Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.
Psalm 34 paints a bright picture of hope against a bleak background of suffering and terrors that break the heart and crush the spirit. Poet Luci Shaw wrote,
A piece of hope spins out
bright, along the dark, and is not
lost in space. . .
(Luci Shaw, “But Not Forgotten” in Listen to the Green (Colorado Springs: Harold Shaw Pub, 1973)
Yes, that summarizes Psalm 34.
The first part of the psalm is a hymn of praise as the poet tells how the Lord delivered him. The second part encourages us to seek God because he rewards those who seek him. The last part is another section of praise for God’s deliverance.
When my brother was in his early twenties, he suffered a broken hip on a mission trip to Sudan. He declined their medical treatment when they produced a used needle to inject painkillers. Back in Canada, he spent a year in and out of hospitals trying to save the hip. It never recovered, so the doctors finally fused it with a metal rod. My brother said that verses 19-20 of Psalm 34 tormented him all year. They read,
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
In the hospital, as my brother lay awake long nights in pain, he did a lot of thinking and feeling about that verse, “God protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”
Perhaps our spiritual lives are more complex than naming and claiming the simple, straightforward promises. My brother’s experience connects with my prayer life. Jesus’ promise: “I will do whatever you ask in my name” (John 14:13) does not work for me every time. In Psalm 34, the bright promises are painted against a backdrop where the poet describes the experience of the righteous as afflicted, troubled, fearful, crying, broken-hearted, and crushed in spirit. God is always present to us, sometimes protecting our bones or healing them, sometimes strengthening us to endure seemingly endless troubles.
I sought the Lord and he answered me,
he delivered me from all my fears (v. 4).
Yes, God, you are the one who can drain the swamp of our fears.
Those who look to you are radiant;
Their faces will never be ashamed (v. 5).
May it be you, God, and not the cosmetics industry, who brings light to our eyes and joy to our faces.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
Yes, Lord, you hear, and you deliver us from our troubles (v. 6).
Taste and see that the Lord is good,
Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him (v. 8).
Lord, we have tasted that you are good. We feel it when your face shines on us, we feel it when you give us peace in our confusion and light in our darkness. Turn our tasting into feasting, until we experience with all our heart that you are good.
Whoever loves life
and desires to see many good days,
Turn from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it (vv. 12, 14).
Yes, Lord, we love the life you offer — not a life of wealth and safety and escape from troubles, but a life of turning from evil to do good, a life of pursuing peace.
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted,
and saves those who are crushed in spirit (v. 13).
Lord, we feel the brokenness of our spirit, our life, our world. Thank you for drawing near to broken hearts and crushed spirits.
The Lord will rescue his servants;
No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned (v. 22).
Thank you for looking out for us. Thank you for freeing us from all condemnation. Thank you for being our refuge in life and our hope in death. We wait quietly in your presence.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.