Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, I’m going to pick up the discipline. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:
- What is this Psalm about?
- What does this Psalm teach about God?
- How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.
For the fourth of December, here’s Psalm 34:
1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
8 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.
11 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.
15 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 brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 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.
What is this Psalm about?
This is a Psalm of two halves – I’ll freely admit that I’m beginning my reading and reflecting in the half time of a football [soccer for American readers] match – starting with what Allen P. Ross calls ‘declarative praise’ and ending with what he calls ‘descriptive praise and instruction’. This is still a Psalm of worship and praise – with the latter half of each verse offering suggestions on how God’s people will live, showing that worship of a transcendent God and the way we arrange our human lives are intimately connected.
What does this Psalm teach us about God?
The God of Psalm 34 is a God to be worshipped, but perhaps one of the most striking traits of this God is that God is a hearing God. Verses 6 and 15 make this explicit – with verse 15 echoing it, less explicitly. This is a radical reminder of the relational nature of God – the same God who also rescues, delivers and is a refuge. There is another important thread of justice and the victory of God and God’s goodness over evil – again shedding light on who God is and what God cares about.
How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
The more confusing the time, the more we as God’s people need to remember that there is not much new under the sun. We should remember that God speaks, has spoken, and is listening. In that, we can be reminded that ‘no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned’ [v. 22b], that God ‘saves those who are crushed in spirit’ [v18b] and ‘blessed is the one who takes refuge in him’ [v8b]. These promises and reminders are true regardless of circumstance.
A prayer drawn from Psalm 33:
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. Lord, you say that you save those who are crushed in Spirit, and that you will bless the ones who take refuge in you. Please be true to your word, God, and thankyou that you will deliver people from troubles. Amen.