>After Psalm 34’s middle section directed toward children (but applicable for all ages), the stellar Psalmist turns the focus back to the deliverance that was the focus in the first part of the Psalm.
Psalm 34 is one of David’s many Psalms. A paragraph before the Psalm notes: “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”
That strange story is found in 1 Samuel 21: David is on the run from an angry and jealous King Saul who wants to kill him. He seeks refuge in Gath (recall that this is the place from which the giant Goliath came), which is ruled by Achish (apparently also known as Abimelech). When the king’s servants remind him that Israel praises David as having struck down “tens of thousands” (while their king Saul is credited only with “thousands”), David worries that he’s worn out his welcome before it began. Fearing for his life, he feigns insanity, drooling into his beard and scratching the doors of the gate. The king of Gath is disgusted that a madman has been brought into his presence and sends him away.
It is only one of many times God delivered David from his enemies. David doesn’t think he was so clever to think of the insanity ruse. He recognizes God’s sovereignty and his hand of deliverance.
In gratitude and praise, David writes this beautiful Psalm. David was a mighty warrior and a virile man; he was also a man after God’s own heart. As an image of the Creator, David was creative. He was a skilled musician and talented poet. He played the harp well enough to be called into the royal palace as the king’s personal musician. He didn’t simply write rousing fighting songs; he wrote formal poetry. Psalm 34 is one of the best examples; it is an acrostic poem with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet beginning each verse.
Working within this formal structure, David crafts a wonderful song of deliverance that concludes with gospel truth. Let’s look at verses 15-18:
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.
Like any good poet, David infuses this section of Psalm 34 with powerful language and imagery.
God not only sees his children, but he also hears their cries. As we saw in an earlier post when looking at verse 8 (“taste and see”), utlizing more than one sense makes this passage come alive. God looks and listens “toward” believers. As in the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), his face shines upon them.
But the Lord’s face is turned against evil doers. He does not shine the light of his countenance upon them. Notice that it’s not a mere matter of them failing to have peace in this life; they have no heritage. Even the memory of these workers of iniquity is cut away from the earth’s collective consciousness.
Contrast that with what God does for the righteous. He hears their cries for help and he answers. He delivers them out of every trial. He is near to those whose hearts are breaking with grief. He saves those whose spirits are crushed with despair. Notice the active verbs (always the mark of a good poet): The LORD hears, delivers, and saves.
Our powerful God rescues us from every distress. He does so because he is also a personal God who loves us.
This theme of deliverance continues in verses 19-22. The contrast between God’s goodness to his people and his judgment of the wicked is even more pronouned as the Psalm surges into its final crescendo.
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 is broken.
Affliction 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.
God knows that we have many afflictons. He knows the extent of every struggle, the cause of every pain, and the sorrow in every heart. But he will deliver us from all these light and momentary struggles (2 Corinthians 4:17).
He knows how every bone cell grows and every blood corpuscle flows. The promise that he keeps every bone and not one of them will be broken doesn’t mean that no believer will ever break an arm or be diagnosed with cancer. It does mean that these decrepit bodies laid in graves will be resurrected one day into glorified bodies with no vestiges of brokenness or disease. And it points to the Redeemer who will make that happen, the One whose bones were not broken, but whose blood was shed for our salvation.
In contrast to the afflictions of the righteous (the memory of which will disappear), afflictions will kill the wicked (the memory of whom will disappear). And that’s not the worst of the bad news for those who hate God and his people; they will be condemned. They have no peace in this life, they have no hope at death, and they have no fellowship with God forever. I’ve heard it said that for the unbeliever, it’s bad, worse, and worst. But it keeps getting better for Christians. Life is good now, it’s better when we die, and it’s best when Christ returns.
David’s Psalm concludes with a resounding salvation crescendo: The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. The Lord is our Redeemer. Not a single believer will be lost. No believer slips through the cracks. None is ignored or overlooked. Any believer who takes refuge in Christ will be rescued from life’s storms and given safe harbor for eternity. No believer will be condemned!
In the hymn, And Can It Be?, Charles Wesley wrote:
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
That truly is amazing love! How can it be, that You, my God, should die for me?