Are You Hurting Right Now? (Psalm 34) | Free Online Bible Classes
January 29, 2019

Are You Hurting Right Now? (Psalm 34)

Are You Hurting Right Now? Psalm 34

The Path Blog, at BiblicalTraining.org

Psalm 34:18.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

We all go through seasons in life. Some are good; others are not so good, but these difficult times can actually be the best times of our life. Why? Because it is when we are "brokenhearted" and "crushed in spirit" that we can know most clearly that God is close to us.

At one level, I feel bad for people who think that the Christian life is about the absence of pain. I don't like to hurt, but people who do everything they can to avoid pain will never know the intimacy they could have with God, an intimacy gained only in difficult times, when they are "brokenhearted" and "crushed in spirit."

In Psalm 34 there is a progression from David's experience of God in difficult times, to his invitation to us to experience the goodness of God, and the promise that ultimately righteousness is rewarded and wickedness is punished. The ultimate reward is an awareness of the presence of God. Let's work through the Psalm together.

Affirmation of intent

The Psalmist David begins by declaring his intention to praise God.

I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

I assume this is more David's intention than his achievement; given our human bent toward sin, it is difficult to imagine anyone actually achieving this goal of praising God at all tims. But notice David's goal. He wants his praise to lead others into praise, to encourage others who are "afflicted" to rejoice.

I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

David's experience

David's desire to praise God is not blind faith but is based on his own experiences of God's past deliverance.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

I love the fact that God loves community. He could just "snap his fingers" (so to speak) and cause things to happen, and at times he does. But I suspect his normal way of interacting with his creation is to work through people, in this case, his angels. But David is not promising deliverance for all people but only for those who "fear" God, a theme he will develop shortly.

Invitation

David wants his listeners to have the same experience he has. He wants us to know with the same certainty that God is good and cares for his children.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Fear of the Lord

But the promise of the Psalm is not for everyone. God is not some celestial nanny who steps in to help people whenever they ask for help and then steps out of their lives until the next emergency. Rather, the promises are for those who live within a relationship with him, for those who understand the "fear of the Lord."

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,

keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.

Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

Fearing God is recognizing who God is, who we are, and how we should then live. For those who do fear the Lord, God promises to be close.

The Righteous and the Wicked

However, there is another promise, and that is to punish wickedness. To those who do evil, who live outside of a relationship with God, who don't fear him, David promises punishment.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;

but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.

It was actually verse 21 that initially caught my eye. What destroys the wicked? The very evil they have been committing becomes their executioner.

Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

Their evil comes back on their head. This is much like Psalm 57:6 and Proverbs 26:27.

They dug a pit in my path—
but they have fallen into it themselves.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.

We understand that vengeance belongs to God while forgiveness belongs to us. But our human nature is to want vengeance, to see the evil punished for what they have done to us. But if God truly does reward righteousness and punish wickedness, then we can know that the very evil they committed will be turned back on their head and execute punishment on them. Or in the common parlance, "What goes around, comes around." Our task, as hard as it is, is to forgive and to ask God to bring them to repentance while there is still time.

The Character of God

I believe that the central question of life is whether or not we believe God rewards righteousness and punishes wickedness. In the midst of the evil all around us, in the midst of the painful seasons of our lives, is it worth it to pursue Him, believing that someday right will be seen to be right and evil will be seen to be evil, that those who pursue God's righteousness will be rewarded? If God does not keep his promises, if he does not reward righteousness and punish wickedness, then why would anyone trust Him?

David's experience, and mine, is that God does reward righteousness, that he is close to the brokenhearted, close to those who have been crushed in their spirit. He certainly doesn't keep us from all pain and suffering — anyone who says otherwise is selling something — because pain is the greatest teacher, molding us into Christ-likeness, which is infinitely more valuable than the absence of pain.

And I believe that eventually, in his own way and in his own time, God will punish unrepentant evil. My sinful nature wants to rejoice in that, but my regenerated heart tells me to rejoice in the fact that God will ultimately deliver me from all my fears (v 4), that his angel is encamped around me (v 7), that my experience of God shows that he is good (v 8), that I lack no truly good thing (v 10), that he has taught me to fear him (v 11), that he hears my cries (v 15), and that I will be rescued and not condemned (v 22).

I am thankful that the pains in my life have taught, and are teaching, me this one central truth:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

This is the assurance of one who lives in the fear, the reverential awe, of the Lord. It is a good place to live.

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