Handling Life During Difficult Times 3 — Transformation
Psalm 34:1-22 NIV
This psalm is acoustically written. Every sentence starts with the next Hebrew alphabet, a device that helps the hearers to memorise it.
Unlike Psalm 142 and Psalm 57, which we explored in the last two articles, David did not write this psalm for himself. He wrote it for his hearers, the 400 men (and the women and children) who came to him while he was in hiding in the cave of Adullam. They were “in distress or in debt or discontented” (1 Samuel 22:1-3), and David shared his experience with God with them.
While escaping from Saul, David made the mistake of running to the land of the Philistines, and he expressed all his pain openly in Psalm 142. He learned to trust God’s love for him and praised Him despite his troubles in Psalm 57. David’s transformation is clear here in Psalm 34.
I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.
The men who followed David were “afflicted”. Imagine the kind of complaints and discouragement that emanated from their lips. This was exactly how David had just felt not long before too. His distress was apparent in Psalms 142 & 57, but David had turned around. His attitude changed even though his difficult circumstances remained the same. He declared that he will always praise God. He called on them to hear his praise of God and rejoice with him.
Through his relationship with God and meditation on God’s purpose for him, he turned from a discouraged man into one who encouraged others.
I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.
David sought the Lord, and He answered him. What was God’s answer? David said that God “delivered me from all my fears”. His difficulties were not over yet, but learning to trust in God’s love removed his fears.
What difficulties are we facing? And do we fear? Discovering God’s love is the answer. Jesus’ sacrifice for us demonstrates God’s perfect love. Dwell on it, and learn to trust in Him. It will remove our fears.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 NIV)
Through David’s troubles, God prepared David to lead not just this group of distressed people, but a nation after that. A good leader is one who is able to teach his followers to seek God, and David was able to do that through his own experiences.
Why do we go through difficult times? Do we believe God has a plan for us, and the difficult experiences God has guided us through can help others know God?
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
David told his hearers to “taste and see” that God is good. He trusted God’s love through his difficult times and experienced the goodness of God. We can talk and teach about God, but if we do not exhort people to put their faith into practice so that they can personally experience God’s goodness, they will not be able to understand God. We can only feel the peace and joy that God intends us to have if we take refuge in God.
David saw his attempt to switch allegiance to the Philistines fail terribly (1 Samuel 21:10-15). He wanted to be in control of his situation, but saw that it only led to more troubles. He learnt the importance of fearing God, and taught his hearers to fear God. The fear we need to have for God is not a sense of terror, but a feeling of deep reverence. It is a fear that derives from our understanding of God’s omnipotence.
We will not lack anything when we seek God because God is everything we need. We should not fear the circumstances around us; why fear something that God is in full control of? The problem is, we want to be the one who is in control.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems His servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him.
At the end of Psalm 142, David ended by praying that “the righteous will gather about” him. But people do not automatically become righteous, they have to be taught. In this psalm, David taught his hearers the importance of being righteous. He told them that God will listen to their cries and deliver them. He led them to God, not to himself. A good leader will want his followers to walk the same path of righteousness that he has chosen. Calling others to be right with God is our mission.
David learned about God's plan for him to become the king after Saul. But it was far more than merely becoming a ruler, it was to be a leader who would lead Israel to God’s righteousness.
Difficult times will come, and go. They are opportunities for us to get deep in our relationship with God. Like the 400 distressed men, we need to follow good leaders and teachers who can guide us to God. In time to come, we will look back at our current troubles with gratitude and joy if we walk through them with God.
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Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.