PSALMS: Week 5 (Psalm 34)
Topic: Joy Verse: Psalm 34
[SLIDE] Title Graphic Good morning. It’s great to be with you all here at Oikos in your new building. This is fantastic! What an amazing and glorious gift of God to be able to gather and worship in this beautiful space. Congratulations. Most of you probably know that Pastor Aaron and your leaders have been very generous with their time in supporting our little church plant in Katy, Texas. About a year ago I met with Pastor Aaron to talk about starting a ministry that would later be called NewChurch. We actually had our Grand Opening Public Launch last night. On behalf of NewChurch, I want to express our deepest gratitude and appreciation for all that you have done to help and encourage us. Thank you. Let’s pray that God will bless our time looking at His Word together: Father in Heaven, thank You for this beautiful room to meet in, for the joy and enthusiasm that fills it, and for Your grace and love that unifies us in Your presence to worship and glorify You. Open Your Word to us now, challenge us and give us comfort. AMEN Pastor Aaron asked me to speak from Psalm 34 today, and I’m more than happy to go with it. I drive my kids to school in the morning and we have been listening to the Bible each day, seeing how much of it we can get done in one year—we have a fortyfive minute commute to Epiphany Lutheran School, so we are actually clipping along pretty well. It just so happens that we are in the Psalms right now.
The Psalms are very special to me, I mean, all of God’s Word is special to me but the Psalms are extra special. [ SLIDEStars] When I was fourteen, I was standing in the backyard looking at the stars thinking about how I was an enlightened atheist. I was trying really hard not to believe in God when suddenly I had the overwhelming sensation that I was the one being looked at, that the billions of stars and the molecules that make of all of reality were too interconnected and precisely arranged to have happened by random chance. I suddenly was overcome with the notion that there had to be a God who created it all. I couldn’t shake it, so I went in the house and picked up a Bible. I cracked it open to a random verse and started reading—miraculously, I read P salm 19. “ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” I’ve been a believer ever since. Psalms is the most complete work of practical theology that has ever been written. It is a collection of prayers, songs, and reflections on who God is, and how we should worship Him. Do you ever wonder how you should pray? Do you ever wonder what to pray about? What is appropriate and what isn’t? The Psalms are the answer. In these prayers we find examples of sad prayers for when our heart is broken, when we are afraid, when people hurt us, when we fail God and others. We find examples of angry prayers asking God how long He is going to ignore us, how long He is going to let people hurt us and threaten us, we find prayers to strike our enemy down, for their lips to be cut off their faces, for their bodies to be struck down and their blood to be licked up by dogs—brings a whole different perspective on the idea of praying for our enemies. Side note: There are two ways to get rid of an enemy, and only two. One is to destroy them and the other is to make them our friend. Either way, when we pray about it we
are honoring the idea that “vengence is Mine thus saith the LORD.” The largest number of the Psalms are laments but there are also prayers of thankfulness, victory and joy. Psalm 34 is an example of a happy dance Psalm. [ SLIDETitle] It was written by David before he was king. He was on the run from King Saul who was jealous of David and wanted to kill him. David and his band of merry men showed up at the Tabernacle and asked for some food. The priest gave them the holy bread of the presence—you might remember Jesus referring to this when the Pharisees jumped His case about healing someone on the Sabbath. David also said that he left in such a hurry that he forgot to bring a weapon, so they gave him Goliath's sword which just happened to be wrapped in a cloth in the corner. In 1 Samuel 21 it tells us that David took the sword and escaped from King Saul, he went to the city of Gath where he was hoping to get some help from King Achish, but as soon as he got there he realized King Achish was not going to help him. He was surrounded and in a tight spot so he did the only logical thing he could think of—he scratched on the doors like a dog, howled at the moon, drooled down his beard and pretended to be insane. His plan worked and they let him go, King Achish said, “We have enough crazy people around here.” From there David went to the Cave of Adullam where he built his mighty men up to an army of 300 mighty warriors. This is where he wrote Psalm 34. Here is David’s happy dance: I will bless the L ORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the L ORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the L ORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the L ORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the L ORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. I love this next line because Kemper used it in his song “Warrior” but also because it’s one of the hundreds of verses that confirms the idea of angels guarding the people of God and the supernatural forces that surround us. The angel of the L ORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them. Then there’s this very well known phrase: Oh, taste and see that the L ORD is good! When I’m reading through the Psalms, I think it’s fun to find all the little phrases that have been pulled to make songs, hymns and popular phrases—the greatest hits of the Psalms. David goes on: B lessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the L ORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the L ORD lack no good thing. The image of young lions suffering want and hunger is a powerful image. See, it doesn’t matter how young and powerful
you are, how quick and strong, if God doesn’t provide a deer to chase down and overpower, you will not eat. Don’t trust in your own strength, instead seek the Lord. The next part is awesome because I think it totally speaks to human nature. You know how when we’re on the top of the world, feeling like everything is going our way, we have a tendency to give advice to all the poor unlucky ones around us? I’m not saying David is out of line, but I think this next part is typical talk for people who are doing their happy dance. It can be hard to hear for someone who isn’t quite feeling the same way: Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the L ORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? (Do you want to live a long life? Do you want God to bless you? Here, do this...) Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the L ORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Well, there. That sounds simple enough. Control your tongue, be good, and God will bless you. Hmmm. Houston, we may have a problem, since we can’t control our tongue, our hearts are inclined toward evil, and there are none who are righteous—not one. Well, there is one but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s finish reading the Psalm: The face of the L ORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the L ORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The L ORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the L ORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The L ORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. That’s the end of the Psalm. In the Gospel of John, chapter 19, part of this Psalm is quoted in the context of Jesus being crucified on the cross. “ He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.” David wrote this song as a happy dance when he was able to escape from King Achish and King Saul. The Gospel of John puts a much more somber light on how the Lord will redeem the life of His servants. David says that if you want God to bless you all you have to do is be righteous. The problem is that none of us are able to be righteous on our own. I mean, we all know this. We know it theologically. We know it logically. But sometimes we don’t REALLY know it. If we did, we wouldn’t be so quick to make excuses for the things we do to each other. We wouldn’t be so quick to get mad when someone points out that we took a joke too far, or did something that we
shouldn’t have done. Most of the time, when we feel ourselves getting angry we should stop whatever we are doing or saying and realize that anger is like a smoke alarm. Something is on fire, and we are probably the one who struck the match. So, we all know in some way that we are not righteous—that’s Sunday School 101, but we don’t really know or it. If we did, we wouldn’t try to deflect the blame from ourselves and try to villainize someone else all the time. But we do. So, let me say something that should be obvious to all of us: None of us are good people. God does not owe us His kindness or blessing. The world is sick and dying, and the cause of death is mankind. Us. All of us. We are the disease. Even when God reaches down to show us love we become little biting monsters that refuse His affection and snap at His fingers. Jesus came to the world, was kind to us, showed us how to live, how to love, and we killed him. But we didn’t break His bones. And He didn’t stay dead. God’s Word is true and trustworthy. And now, because of Jesus, Jesus who is Lord, Jesus who is God Almighty, the last line of Psalm 34 gives us more reason for happy feet and joy than David EVER knew was even possible. Listen to these words again: The L ORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. If we are in Christ then we are a new creation. Jesus resurrected from the dead and offers new life to every one of
us. We can be cured of our disease. We are offered refuge, safety, and eternal life in Jesus. We don’t even have to act crazy to get it—although some people seem to think we do based on how some Christians act. Because of Jesus, the eyes of God are on us! Because of Jesus, God hears our cry and answers. He delivers us out of our troubles. He is near to us when we are brokenhearted and saves us when we are crushed in spirit. We are not promised a life that avoids trouble or pain but we are promised that the L ORD will deliver us out of them all—in His timing. We have to trust Him. Remember the righteous One who we are following and worshiping—if we are following Him, Jesus, then like Jesus it is going to look hopeless sometimes. The cross looked hopeless, but it has become the very symbol of our hope. No matter how dark it seems, God has given us His Word that we will be alright. Trust in Him. [SLIDETitle] As elated and full of joy David seems to be in Psalm 34, in Psalm 35 we find him once again pleading for God to have mercy on him and save him from his enemy. I think it’s a good reminder that in this world we are always going to have trouble but we should take comfort in knowing that Jesus has overcome the world. I’ve heard it said that there are only two places to be
in this life—in a storm of trouble, or in the calm before the next storm. May we take refuge in Christ the Lord. May we sing with unspeakable joy for others to find their refuge in Him, too. May we live lives that cause all who surround us to know what we know: That we have tasted the bread of heaven, and it is good. May we invite everyone around us to magnify the Lord with us. AMEN