted righteous ones) and those who hate the righteous (why? if they’re doing what is right, why hate them?) will be condemned. But the Lord redeems the life of his servants and they who run to him for safety (not because they’re perfect but because he is) will not be condemned.

All thanks and praise to God!

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