Posted On August 25, 2018

Psalm 34:6-7 – A Truthful Optimism

by | Aug 25, 2018 | pSaturday Psalms, Theology

Throughout this series I have been demonstrating that the first third of this Psalm is about simple truths David is clinging to in his time of trouble.  We’ve also been learning that David is using the literary device of couplets to write this section, speaking first about himself and then about his audience.  Last week we also covered the concept of this verse being for believers, because it is believers that seek after their God; an action which unbelievers are incapable.  Today we come to the final two verses of the first third of Psalm 34, which is the final couplet.  Right away we have an important question we must answer to properly interpret verse 6.  Who is “this poor man”?

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. {Psa 34:6 NASB}

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It is in understanding the pattern of the couplets that helps us to answer this question.  “This poor man” must be referring to David because it would break the pattern if it referred to anyone else.  Verse 2 we find David boasting in God, followed by calling believers to magnify the Lord in verse 3.  In verse 4, we again find David, this time seeking the Lord, followed by the radiance and lack of shame for David’s audience.  So then, we see the pattern, and it’s easy to conclude David is the one who cries out.  Supporting this, of course, is the idea that the answer to the cry is deliverance from trouble not, specifically, salvation from sin.  While salvation from sin is INDEED a deliverance from trouble, to say that this is the concept described here is a specificity that is largely unsupported.  The poor man is DavidWhich is another reminder of his humble circumstances, and of his total reliance upon his Lord.  Even mighty men of God need deliverance, and every man (or woman, or boy, or girl) of God finds that deliverance in the God that not only hears but also saves. 

Peter Craige said “It was a poor man’s cry, but it was nonetheless powerful in heaven, for the Lord heard him, and to be heard of God is to be delivered.”  It is perfectly natural to beg God for relief from our troubles.  Surely we want to stop being abused, certainly we ask God to provide for our needs, and doubtlessly we would sleep better if God would just make the baby’s fever go down.  Yet, don’t underestimate the immense power and privilege it is to simply be heard by the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  The good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep hears our cry.  This is an advantage and an honor not shared by the unsaved.  Believers, of all people, cannot always lay claim to a life of ease and certainty, but believers are the only people that lay claim to the source of comfort, and the most certain thing there will ever be: their place with the Lord.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. {Psa 34:7 NASB}

Immediately we must face the question ‘who is the angel of the LORD?  The phrase occurs 50 times in the Old Testament.  Typically this figure appears to relay a message from God and act as a mediator between God and man.  This action is abundantly clear in Genesis 16 where the Angel instructs and illuminates the purposes of God for Hagar in Ishmael.  The Angel of the Lord is who communicated with Abraham when he almost sacrificed Isaac in Gen 22.  We see the Angel of the Lord in 2 Kings 19 when He defeated 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.  In all of these cases, we don’t have any reason to believe this is anything other than a special angel much like Michael.  The Bible does not give us a clear explanation of this “enigmatic character” as Gerald Wilson terms Him, but Charles Spurgeon bypasses the question altogether and assumes this is the Lord Himself.  I find that to be a plausible explanation, but short of a definitive statement, I can’t call a believer to a dogmatic viewpoint.   Whoever this may be, this figure appears often throughout Scripture when God’s people need protection; and it makes sense to appear here, because verse 7 tells us the Lord not only delivers, but protects us as well. 

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If you fear God, the Lord “camps” around you. I’ll write more about what it means to fear the Lord later in this series, but for now let’s examine the other aspects of this verse.  Camping around someone was the common practice in military bases of the day. The military leader would set up his tent in the middle of the camp and his soldiers would set their tents up in a circle around his to protect him.  In much the same way, God protects and guards you.   David was supremely confident of these facts!  He writes of God’s protection, of His rescue, of His hearing our cry with certainty; as if they are matters of fact.  Because they ARE facts.  

I know there are days where David’s confidence and optimism seem strange.  There are moments in life when we go through terrible things and it seems like there is no end in sight.  The Christian life is not a life of ease, without a care in the world. This has been true since Jesus ascended into heaven.  It is believers that very often suffer and are worn down by the world. We are the people who know the brutality and cruelty of a world soaked by sin which can bring about miserable trials.  In fact, this very Psalm will later remind us “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psa 34:19).  Some things that believers have suffered, and currently suffer, are unimaginable. It IS easy to see how one could find David’s attitude strange.  Yet we must remember that being protected does not mean bad things will not happen to believers.  Such a claim would be silly in the face of a reality.  God’s people suffer as much as any other group of people.  The point isn’t that believers will be protected FROM suffering, but that they will be protected IN suffering.  Yes, believers will endure many hardships (ALL of which have a purpose in God’s providential will), but those hardships will not break us or destroy us.  “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phl 4:13).  While that verse is quite often taken out of context and misapplied, it certainly must apply to the idea that we can face down trials with God-given courage and grace while emerging from such times sanctified, mature, and no worse for wear – ready to embrace our Lord who will one day come and “make all things new” (Rev 21:5).   

Our task then becomes this:  We must learn to love the truth more than we hate our circumstances.  That’s a simple truth that is simply true.  So then let us live as if it’s true!  Love the truth more than you hate the misery. Simple truths may be simple, but they lay a firm and deep foundation.  There’s much pain and brokenness throughout this Psalm, but there isn’t one complaint, nor one doubt.  There is, however, a great deal of reliance on God, faith in His promises, and trust in His sovereign care.

Go and do likewise.

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