Posted On November 3, 2018

Psalm 34:19-22 He Keeps All His Bones

by | Nov 3, 2018 | pSaturday Psalms, Theology

In understanding Psalm 34:18, we came to understand that it is within the crisis that God is present. What this means is that God often allows His faithful to suffer and to face various trials. This is exactly what verse 19 tells us:

[19] Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. {Psa 34:19 NASB}

But take heart, believer, because God has prepared us for these afflictions. David rehearsed the faithfulness of God in the first third of this Psalm, which foreshadows this section of Scripture culminating in verse 20. God does not lead with verse 19, but rather finishes with it. The master Communicator builds to His point by reminding us of both the preparation He has made for our times of suffering, and His own attitude and posture during the suffering. Which is good, because as believers we are going to suffer.

Yes, that’s exactly what verse 19 tells us. Many will be OUR afflictions. That is not to say that in a sin-soaked world the wicked won’t get splashed with suffering — they do, and they will. But do not think that because we have received reconciliation with God that we will not suffer. The fact is that Jesus warned us of exactly the opposite:

[33] “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” {Jhn 16:33 NASB}

Many are our afflictions, much we have to endure, but look at the confidence and surety in verse 19. The Lord delivers the righteous out of them all. God hears, is near, and delivers His people. Often we, wrongly, pick and choose what to believe about God. I believe, for that reason, the concept of the surety of suffering is coupled here with the surety of deliverance. As suffering people, we cannot and must not believe God when He tells us we’ll suffer, but ignore God when He promises to deliver. Believe both, brother or sister, because both are equally true and that deliverance is part of the hope we have in Christ.

The world has no such hope. Look at verse 21 “Evil shall slay the wicked, those who hate the righteous will be condemned” The precious promises of verse 15 – 19 aren’t for the wicked. They’re too busy killing each other with their own wicked devices. God has left the destructive to destroy each other. But not even that is the end; they’ll be condemned after their death too, because they hated the righteous. Never make the mistake of believing the world doesn’t hate you, and never make the mistake that God has not sided against them.

Finally, we come to one of the most extraordinary verse in the entire Psalm. But to truly grasp the full wonder of this verse, we must examine John 19:31. It is there we pick up the passion narrative right after Jesus dies.

[31] Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and [that] they might be taken away. [32] So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; [33] but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. [34] But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. [35] And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. [36] For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN.” {Jhn 19:31-36 NASB}

Surely we can see the connection since John quotes Psalm 34:20 in John 19:36. But the big question is “why”?

Verse 20 in our Psalm has to have a meaning that mattered to the original audience. It serves there as an illustration that even the bones of the righteous will be preserved, not just the lives of the righteous. That’s the only meaning it has. But while meaning is singular, application is numerous. In this particular case, God saw it fit to apply verse 20 to the events right after Jesus’ death and use it as a prophetic sign of the Messiah. In the original Psalm, it’s likely that the original audience did not understand the verse to be prophetic and it’s reasonable for us to wonder about that particular application too.

However, the divine Author of Scripture can write His words anyway He’d like and can apply them in ways that reveal truth beyond what is conveyed merely on the surface. This is not an unusual thing for authors to do and it is what God is doing with this verse in John 19. Formally, the concept is known as “Inspired Sensus Plenior Application” which means that the Holy Spirit decides to apply an earlier truth in a new and unique way without violating the “Principle of Single Meaning“.

So with this particular verse, God is applying the Psalm 34:20 to illustrate and make a point about the death of Jesus. This is perfectly acceptable for God, the Author of both Scriptures, to do; but it is never something we as an audience should do. The reason is we don’t know the depths of the mind of God and we have to allow the plain and singular meaning of the Words He’s given us to illuminate the truth we’re learning. But we needn’t worry about “missing something”. In the first place, God’s Word is sufficient, and in the second place if God didn’t want us to miss something He would have told us (as He does here).

But why make this particular application here? Jesus has just died on the cross. He doesn’t belong there but He’s allowed Himself to be there as the payment for our sins. So, on the cross the Father pours out His wrath on His Son. He turned His face away. The Bible says He crushed Jesus. He had his beard plucked out, he was whipped multiple times. He was naked and suffocating to death. It was a brutal death.

So what’s a few broken bones? After all, God wasn’t under any obligation at all to apply Psalm 34:20 in this case and it obviously didn’t have anything to do with having an unblemished lamb for sacrifice. Jesus entered the process unblemished but just like the lamb in Old Testament times, He didn’t stay that way. So why not break His bones too?

I write today, brokenhearted. My wife and I have suffered infertility. We’ve loved and lost a foster child, and it felt like he died. I was married to an unbeliever (not my current wife) and had the marriage end as a victim of adultery. My nephew died of sudden infant death syndrome a few years ago. I’ve battled a life of reoccurring depression and occasional serious thoughts of suicide. I long for Christ, I long to be complete in Him. I eagerly await the day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be [any] death; there will no longer be [any] mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” {Rev 21:4 NASB}

In every instance since I’ve learned the song, in those dark moments I’ve always worshiped God with the song “Before the Throne of God Above”. I can’t explain it, but it always brings me great comfort. The words most certainly do not lend themselves to depression and brokenness, but they are a salve to those wounds anyway. The one thing the song does do is lead me to the cross, to my Savior, the only hope for me.

I believe God knew the Brokenhearted would look to the crucified Christ for hope. So, when they did, they would read John 19, and what would they see? Psalm 34. They would see the promises of God extended to His people. They would see a God so serious about those promises that He applied them to His son. They would look to the unbroken bones of Christ and KNOW that the Father keeps all His bones, and the Father will keep all your bones too. Not one of them will be broken. Oh, clearly believers have had their bones broken time and again, but that’s not the point. This verse is applied prophetically to Jesus and in it, in that Savior who is our very hope, we’re reminded that He suffered in horrific ways, just like many of us and not a bone broken because God would not allow it.

It’s God’s signal to the downtrodden, His message to the troubled and afflicted that even on the cross, God has His dear suffering believers in mind. He is near to the brokenhearted even on the cross, maybe even especially on the cross. When you don’t believe God is near, remember that His bones were never broken, the Lord kept them all. If He can orchestrate that against the cruel Romans, if He can care for His Son and keep His bones even as He pours out His wrath, He can keep you too. And He will.

That same cross reminds us of verse 22 too. “The Lord redeems the soul of his servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.” This is true because of what Christ did for us on that cross where His bones were not broken. God can redeem you from sin because He poured His wrath on Christ and gave you His righteousness. But if Psalm 34 teaches us anything at all, it’s that God is not a distant lawyer who makes the legal transaction of giving you righteousness and canceling your sin. He’s a loving Father, a true friend, a help in times of trouble, a hearer of the cries of the righteous, a rescuer of those who are afflicted, and closer than a brother when your heart is broken and your afflictions pile up. He cares for you so much that He gave His only Son, and that He prays for you when you can’t muster the words. The Lord save those crushed in spirit. His eye is toward them, His ear hears their cry, and He most certainly loves the brokenhearted.

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