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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Psalm 34:19-22: ‘The secret of deliverance’

The righteous person may have many troubles,

    but the Lord delivers him from them all;

20 he protects all his bones,

    not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;

    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

22 The Lord will rescue his servants;

    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Note that there is a self-destructive element to “Evil” (21), and this thought can encourage us today

These final verses reiterate the main themes of Psalm 34, and re-emphasise the truth of there being a great gulf between the people accepted by God, and those rejected by Him. In verses 21,22 the word “condemned” comes from the same verb as ‘make them bear their guilt in Psalm 5:10. (Consider Romans 8:1, and 35ff, and the difference faith in Jesus makes).

There is a realism about verse 19. Being right with God, and therefore committed to right living, is no guarantee of a trouble-free life. (See 2 Timothy 3:12). But God is our ever-available “refuge” (22b). Ultimately, all will be well for those who are right with God. (See the paradox in Luke 21:16,18).

Kidner, (p.159), says of verse 19b: ‘The sweeping affirmation…urges the mind forward to look beyond death, if such a promise is to be honoured.’ That said, the protection spoken of in this verse was literally given to Jesus, the most “righteous’ man ever to live. Not one of His bones was broken:

“The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs” (John 19:32,33).

Verse 36 says, “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken…” (Exodus 12:46 may also have been in John’s mind at this point).

We leave our rather long look at Psalm 34 with these wonderful words from Derek Kidner’s Commentary:

‘At whatever level David himself understood his affirmation of 22a…the whole verse is pregnant with a meaning which comes to birth in the gospel and which is hardly viable in any form that falls short of this. The Christian can echo the jubilant spirit of the psalm with added gratitude, knowing the unimagined cost of 22a and the unbounded scope of 22b’ (pp.159/160).

Psalm 34:15-18: ‘The secret of facing trouble’

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

    and his ears are attentive to their cry;

16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,

    to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;

    he delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The Lord is close to the broken-hearted

    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

‘The secret of facing trouble’,( Motyer), is to ‘take it to the Lord in prayer.’

‘The onset of trouble must be matched by the onset of prayer’ (Alec Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.507).

God’s ears are “attentive” (15). As Kidner observes, He takes our prayers seriously.

It is precious to realise that the Lord identifies with those who are overwhelmed by life’s troubles. He never takes our suffering lightly (18).

You will notice, I’m sure, the major contrast drawn between “the righteous” (who pray), and “those who do evil.”

 “The eyes of the LORD are on…but the face of the LORD is against…” Derek Kidner says, ‘The plight of the wicked is put in an equally personal form, in terms of the unwelcoming face of God (16)’ (Tyndale Commentary on Psalms 1-72, p.159).

 He then quotes C.S. Lewis, who wrote in ‘The weight of glory’:

‘We can be left utterly and absolutely outside – repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored.’

Eternal issues are at stake, and we will see this again when we come to look at the final section of Psalm 34 next time.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that you take our prayers seriously.

Psalm 34:11-14: ‘The secret of the good life’

Come, my children, listen to me;

    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12 Whoever of you loves life

    and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil

    and your lips from telling lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good;

    seek peace and pursue it.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9);

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18).

‘At the court of Achish David had wangled his freedom by falsehood and compromise, but a life of reverential fear of the Lord respects his truth and honours his values’ (Alec Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.507).

It may surprise us to discover the ingredients of the good life, but we will be wise to reflect carefully on these words, and adjust our behaviour accordingly. I find them ironic, set against the backdrop of the Tory leadership contest. At the heart of this lovely paragraph there is a call to live in repentance. For a believer, repentance is not a one-off experience, it is a lifestyle. At the outset of the Christian life we walk through the doorway of repentance; but, in a sense, we then find ourselves living in a house that goes by the same name.

In his early days, David lived by the principles of these verses and urged them on others (e.g. v11, see 1 Sam.24:7; 26:9, 23), at least he did in his dealings with Saul. 1 Peter 3:10-12 quotes 12-16 in a similar context of provocation and persecution. (Also compare verse 13 with 1 Peter 2:1,22).

“Men cannot spit forth poison without feeling some of the venom burning their own flesh” C.H.Spurgeon. (See James 3:1-12).

“That religion promises best which creates watchfulness over the heart and over the tongue. It is not enough not to do hurt, we must study to be useful, and to live to some purpose; we must seek peace and pursue it; be willing to deny ourselves a great deal for peace’ sake.” Matthew Henry

Psalm 34:11: Pass it on

Come, my children, listen to me;

    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

‘When God does something special for you, tell somebody else. The next generation needs to know that God is alive.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.330.

Derek Kidner gives verses 11-22 the title, Learn from me, (having entitled verses 1-10 Rejoice with me).

Alec Motyer points out that “I will teach” sets the tone for the remainder of the psalm, and over the next few days we will follow his helpful outline:

  • ‘The secret of the good life’ (11-14);
  • ‘The secret of facing trouble’ (15-18);
  • ‘The secret of deliverance’ (19-22).

Having already spoken about the fear of  the Lord David now says he will teach it. Derek Kidner  points out that almost every word in the opening of this section is in the style of the wisdom instructor in Proverbs 1-9, with his fatherly tone and stress on “the fear of the LORD” as the beginning of wisdom (Prov.1:7).

The lesson from this part of the psalm is essentially that true good is to be found by living in harmony with God:

‘It is the answer to the hardest times (19f) and to the most ultimate questions (21f)’  Kidner, p.158.

The suspicion was raised by the serpent, in Eden, that human flourishing is to be experienced outside of the will of God. But not so. That is a flagrant lie. The brokenness of broken people in our broken world testifies to Satan’s dishonesty. ‘For best results follow the Maker’s Instructions.’ When we break God’s laws we find we break ourselves upon them.

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus that life to the full is found in you alone. May I never believe the lies that tell me to search elsewhere. I love you Lord. There is no-one like you. I have discovered for myself that you are “the life” (John 14:6).

Psalm 34:8-10: Seek first!

Taste and see that the Lord is good;

    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,

    for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,

    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

In Isaiah 40:29-31, you find a similar contrast to the one drawn here:

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”

‘Fearing’ the Lord and ‘seeking’ the Lord belong. David invites others (he invites us!) to experience for themselves what he had known of the Lord’s goodness. These verses are the Old Testament equivalent of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:33:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

This is not ‘prosperity teaching.’ It is about the supplying of ‘needs’ rather than ‘greeds.’ But many believers can speak from personal experience about the Lord’s overflowing generosity to them. They have ‘tasted’ and ‘seen’ that “the Lord is good” – in numerous ways. Consider also Psalm 84:11:

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

It’s been pointed out that defence and supplies were David’s pressing needs in 1 Samuel 21 (the background passage to this psalm. He turns from the first of these, in verse 7, to the second, in verses 8,9, showing the same faith as in Psalm 23:1:

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”

I think of Paul’s words in Romans 8:32:

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Prayer: Lord God, we revel in your abundant goodness. You are generous to us beyond any deserving on our part. Thank you, in Jesus’ Name.

Psalm 34:8: Casual sampling?

Taste and see that the Lord is good;

    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

From verse 8 we enter what I’m calling the ‘Preaching’ (or ‘Teaching’) section of this psalm. Here are lessons he wants to communicate.

In this verse we hear a call to personal experience: to know God for oneself and to trust Him personally: “…blessed is the one…”

‘Faith is the soul’s taste…’ C.H.Spurgeon.

When Jilly and I were planning our wedding, we visited a caterer’s, somewhere in the York area, to try out certain of their offerings. As I recall, we didn’t finally opt for this particular caterer, but we did sample their food. However, that was all we did. We didn’t have a feast; we just tried out examples of their food.

Both Hebrews 6:4,5 and 1 Peter 2:3 use this verse to describe initial faith ‘…and to urge that the tasting should be more than a casual sampling’ (Derek Kidner).

‘Those who seek the Lord discover that He not only saves and keeps but that He also satisfies (v.8). “Taste” doesn’t suggest a sip or a nibble; it implies feeding on the Lord through His Word and experiencing all He has for us (1 Peter 2:3; see Heb.2:9; 6:3). It means knowing Him better and enjoying Him more. It was a great blessing for David to be delivered from Gath, and it was a greater blessing for him to be protected by the Lord after he fled, but the greatest blessing was drawing near to God and enjoying His presence, not just His gifts. David found God’s Word sweet (119:103), and he rejoiced in the goodness of the Lord. “Good” is an important word in this psalm (vv.8,10,12,14).’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘OT commentary’, p.915.

Psalm 34:7: ‘A circle of protection’

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,

    and he delivers them.

(“GOD’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray” The Message).

There is much more to reality than what we can see!

In Genesis 32: 1,2 we read: “Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.” ‘Mahanaim’ means ‘two camps.’ Jacob saw that angels were camped where he was camped.

‘…the holy angels do us more good offices every day than we are aware of’ (Matthew Henry).

“The angel of the Lord”  is a term regularly used in the Old Testament for God Himself, come down to earth. For example, look at Genesis 16:11 and 13, where, appearing to Hagar, the Angel of the Lord spoke to her about the Lord and yet was the Lord. In Bible College we were taught that these ‘Theophanies’ may well have been pre-incarnational appearances of Jesus. There are Old Testament intimations of diversity within the unity of the Godhead.

Perhaps, because we see this angel as “commander of the army of the LORD” in Joshua 5:14, we are to regard him as surrounding God’s people with angelic legions who are under his leadership. Kidner makes the lovely comment that “Elisha may have based his certainty that ‘those who are with us are more than those who are with them’, on this promise itself, when he asked that his servant might have visual proof of it.” (See 2 Kings 6:15ff). (He is, of course, referring to Ps.34:7).

‘We little know how many providential deliverances we owe to those unseen hands which are charged to bear us up lest we dash our foot against a stone.’ C.H.Spurgeon, ‘Treasury of David’.

“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we are truly grateful for all the ways you protect us and minister to our needs. Thank you that reality is so much bigger than anything we can observe. But you see it all, and rule over all. We are content to be in your Hands.

Psalm 34:6: ‘Changeless truth about God’

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;

    he saved him out of all his troubles

‘One person’s testimony is only valuable to others if it rests on changeless truth about God’ (Alec Motyer, ‘New Bible Commentary’, pp.506/507). David’s testimony here is, in effect, ‘God rescued me; you too are safe in his hands’ (Derek Kidner: ‘Kidner Classic Commentaries: Psalms 1-72’, p.157).

This is the testimony of a spiritual bankrupt, so it is the testimony of everyone “saved” by Jesus. The Lord said, in the first beatitude, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The “poor in spirit” are those who are spiritually bankrupt, and who know it and confess it. If, as we saw, the “afflicted” (2) are those ‘at the bottom of life’s heap’ (Motyer), then David admitted he had also found himself there. (Someone observed that it is possible for a person to get so low that the only way they can look is up).

Kidner says, ‘To get the force of David’s words one only has to recall his peril and his abject clowning to save his life.’

“When I was desperate, I called out, and GOD got me out of a tight spot”  (v.6 ‘The Message’).

God did get him out of a tight corner, that’s for sure, and there is help and comfort for us in David’s testimony, because it contains ‘changeless truth about God’, and this God is our God – for ever and ever!

Psalm 34:5: Radiance

Those who look to him are radiant;

    their faces are never covered with shame.

Every face turned to him grows brighter (Jerusalem Bible).

The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

 the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

His name was Alan and, for a short time when I was a teenager, he was my Bible class leader at a local church in Winstanley, Wigan. The thing I most remember about Alan is his radiance. I can’t remember much about his teaching, but I remember him. He shone. He was “aglow with the Spirit” (Romans 12:11). Alan was a new convert and he was just so in love with Jesus he was like walking sunshine. His influence was great. He went on to have a major leadership role in the ‘Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International.’ I ran into him from time to time in later years, and I found he was always the same – such a bright Christian.

It may often be the case that the most important change we need is internal rather than external. God may, or may not, free us from troubles on the outside, but He can give us such a light, a luminosity on the inside that we are overcomers anyway.

The word “radiant” is found in Isaiah 60:5 where it describes a mother’s face lighting up at the sight of her children long given up for lost. Just imagine the ecstasy.

Exodus 34:29 tells of Moses’ face shining as he came down from the mountain (and he didn’t even know it!), and 2 Corinthians 3:18 relates this to a Christian’s growing likeness to the Lord. So radiance is, Biblically-speaking, both delight and glory – the transformation of the whole person – and this was what I saw in Alan.

It reminds me of the story about the author Edgar Wallace, who lived in the same street as a godly clergyman. Apparently, Wallace said, ‘As long as I live in the same street as that old man, I can never doubt that there is a God.’

The second part of the text says: “…their faces are never covered with shame.” This means we will never be disappointed as a result of looking to the Lord. Matthew Henry references Hannah who “…went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast” (1 Samuel 1:18).

PRAYER: Lord God, please grant that people may see the beauty of Jesus in me.

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