We can blame the crazy state of the world on a global pandemic, but the truth is in any other regular six-month period lots of people have to face lots of tough stuff, whether they’re in quarantine or not. You cannot live on this planet without facing struggles or suffering. Therefore, it is not uncommon to hear a voice in the back of your human consciousness asking from time to time “Is God really good?” In this broken world and in a broken heart filled with disappointment and disillusionment, can there be a good, almighty power in control?
Psalm 34 is a well-known invitation from David to bring thanksgiving to God. Is it always possible to be thankful to God? Is he really good every day?
David wrote this Psalm after narrowly escaping the wrath of the evil king Achish of Gath (1 Samuel 21) by pretending to be crazy. (Clever trick, I know!) He was so relieved that the “marks on the doors and gate and…Spittle from his beard” (1 Samuel 21:15) had the desired effect, that he could not help but thank God for his deliverance.
“I will bless (extol/praise) the Lord at all times;
His praise will always be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
Let the humble (afflicted) hear and be glad (rejoice).
Oh, magnify (glorify) the Lord with me;
And let us exalt his name together!”Psalm 34:1-3
David opens the Psalm with an invitation to join him in blessing the Lord at all times by speaking good words about his kindness and generosity. Furthermore, David tells us that when we boast about the Lord’s greatness it should fill us with joy.
“I sought the Lord, 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 Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.”Psalm 34:4-7
In these verses we are assured that God hears our prayers, he cares about our prayers and answers them. He pays attention to those who call on him and helps those in trouble. The Lord always hears us and acts on our behalf if we trust and love him. This assurance should change our appearance into radiance and without shame.
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints (holy/godly people)
for those who fear him have no lack (have all they need)!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
But those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”Psalm 34:8-10
The ESV study bible uses the illustration of someone inviting you to taste a delicious meal with an expression of “try this; I know you’ll like it.” We are invited to make a personal experience of God’s goodness. God is the source of everything good and everything good is from God.
Can I have a brief Bible nerd moment?
Whenever you see the name of God written as LORD in all capitals, you can replace it with the Hebrew name for God: Yahweh. We can spend a whole post discussing the definition of Yahweh, but you can watch an abbreviated explanation here. Basically, this definition of God contains the most important aspects of his character which you can read more about here. Amongst these are the facts that God is without beginning or end and Yahweh is constant and never-changing. He is I am. Most importantly for our discussion, Yahweh is the absolute standard of goodness, beauty and truth in the world. He does not consult any rule book – he is the rule that governs the universe. God does whatever he pleases and it is always right and always good. This definition is crucial to the understanding of God’s character.
Everything that comes from God is good and everything that is good comes from God. For God to not be good is for him to be un-God. Declarations of God’s goodness can be found throughout Scripture:
“Everything God made was very good (Genesis 1:31). No one is good except God (Mark 10:18). All things work together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28). Those who seek Yahweh lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10). And so on.”
Just because our view of a situation or circumstance is not good, does not mean that Yahweh cannot make it good. We do not have the eternal vision he has. Our perception is very limited, but we can look through a biblical lens to get a hint of God’s will and purpose for the future (Ephesians 1:11). In his omnipotence, Yahweh can even use evil for our good. Because of who God is I can have the assurance that what I have will be for my own good and what I don’t have is also withheld for my good.
Take a minute and read that again: Because of who Yahweh is what I have will be for my own good and what I don’t have is also withheld for my good.
If we fear the Lord with reverence we will lack no good thing. John Piper defines this fear of God as the fear of being separated from God. When we humbly accept the sovereignty of God we will know he is enough. In times of trouble, he holds us like a Father holds his sobbing child whom he has rescued from despair and danger. How much would our perception of our reality change if we just accept this view of God as our loving Father, who cares for us and knows the best for us, better than we can ever know for ourselves? The NIV Life Application bible advises that when we have an unmet heart’s desire that causes us distress, we should ask these three questions: 1. Is this really a need? 2. Is it good for me? 3. Is this the best time for this desire? God wants us to learn to be totally dependent on him.
The truth that our God is all powerful and we are not is not a popular thought in our modern society. We are bombarded with messages of our own power and responsibility to make our lives “great.” We must realize that God is not in our debt, but we are in his. Everything we are, and everything we will become, is a gift. This should be the deepest source of all our gratitude. By looking for these gifts in our everyday life we can become more convinced of his goodness.
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord
What man is there who desires life
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.Psalm 34:11-14
When we truly fear the Lord as a child fears disappointing their loving Father, our lives and conduct will reflect this. We will not lie, we will turn away from evil, we will do good and promote peace. Our character will reflect this obedience in character and speech. Both Paul (Ephesians 5:3-20) and Peter (2 Peter 3:10-12) further illustrated how our conduct should be changed when we fear the Lord.
In fact, Paul advises the Ephesians to “Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-20) Therefore, we can conclude that when we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us the effect of the Spirit’s control over our lives will be – Thanksgiving!
“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
Not one of them are broken.
Afflictions will slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
None of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”Psalm 34:15-22
In the last part of this Psalm David assures us that the Lord takes care of those who trust in him. Verse 18 has been a great comfort for me in a time of anguish – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” When our will is not fulfilled or we have been humbled (crushed in spirit) by circumstances we will experience the nearness of God. He is our source of power, courage and wisdom. We are guaranteed that Yahweh hears our cries and our prayers.
Furthermore, David acknowledges that both the righteous and the wicked will face suffering, but that those who live uprightly will be heard by God, healed, rescued and redeemed. This relates to a beautiful reminder from Apostle Peter to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
In fact, God cares so much for us that he sent Jesus as our Redeemer to pay the price so we will not be condemned (v. 21). The last few verses of Psalm 34 serve as a prophecy of Jesus Christ on the cross. Although it was the Roman custom to break the legs of the crucified to ensure their death, Jesus’ bones were left intact (John 19:32-37). The fact that Jesus died on the cross on our behalf as a sinner in spite of being guiltless; overcame death, and eventually ascended into heaven to go and prepare a place for us to spend eternity with him is both the ultimate example of Yahweh turning evil into good and evidence of God’s eternal goodness.
Next week we will explore how God’s plan for our salvation and the sacrifice of Jesus fills us with the purest form of gratitude.
Please let me know if you found this study of scripture helpful and which part touched you.
Click on the link below to watch my Facebook Live discussion on Psalm 34.