What first caught my attention was the psalmist’s opening resolution to “extol the Lord” — that is praise him highly — “at all times.” We might call that a 24/7 pledge – in effect during both day and night, through thick and thin, in good times and bad.
Is that kind of devotion possible in our kind of world? Our pace is super-fast and the distractions of life come at us from all directions. Also many would agree that ours is not a particularly devout era. We have our superstitions, our “rabbit feet,” our hidden idols, and these may favor us with a little dash of “spirituality.” But our times are “secular” — meaning “of this age only, wanting no underpinnings of the divine in life’s superstructure.”
Someone once defined secular to mean “if God exists it doesn’t matter.” That’s not the same as atheism, meaning “there is no God.” Or agnosticism, meaning, “He may or may not exist; there isn’t enough evidence to be sure.”
Secularists do not deny that there is a God; he’s just not important enough to pay serious attention to. He’s like the big red engines at the fire station. If our house is on fire we are glad to have them come screaming to our aid, but we wouldn’t want one parked in front of our house day and night. They, like God, are only for emergencies.
Psalm 34 was apparently written after King David had had a narrow escape from death. The heading to the psalm refers to an incident when he was running hard from King Saul who wanted to kill him (1 Sam. 21:10-15). He sought refuge by offering himself in the service of Achish, king of Gath, only to learn that his life was in danger there, too. So, he feigned insanity in order to be driven off and thus escape.
All of this engaged my interest and with my pencil I began to shade every reference to God, both nouns and pronouns. That page now looks as if it has the measles. The psalm is obviously a God-centered declaration of 24/7 trust.
Listen to his testimony: “I sought the Lord and he answered me;/ and delivered me from all my fears.” Or this: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted/ and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
The psalmist even indulges in a burst of instruction: “Come, my children, listen to me;/ I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” And, “Keep your tongue from evil/ and your lips from speaking lies./ Turn from evil and do good;/ seek peace and pursue it.”
A 24/7 trust in God means not only that we call on him in desperate moments but that we seek to live in accordance with his righteous standards at all times.
This psalm is richly nourishing to the spirit, but it is no match for the promises of our Lord himself. To his distraught disciples Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” And, “Whosoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14: 18,21).
In order to know the assurance of King David’s psalm, or embrace the promises of his regal descendant, our Messiah, we must follow the right sequence.
The sequence is not: experience his goodness in all sorts of ways and then eventually trust him; it is rather trust yourself to him first and then experience his goodness and care in all sorts of ways.
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