I've been camped out in Psalm 34 for the past couple weeks. I found myself turning to this familiar psalm one morning, and I haven't left yet.
What the Spirit wanted me to see right away that morning is that He is in control over ALL the troubles of His righteous ones. That there are no trials or troubles that escape His sovereign lordship and heavenly jurisdiction. It's not just a handful of troubles here and there that He's able to deliver His faithful ones from. No, not just some. ALL.
There's no doubt that the psalms bring comfort. That they settle our tested minds and soothe our troubled hearts. That even in the midst of the most trying circumstances and tumultuous emotions, they can get us to a mental state of calm and peace, a place of hope and faith, a place of authentic rest, even while experiencing the most hard realities.
Psalm 34, like all the psalms and all of Scripture, gives God's child the needed perspective shift and attitude adjustment that's crucial for maintaining faith, as well as joy, while sojourning through this oft' trouble-filled life.
Five times, David, the Spirit-inspired writer of this psalm, pens the truth that for His righteous child, God is an ALL TROUBLES saving kind of God.
First, in verse 4, David says, "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." A couple verses down he declares, "This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles." Then, in verses 17 and 19, we read these words: "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." (italics mine)
If these promises don't settle a troubled heart, then I don't know what will.
For myself who recently had been praying each evening with my mother while she was visiting, praying over a journal-page list of realities—fears and concerns and troubles of different sorts and varying degrees—for my family, extended family, and even families of a few dear friends, this psalm brought the needed trajectory shift from heavy burden bearer to that of hope herald. Right now, as I sit in the quiet darkness of early morning and absorb this psalm's words once more, it continues its work of keeping me shifted.
Oh, the transforming power of God's Word! How I need it every day in my life!
For certain, the ALLs of the 34th Psalm are some powerful stuff.
But Psalm 34 is not a promise for the casual follower of God, the casual follower of Christ. It's for one who, like David was, is a proactive participant in the activities and ways of the Lord. David could know the Lord as the Great Deliverer from all fears and troubles that He indeed is because David proactively engaged with Him.
Consider these proactive words that David (author of many of the psalms) used just in Psalm 34 alone that describe his pursuing engagement with the Lord:
"I will extol the Lord. . .I will glory in the Lord. . .Glorify the Lord with me. . .let us exalt his name together. . . I sought the Lord. . .Those who look to him. . .This poor man called. . .those who fear him. . .Taste and see that the Lord is good. . .the one who takes refuge in him. . .Fear the Lord. . . seek the Lord. . .keep your tongue from evil. . .[keep[ your lips from telling lies. . . Turn from evil. . .do good. . .seek peace. . .pursue [peace]. . .The righteous cry out. . .no one who takes refuge in him. . ."
A flawless follower was David? Of course not. Read about David's life through I and II Samuel and this is surely most evident. Yet, when confronted with his sin, David was genuinely sorrowful and repentant. Additionally, David was an authentic seeker, authentic dweller, and authentic worshiper. He was in awe of the Lord, and he feared Him; therefore, the presence and power and peace of the Lord was given the space to manifest within David's midst.
There's no denying that David was a proactive participant with his Creator. He made deliberate choices to keep connected with the Lord, to keep connected with His presence and favor. And the Creator, the good Heavenly Father, takes notice of such intentionality. He is, most certainly, a "rewarder of them that diligently seek him," as the writer of Hebrews declares (11:6). Even so, this does not mean a trouble-free life.
Notice that David, or any other of the psalmists, did not communicate that God spares or keeps His children from all trouble. Rather, God, in His unmatched wisdom and sovereignty, as well as His intentional will and permissive will, permits hardships in this fractured, sin-cursed, trouble-ridden world. But for His faithful followers, as they cry out to and take refuge in Him, He proves himself to be the all-present, all-powerful, all-sufficient Savior that He truly is.
And when we come to terms with this—when we truly embrace it for the dependable, never-changing truth that it is—it transitions us from a depleted mindset of weariness, hopelessness, and heaviness to one of energized expectancy, faith, and hallelujahs.
Which brings me to the other all that God wanted me to see that morning, and that's the all that begins Psalm 34. In my opinion, it's the most superior of the alls in this particular psalm. This all has nothing to do with David's troubles or fears. Rather, it has to do with David's glorification of the Lord. Though, more than likely, David was in the Cave of Adullam when he wrote this psalm (living as an innocent fugitive on the run from King Saul and dealing with insurmountable troubles of all sorts), yet David maintained a worshipful disposition.
Consider his words that open the psalm:
"I will extol the Lord at ALL times; his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together."
Regardless of David's troubling circumstances, which I feel certain he would have changed if he could have, David chose to revere and honor the Lord in his inmost being, which then came out in his words. Furthermore, David wasn't just compelled to do so himself, but he encouraged other trouble-bearing souls to do the same. Gathered around David, as narrated in I Samuel 22, were "those who were in distress or in debt or discontented" (2), about 400 men total; and David became their commander. So while enduring his own affliction, to the afflicted in his midst, David compelled corporate worship. Think about that.
While enduring great pain himself, David encouraged others to praise in the midst of their own personal pain. Because God is always worthy of exaltation,
Indeed, it's when we can live life in our own Cave of Addulam and keep daily looking to our Heavenly Father and surrendering all our fears to Him, not knowing when or how He will bring deliverance into our troubling circumstances, this greatly honors Him. And when we choose to daily praise, worship, and exalt Him, though we have no knowledge of how long our circumstances might remain unchanged, His Spirit within daily strengthens faith. The kind of faith that's evident all throughout Psalm 34. The kind of faith that keeps us steady, like it did for David, come what may—even in long, seemingly never-ending stretches of trouble-filled time. The kind of faith that inspires others who are enduring their own hard times as well.
One final thought:
When I consider this time in the cave when David more than likely penned Psalm 34, I see a secondary meaning in the description of the individuals who were gathered around David. Scripture communicates they were in "distress or in debt or discontented," and although in a literal sense these words describe the various hardships these individuals found themselves in, I think it's also spiritually applicable to how we should live life in proactive relationship with our Lord, as we sojourn through this life that's so often filled with its share of troubles.
In distress. We need. In this life on this sin-fractured planet, we're born into need. We're in need of a Savior for salvation, in need of Jesus to rescue us from the bondage of sin and make us right with the Creator who's perfect and holy. But we're also in need of the Savior every day. We're in need of the impartation of His mind, His character, His ways. We're in need of His indwelling Spirit, His fellowship, His Word, and His people. Yes, we may live on an ever-increasing distressed planet, but all our greatest needs are met in Jesus. It's true what the Apostle Paul (a man who dealt with far more troubles than you or I could imagine) assures us of: "And my God will meet all [our] needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
In debt. We owe. We owe God everything. He created us and put breath in our lungs and freely gave us the gift of redemption through the sacrifice of the Son. While there's no way we could ever repay the debt we owe for the incomprehensible love He demonstrated on Calvary's tree, we can resolve, with the Word's guidance and the Spirit's empowerment, to live each day in intentional seeking and service, in intentional worship and obedience. We can resolve ourselves with Paul's declaration: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
Discontented. We want. We were created to want, to desire, to crave. So often, we fill this internal discontentment with all the wrong things—created things that temporarily satisfy the flesh—rather than the only One who can authentically satisfy. Truly. But God's desire is that we desire Him and His will and His ways more than any other temporary desire this world can offer. He desires that we daily hunger and thirst after His righteousness, for as our Creator, He knows that this is where our true contentment, joy, and peace is experienced. He desires that we daily experience the Savior's words: "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35).
When we daily live in the acknowledgment that we desperately need God, that we owe our lives to Him, and that He, through the sacrifice of Christ, is truly is the only One who can satisfy the depth of desires and longings within, it stirs up daily pursuit, initiates daily communication, and promulgates daily worship.
And then, when at the end of what has been a trouble-filled day or a trouble-filled week or a trouble-filled season—yes, even a trouble-filled life—we will still genuinely believe and joyously declare with David that "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles" (Psalm 34:17: emphasis mine)