Saturday, March 1, 2014

Psalm 34

“This poor man cried, and Yahweh heard him and saved him out of all his troubles…The righteous cry, and Yahweh hears and delivers them out of all their troubles,” Psalm 34:7, 14.

In verse 4 David writes, “I sought Yahweh, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

This Psalm is a good place to live; its crescendo is Messianic (vv. 19 – 21), “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Yahweh delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken [see John 19:31-36]. Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.”

Our concluding assurance is (v.22) that, “Yahweh redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned,” this is a good place to live.

Knowing that there is only One who is Righteous, I can only read about the righteous in two ways, as either direct references to God or as references to those who abide in God as their righteousness – the context determines how I read the word “righteous”, sometimes it is one, sometimes it is the other, at other times it is both – they can be inseparable. As a friend recently said to his congregation, “It is important to know who we are not and it is important to know who we are.”

“This poor man cried and Yahweh heard him…” I think this is a good word for a tombstone. As a young man I would not have understood that, I didn’t think of myself as poor, I didn’t think of myself as particularly needing God; I had joined the Christian bandwagon, I’d found a new sport to play, I’d exchanged baseball for Jesus and church. This isn’t to say that my conversion wasn’t real, you had only to know me before and after to know that I had been changed – it is simply to say that it was shallow, I had not been weaned from an overriding self-centeredness.

A Christian observer may have thought that I was progressing nicely in the Christian life – I was learning the Bible, devouring it you might say – but devouring the Bible is not the same as being devoured by the Word. I shared the Gospel on a regular basis, witnessing became part of the fabric of my life; I preached my first sermon when I was 16, it wasn’t particularly good, in fact I think it was pretty bad, but then maybe no one noticed? Well, actually I did notice. But while I was doing a lot of Christian “things” I wouldn’t have resonated with, “This poor man cried and Yahweh heard him.” I was too full of myself.

Now, after almost five decades of knowing Jesus, I can look back and see that when the harsh realities of life hit me there and there and there, that as I realized my poverty before God (and even before man), that when I cried to our Father and the Lord Jesus that they heard me and delivered me from all my troubles. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that my troubles in each instance simply vanished, but I am saying that God delivered my heart and soul and mind from the troubles by drawing me close to Himself and making me aware of His presence and giving me assurance through His Word. Yes, there have been times when the troubles were taken away, sometimes more quickly than others; and sometimes I was taken away from the troubles – such is the nature of our pilgrimage.

I am much poorer today than I was as an arrogant young Christian without guidance and common sense, playing the Christian game matters much less than it did (I can’t say it’s all gone, only God knows me well enough to make that judgment) and knowing Jesus and serving others means so very much more. I do know that when this poor man cries that his Father and Lord Jesus hear him, I know I’m not speaking into a void, I know my words, my cries, my joys, my sorrows, are transported into the heart of God – I don’t understand these things, I cannot explain them – but I know them.

This Psalm is a good place to live.

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