St Alban’s Episcopal Church
Friday, October 22, 2021
Psalm 34 – for Sunday October 24“Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out and he went away.”
|Psalm 34I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth. I will glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and rejoice. Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord; let us exalt his Name together.|
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me out of all my terror. Look upon him and be radiant, and let not your faces be ashamed. I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles.
The angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, and he will deliver them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are they who trust in him!
Fear the Lord, you who are his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The young lions lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.
Come, children, and listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who among you loves life, and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?
Keep your tongue from evil-speaking and your lips from lying words. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and will save those whose spirits are crushed.
Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord will deliver him out of them all. He will keep safe all his bones; not one of them shall broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
The Lord ransoms the life of his servants, and none will be punished who trust in him.What is this psalm about, really? David, a fugitive from King Saul, fled to the Philistine city of Gath, where Achish (whose title as king was Abimelech) reigned. But he found no refuge there, and only narrowly escaped by pretending to be insane. You can read the story in 1 Samuel 21:10-21.After he escaped, David went to the cave at Adullam where many other men, fellow rebels, joined him. It may be that this is where he composed this psalm and sang it to his followers.
David escaped by a trick – and he attributed that to God’s answer to his desperate prayer for deliverance. Note: our ideas, our imaginations are fertile fields for God’s inspirations!
Notice that David affirms that the “angel of the Lord” – the messenger of God, or even God. God’s own self – “encompasses”, or “encircles” those who fear him. That was a common method of protection – a sort of heavenly “circling the wagons” around a people in a strange and dangerous land. This is David at his lowest point – where his future is most in doubt, including the kingship promised by God, and yet he sings with hope – with the certain knowledge that God is – and is for him…for them.
And David urges his desperate compatriots to “taste and see that the Lord is good” – to make a trial of God, to trust God, to get intimate with God and discover for themselves the goodness of God.
In his worst danger, David urges his “children” – i.e. his followers, to keep themselves from evil, to do good; to “seek peace and pursue it.” That doesn’t sound like a typical response to impending battle, or from someone who has just escaped death. But it is David’s.
This is faith, and hope – trust and a vision of what cannot be seen. The Lord is near; the Lord will save, the Lord will deliver, he will keep safe.
The most interesting part of this psalm is the phrase, “Evil shall slay the wicked, or in the NRSV, “Evil brings death to the wicked.”
This is remarkable confidence. A person intent on doing evil will find that his own wickedness, his own evil-doing, though designed to bring down others, will end up destroying himself. That is a psychological truth one might not expect from such an ancient story. But here it is. Note that nowhere does David sing in this psalm, that GOD will destroy the wicked but that they will do it to themselves!