This morning we will be missing 46 members of our congregation for camp. They are having worship together there as we miss them here. So, I guess you could say we are having three services today, two here and one off campus.
This week’s readings took us through Psalms 27-45.
I selected Psalm 34 for our lesson this morning. It’s an acrostic psalm, each line in succession, beginning with the next Hebrew alphabet. One letter is missing and two are in reverse order.
This Psalm, along with several others, has an introduction. It attributes the Psalm to David and says: when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left. That assumes that you know the story, which is found in 1 Samuel 21. When David first fled from Saul, he went into Philistine territory and encountered one of the Philistine rulers. It was a scary time, and the short story is that David feigned insanity in the presence of this ruler and was booted out of Philistia, saving his life.
No one knows who put this introduction here or the details of it as a source. Did David keep a journal and notes on his life? Did he jot a note to classify this Psalm with that particular event in the days he was fleeing from Saul? Psalm 18 is the first Psalm with an introduction about David’s deliverance from Saul.
Psalm 52 has an introduction noting its connection with Doeg the Edomite’s report to king Saul when David was first fleeing from Saul. (1 Samuel 21-22). Psalm 56, 57 and 59 are all introduced with notes about David fleeing from king Saul.
It seems most likely that these brief intros are editorial comments by whoever compiled all the Psalms into the five volume set that we presently have. But where the authors got their information and when these intros were written is unknown.
The point is that Psalms are not just a collection of songs without any historical background. Neither are the songs in our books today. Volumes have been written about the authors and historical settings of the songs we use in worship. Some awareness of this can be helpful in appreciating the messages of these songs that we sing. That’s true for the Psalms as well.
As we continue through the word of God seeking the kingdom and righteousness of God this Psalm 34 gives us three more jewels of His kingdom that we can store up as we journey along the way. These three are: Praise, Fear and Deliverance.
These three are somewhat mingled into the message of the Psalm, but each one supplies us with encouragements and hope, deepening our faith in God’s guidance and protection. They employ us to rejoice in praise and they encourage us to direct our full attention on God and to trust Him. They instruct us in management of our emotions in times of trial or stress, while assuring us of God’s care and provision.
The introduction tells us that this is a tested and proven message, given by one who has faced trials and has lived to tell the tale of God’s provision. God’s rule and righteousness are clearly seen, giving all who seek his kingdom another affirmation to validate our walk with God.
Let’s go through this Psalm together now and reflect on its message together. I invite you to read along with me as we explore each section.
Let’s say verses 1-3 together:
I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise will continually be in my mouth.
My soul will boast in the Lord;
Let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me;
Let us exalt his Name together.
For we who seek the kingdom and righteousness of God our lives should be typified by prayers and praise. James 5:13 instructs us: Is anyone in trouble, let him pray. Is anyone happy let him sing songs of praise. Nothing lifts our spirits and engages our relationship with God better than these.
David reminds himself as well as all who read this what to do here. Praising God is described as blessing the Lord, boasting in the Lord, magnifying the Lord, exalting the Name of the Lord.
And this is not a once in a while thing. This Psalm makes it perfectly clear that praise is for all times, continually and mutually with others.
One effect of praise is that it brings joy to the afflicted. A good dose of praise to the Lord can reverse emotional distress. The Psalmist later asks: Why so downcast O my soul, put your hope in God! Praise redirects our attention off of our problems and woes to the glory of our maker and His provision.
I remember moving a step ladder once and a hammer fell off it and hit me on the head. My immediate response was: “Thank-you God that it didn’t crack my skull!” It could have been a lot worse. Sometimes praises need to go up for just that. Even if it had killed me, I can praise God for taking me home quickly, and thank Him that He will provide for those I leave behind.
David is praising God that he escaped the hands of the Philistines. Next he turns to the blessing of proper fear.
Say verses 4-14 with me:
I sought the Lord, and He answered me;
He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those
who fear Him,
and He delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Fear the Lord, you his saints!
For those who fear Him lack nothing.
Lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and you lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 19:9 says: the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
Earthly fears come and go, but the fear of the Lord lasts forever.
Jesus told His disciples over and over: Don’t be afraid! We are so easily spooked and moved to fear, are we not? Disease, dangers, difficulties, debts, teenage drivers (especially your own)… there are so many things that stir up our fears.
There are many fears that are just not worth your emotional energy! Most of what people fear and worry about never comes. Somehow we can think that if we worry about it, that will help… it won’t.
I really appreciate verse 4. God delivers us from all our fears that we don’t need when we learn to practice the fear of the Lord. Look at verse 7. Is this true? Do you believe that God protects you when you fear Him?
The fear that does us good is the fear of God. Think about it. There are some amazing benefits to fearing God. It is the beginning of wisdom. It is the whole duty of man. Fear of the Lord is the source of a good life here on earth and an eternal life afterward.
It is the fear of the Lord that produces a righteous life. Thus the Psalmist turns our attention to righteousness and God’s deliverance.
Read with me verses 15-22.
Nearness of God through praise and fear creates a heart of righteousness that God blesses with His saving hand.
Notice that the righteous cry out, vs 15.
They face many troubles, vs 17 &19.
They may experience being brokenhearted or crushed in spirit, vs 18.
God does not arm and equip us for spiritual battle and then refuse to send us into the fight. The servant of God is not called to a safe life of trouble free comfort and care free living. This is a fallen world filled with people in darkness, lost and without hope.
Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is an ongoing commission. We are redeemed servants. Redeemed and employed by the King of kings for His delivering mission.
Part of God’s delivering ministry is placed in our hands! We are coworkers with the King! We are under His authority and answerable to Him for our decisions and actions.
We take refuge in Him and He watches over us, answers our cries and comforts our afflictions with His nearness and deliverance.
Life without God’s care and provision may have its pleasures, but look at verses 16 and 21 again. You really don’t want to be there. That’s why praise to God and fear of the Lord are so helpful as we seek His kingdom and righteousness, walking in His will and knowing that His deliverance is sure.