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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Psalm 34 - Help from God

The heading of the psalm connects its composition to the occasion when David had to act like an insane person before a Philistine king (1 Samuel 21:10-15). His ruse was successful, yet David did not compliment himself for his strategy of escape; instead he gave praise to God for using this unusual method. Of course, David’s tactics here remind us that sometimes we must use our own thought processes in order to discover God’s way of rescuing us.

David had been very concerned about his predicament. If he remained with the Israelites, Saul would try again to kill him; but if he stayed with the Philistines they would kill him because of his fame as an Israelite warrior. Therefore he turned to God for help and experienced his rescue. Sometimes we think that situations are so difficult that not even God can solve them. Yet the fact is, no situation is too complex for the Lord to resolve. David therefore encourages other believers to rejoice with him in his deliverance (vv. 1-4).

What kind of person receives such help from God? The basic quality of life that marks a person to whom God listens is humility. Humility is more than thinking little of ourselves, it is also accompanied by great confidence in God. It is possible to assume that a poor self-image is the same as biblical humility. Yet often people with a poor self-image are totally pre-occupied with themselves and seldom give thought to the greatness of God or express confidence in his wisdom or power. Throughout this psalm David, while aware of his own poverty and weakness (v. 6), expresses his conviction that God can help those who trust in him. If it is protection that they need, the angels provide it (v. 7); if it is provision that they need, they will receive it (v.10).

In verses 11-22, David takes his experience and uses it to teach important lessons to others about the fear of God. ‘Children’ in verse 11 is not a reference to one’s age, but to their attitude (are we teachable) as disciples, wanting to know more about serving God.

David stresses the necessity of living a righteous life in order to know God’s blessings (vv. 12-14). This lifestyle involves our speech to and about others, our desire for peace with others, our prayers, our troubles, and our contrition and brokenness over our sins. When we live in this way, we can be sure that God’s eyes are always on us, God’s ears are always open to listen to us, God’s presence is always near us, God’s strength is always working for us, and God’s purposes will eventually deliver us.

According to Andrew Bonar, this psalm was often sung by the early church whenever the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. One helpful way of preparation for it would be to read this psalm beforehand, applying its themes to our own situations.

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