Rejoicing in Restoration - Psalm 34:1-10 & Hebrews 2:17-18
mentions a time in David’s life “when he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.” This account is in , when David was fleeing from jealous King Saul, who wanted to kill him. David came to the territory of the king of Gath, but his reputation for killing “tens of thousands” of Philistines has preceded him. To avoid suspicion, David acted as if he were insane. The king berated his servants for bringing such a man into his presence, and David was allowed to leave. It was a time of great distress for David, one when he desperately needed God’s help.
The two verses from Hebrews come from a different setting altogether. The book of Hebrews was written to Christians from a Jewish background who were suffering their own version of rejection: being ostracized for choosing to follow Jesus as Messiah. The pressure to return to Judaism was intense. The writer, who is not named in the book, urges them not to do so, lest they abandon all they have received in Christ. The writer is trying to persuade his readers that what Christ provides through the new covenant is much better than what the old covenant was able to provide. The portion we have today is part of the writer’s case for why Jesus is the better high priest.
Call to Praise -
Call to Praise -
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
First to note here is the defining characteristic of Hebrew poetry: parallelism. This means making a statement and then repeating the thought in slightly different words. Here David maintains that he has chosen to adopt a posture of continual praise to the Lord. David is not claiming that he lives in a nonstop state of praise. Rather, he is emphasizing that situations of distress and despair (such as the one described in the psalm’s heading) are occasions when God should be blessed and not discarded.
This is a powerful thing for a man on the run to say. He is not singing this song from a padded pew in beautiful sanctuary. He sings a song of praise when others would be tempted to curse their enemies and feel sorry for themselves. David strives to exalt God at all times - even the worst of times.
Though on the run from King Saul, David found the ability to praise God despite his circumstances. To be determined to “extol the Lord at all times” is not denial or escapism; rather, this is the normal response of someone who has been grounded in the Lord and knows that God will be faithful, regardless of difficulties.
What would out neighbors notice about us if we were committed to praising God at all times? In speech and demeanor when times are good; in speech demeanor when times are hard.
David eventually escapes his perilous surroundings, but he doesn’t dwell on his own ingenuity. Instead he directs all glory to God. In addition, he does not keep his rescue to himself. He wants others to know about it.
More parallelism presents itself as David invites others to join him in praising the Lord. The word glorify appears numerous times in the Scriptures, and that word causes us to think of the angels giving honor and praise to God in Heaven. While we do our best to glorify the Lord and exalt his name, our efforts inevitably fall short, as we cannot add more glory to what God already possesses. Our perspective must always be that he is the transcendent, eternal Creator, Redeemer, and Ruler - and we are not.
What practical steps would help our church members to exalt God’s name together? During corporate worship; while participating in shared ministries; in group Bible-study settings.
Caring God -
Caring God -
I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. O fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want. The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
In verse 4, we begin to see in this verse a repeated poetic pattern. David began this psalm by speaking of himself. Then in verse 3, just considered, he addresses an audience (which may be his band of 400 followers noted in ). This is evidence of the psalm’s being a communal invitation rather than an individual meditation. Again the psalmist shares his own testimony and indirectly invites his audience to seek God. The Lord is responsive when his people seek him out ().
David doesn’t list specific fears. But judging from the psalm’s superscription, we may surmise that he feared being killed either by King Saul or King Abimelek. David probably knows of the times when Abraham and Issac felt threatened by a Philistine king, so both spoke to him deceptively. They were found out, but God protected them nonetheless. David has had good reason to fear; yet he has had even better reason not to fear; God can deliver him.
How did a time of God’s deliverance from a fearful season prepare you for future challenges? Lessons learned about God; lessons learned about fellow Christians; lesson learned about yourself.
Although God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (), he is especially interested in providing for all of his faithful ones. Abraham and Isaac revealed character flaws in speaking deceptively. God knew what was going on, of course, but he was merciful.
God’s people have hope as long as they look to him. That hope is not rooted in their own worthiness, but in the worth that God attributes to them. Though disdained by the world, they have no reason to be covered with shame. By contrast, David prays in that those who intend to harm him “be put to shame and confusion.”
In verse 6, notice that David is talking about himself, thus identifying with the poverty of his audience. The word poor is the singular version of the plural word translated “afflicted” in verse 2, above. David himself is from a lowly background. He was watching his father’s sheep when the prophet Samuel came to Bethlehem seeking one of Jesse’s sons to anoint as the next king of Israel. No one considered David, the youngest, as a possible candidate. No one, that is, except God.
The angel of the Lord forms a protective perimeter around those who fear God. Fear is a term of reverence and respect for God. The passage is reminiscent of , where Joshua encounters the commander of the Lord’s army. Joshua wants to know whose side the angel is on. The angel refuses to pick sides; God’s angel simply fights for or against whomever God says. If we want God to fight for us, we must fear him. Only then can we be confident that he will deliver us. The Lord’s protection may not take a visible form, but it is there.
In verse 3, above, David has invited listeners to join in glorifying the Lord. Now he invites them to enter into a personal relationship of trust in God and to experience him firsthand. David invites us to eat at the Lord’s table, for only he truly satisfies. The state of being blessed that is experienced by those who take refuge in God is one of sustained satisfaction and contentment.
Verse 9 talks about fear of the Lord. teaches that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Fearing God includes believing that what says is true. When he says that certain actions will yield certain negative consequences, we must believe him. In other words, we should fear what God says we should fear.
Corresponding with that is the understanding that we should not fear what God says we should not fear. If we live as God desires, we have nothing to fear because he created us and know what is in our best interests. He knows all our needs and will provide for them.
What life-lessons have you learned about God’s provision? In regard to your faith; in regard to God’s character; in regard to your fellow believers
Compassionate Savior -
Compassionate Savior -
Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
focuses on God’s desire and ability to provide for those in need. David experienced this and eagerly invites his followers to trust the Lord in a similar fashion. But one might reasonably ask how God can know what we really need since he himself has never needed anything (). One might respond by pointing out that since God created us, of course he knows what we need. As a car designer knows what it takes to keep an automobile running, so also God knows what we need to flourish.
Even so, it is particularly reasonable to ask how God knows what it is like to suffer oppression. No one can oppress God. His greatest enemies tremble before him. He may know what our bodies need on a biological level, but how can he relate to us on an emotional level? How could God identify with being afflicted?
The author of Hebrews provides a most convincing reply. When God became flesh in Jesus, he entered personally into all the frailty of human existence. In the flesh, he suffered hunger, poverty, neglect, betrayal, torture, and a horrendous death. What God knew to be true as the all-knowing God, he experienced as a vulnerable human.
That experience qualified Jesus to be the perfect high priest to mediate between humanity and God. Like us, he experienced temptation; unlike us, he remained faithful and did not sin (). Thus Jesus could become the perfect sacrifice for our sins, unlike the high priests of the old covenant, who had to offer sacrifices for their own sins.
God then raised Jesus from the dead. Now, having ascended into Heaven, Jesus intercedes on our behalf. Though our sin separates us from God, Jesus has provided atonement to reconcile us with God by taking the punishment for our sins upon himself at the cross.
How should a Christian’s life change when becoming fully convinced that Jesus is the merciful and faithful high priest? Regarding prayer interactions with God; regarding interactions with other believers; regarding interactions with unbelievers.
Some suggest that Jesus cannot relate to our spiritual poverty because he himself never sinned. The writer of Hebrews disagrees with this kind of reasoning. One does not have to sin to relate to sinners. It is enough that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are” (). He faced a period of severe temptation following his baptism. The spiritual warfare that occurred during that experience must have been intense to a degree we cannot fathom. Jesus also wrestled in Gethsemane with carrying out the Father’s plan for him to drink the bitter cup of suffering just ahead. But Jesus fully surrendered to his Father’s will ().
When we read Hebrews alongside , we see Jesus linked with David in a different way. David suffered oppression. He had to escape the wrath of one, possibly two, jealous kings. Not only did he trust God for deliverance, but he encouraged others to do the same.
Jesus too faced oppression. The paranoid King Herod tried to kill the infant Jesus. Religious and secular authorities eventually succeeded in putting him to death. But Jesus was not someone who obsessed about the injustices surrounding his trial and execution. Rather, he used his experience to identify with us in the many forms of affliction that beset us in a fallen world. His perfect example of faithfulness even in the face of death encourages us to hold fast.
Though the world may appear to get the best of us, the God who vindicated Jesus by raising him from the grave will raise us too; and we will reign victorious with him!
Heavenly Father, we are humbled by your concern for us. We are so small in the grand scheme of things! Yet you love us beyond our ability to comprehend. We thank you for delivering us from the evil that surrounds us and the evil that lies within us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.