What does life look like for people who fear God while hiding in a cave? (Psalm 34:11-22)

The superscription refers back to an occasion when young pre-king David was running for his life from actual-king Saul. David pretended to be insane in order to protect himself from the Philistines. David wound up hiding in the cave of Adullam where his relatives and various misfits came to him (see 1st Samuel 21:10-22:2).

Psalm 34:11-22 New Living Translation

v.11) Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord.

  • “My children” tells us David was not alone in the cave of Adullam. 1st Samuel 22:1-2 reports that a herd of strays and mutts joined David in the cave. They were all refugees together.
  • “…to fear the Lord.” What does it mean to fear God? In response to God’s Self-revelation and divine activity on our behalf, we choose to love God, honor God, revere God, worship God, trust God, and obey God. We desire oneness with God above everything.
  • For a New Testament parallel, see Mark 4:35-41. In the teeth of a killer storm the disciples melted with one kind of fear (panic but not at the disco). The disciples then manifested another kind of fear (reverence) when they realized that right there in the middle of the boat with them was Somebody Who had chosen them AND chose to be with them AND was not affected by the storm AND could do something about the storm. The reality of the indwelling Christ is this: we have Somebody in our lives who can do something about our lives. How do we respond to Him?
  • A God-fearing life and a Christ-following life are one and the same life.

v.12) Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous?

  • This is a bewildering question for people huddled in a cave trying to not be dead.
  • The question in verse 12 cannot be separated from David’s statement about fearing God in verse 11. Fearing God is the best way to live. The God-fearing life IS the good life.

v.13) Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies!

  • Fearing God and following Christ will positively influence how we treat each other. We take the high road with our mouths.
  • David refused to bad-mouth Saul. He even called Saul “God’s anointed.”

v.14) Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

  • We see the same instructions in Romans 12:9, 17-18, 21.
  • “Peace” is the Hebrew word Shalom, and it means “wholeness and restoration.”

v.15) The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; His ears are open to their cries for help.

  • God misses nothing.
  • God is up close and personal in the cave.

v.16) But the Lord turns His face against those who do evil; He will erase their memory from the earth.

  • See Romans 12:19.
  • On two occasions David could have taken matters into his own hands with Saul but he did not. See 1st Samuel 24 and 1st Samuel 26.

v.17) The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.

  • We hear and read these words one way when we are outside the cave and another way when we are inside the cave.
  • What if God hearing us IS God rescuing us? What if God’s attentive immediacy IS internal rescue regardless of our logistics or our circumstances? Are we okay with that? Is that enough?                             

v.18) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

  • The Hebrew word translated “crushed” means “broken, contrite, crumbled into powder.”
  • Again it is helpful to refer back to 1st Samuel 22:2 and to the strays and mutts who joined David in the cave. They were all crushed.
  • “Crushed” correlates with “humble” or “helpless” in verse 2.
  • Read Matthew 12:15-21 to see Jesus fulfilling this role.   

v.19) The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.

  • The God-fearing Christ-following life is hard but simple.
  • We face many caves, but God sees us through all of them.
  • “…each time” implies the faithfulness of God’s powerful presence.
  • How have you encountered God’s faithful rescue in the cave?

v.20) For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

  • Read John 19:36 to see Jesus fulfilling this prophecy.
  • It’s baffling to contrast verse 20 with verse 18. Crushed but not broken? How does that work?

v.21) Calamity will surely destroy the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

  • See Romans 12:19.
  • God will apply restorative justice and mercy to everybody and to every worldly system. God will turn the world right side up again.

v.22) But the Lord will redeem those who serve Him. No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

  • These would be comforting words in the cave, because these mutts and strays would have felt extremely condemned by Saul.
  • Life is not easy for people who fear God and follow Christ, but God helps us through all of it and saves us from the worst of it.
  • Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in union with Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 12:28-29 in The Message says, “Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and He won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God Himself is Fire!”

Bible Study Questions:

  1. If you could settle on just one thing, what does this passage say to you?
  2. What does this passage teach us about God?
  3. What does this passage teach us about God’s part in God’s relationship with us?
  4. What does this passage teach us about our part in our relationship with God?
  5. How is God’s Spirit speaking to you from this passage?
  6. How can you apply the passage this week?
  7. With whom can you share this passage during the next 167 hours?

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

Head’s Up! God is Coming After You! (Psalm 23:6)

For several years I was part of a small company that helped people with large delinquent medical bills apply for and receive Medicaid. These were people who either had no clue they would qualify for assistance or they lacked the motivation to apply. However, they did have an extremely good clue that creditors and collectors were in pursuit, which turned our skip-tracing into detective work. Some of these folks were experts at covering their trail, but the couple I worked with had a nose for working out trails. It was always a little awkward (and occasionally a little dicey) to catch up with people and initiate a conversation about their bill, so our opening line was strategically crafted for their peace of mind and for our safety.

“We are not here to collect; we are here to help you pay your bill.”

When the individual accepted that we had caught up with them in order to help them and bless them, they usually became more cooperative, even grateful. I met some remarkable people during those years.

This is my fourth article about Psalm 23, and it covers the last verse. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In verse 1 we learned that God our Shepherd is in front of us, ahead of the action. In verses 2-5 we learned that God is also alongside us, leading and nurturing and restoring and comforting and protecting and correcting and sustaining and blessing us. In verse 6 we learn that God is also behind us, pursuing us with goodness and with loyal and merciful loving kindness.

Theologians use a massive technical term to describe this divine character trait – omnipresence. Omnipresence means God is everywhere. Carla and I once owned a Dodge Omni, but I doubt it’s the same thing, and besides, that car only lasted a year. We can generally know God is everywhere without that realization making any difference to us. I mean, air seems to be everywhere, but how often do we think about air, much less appreciate air? But once we grasp that God is generally everywhere AND that God is specifically ahead of us and with us and behind us, we are making spiritual progress.

But…

If your image of God tells you God is a stern and punitive Judge who is out to get you, then Psalm 23:6 makes you paranoid and jumpy. If God is all over the place, and you believe God is out to get you, then you will probably keep your head down, like those people we were skip-tracing. But once we come alive to the reality that God pursues us in order to bless us, it can change everything. Who can’t benefit from divine goodness and loyal and merciful loving kindness? Sure thing, God is after you. But you might want to slow down or even stop, because God wants to love on you.

Here’s another window into the same truth – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him and entrusts themselves to Him shall never perish, but shall have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him could be saved.” (John 3:16-17) Isn’t this passage saying something similar to Psalm 23:6? Maybe Psalm 23 and John 3:16 are the most popular scriptures in the Bible because something in us is hungry to welcome God in Christ as good news, not bad news.

When I officiate memorial services for people, they nearly always request Psalm 23, oftentimes because of this last line – “…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Of course the grieving family wants Psalm 23 at the memorial service! There is a sudden raw gaping hole in their lives, and they desperately want to hear that the hole is more temporary than permanent, that a reunion is ahead. But let’s not stop there. Yes, it is a promise about heaven. But it’s more. From the Hebrew language, we can legitimately translate Psalm 23:6 like this – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” This divine pursuit is not ONLY for the afterlife; it applies to the beforelife too! Our God has the there-and-then covered AND our God has the here-and-now covered!

Again John’s gospel sheds light on Psalm 23. In John 10:10 (where Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd Who lays down His life for the sheep), Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they (human sheep) might have life, and have it more abundantly.” This abundant life in union with Christ is ours here and hereafter.

Where, in your life and in your relationships, do you need the goodness of God to catch up with you and drench you? Where, in your life and in your relationships, do you need the loyal and merciful lovingkindness of God to catch up with you and saturate you? God is trustworthy. God in Christ has more for us than we are currently experiencing.

Surely God’s goodness and mercy to you,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

Just Like the Sparrows

I have loved the melody and the message of “His Eye is on the Sparrow” since childhood. My earliest memories of it are George Beverly Shea singing it during Billy Graham services.

The lyrics point me to Matthew 10:29-31 where the Bible does speak of sparrows, that if God watches over each of them (and He does), I can be sure that He watches over me, too, not in a critical way, but because He loves and cares for me. How He watches over me when there are several billion of us is way beyond me, but He’s God and that’s one of the many reasons we can be in awe of Him.

Rick and I recently got to lead a group of residents at a nearby care center in singing some familiar hymns including “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” As they joined in, it was clear that many of them also have good memories of that song and find comfort and assurance in its message.

Thanks be to God for His never-ending love and care.

Carla